How Does Invisalign Work?

Jump to Section

The International Journal of Dental Clinics is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links.

How does Invisalign work? If you want the details, you have come to the correct place.

Invisalign is one of the most popular and easiest ways to get your perfect smile and with a good reason, the clear aligners are practically invisible and work very fast.

But how does Invisalign work and is it the best solution for you?

Well, we have compiled a thorough guide that will help you understand the entire process and decide if this orthodontic treatment is what you are looking for.

This new technology offers an amazing substitution for traditional braces and works wonders for 96% of the patients. So, if you want to learn everything there is about Invisalign braces and how they work keep on reading, and let’s get right into today’s topic.

What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is a new and improved way to get the straight teeth and the confident smile you are looking for. The treatment consists of virtually invisible aligners that gently push your teeth in the right position.

It’s all done effortlessly thanks to cutting-edge 3D computer-imaging technology that makes the perfect set of aligners for each patient based on the current state of their teeth. So, depending on the problem you are looking to fix Invisalign is created to apply gentle pressure on certain teeth and points to allow alignment in the shortest period of time.

But, there is so much to be said about how Invisalign works so make sure to stay until the end for all the tips and tricks, along with some fine print details that will help you make the best decision for your oral health.

Invisalign VS Traditional Braces

Most people are used to the idea of getting straight teeth with traditional braces, but this is no longer the only option. Invisalign aligners are doing the same job in less time and with much more comfortable wearing.

There are many reasons why most patients prefer to get their teeth straightening treatment with Invisalign, but we will mention a few:


Unlike metal braces, plastic aligners are virtually invisible. Since there are no bulky wires and added rubbers you can get your straight smile without everyone noticing your braces. This is one of the reasons why it’s the ideal treatment for self-consciousness and patients who have anxiety issues.


One more thing about the Invisalign treatment that is appealing to many is the fact that you can remove the aligners, unlike fixed metal braces. This gives you options and allows you to wear the aligners when you want to.

Keep in mind that plastic aligners can be removed to eat and drink, but they still need to be worn for at least 20 to 22 hours each day to be effective.


Invisalign aligners are made from a high-quality and smooth plastic that is comfortable to wear all day and night. Unlike traditional metal braces that have wires and rubbers which can cause discomfort Invisalign is custom made to perfectly fit your teeth and jaw.

This will make it more realistic to wear the aligners for a prolonged period of time and get the best results fast.


While many people still believe that traditional metal braces are faster the reality is clear aligners can do the same job in just a few months. This will depend on the severity of your orthodontic issues, but the average time in which Invisalign works is much shorter than metal braces.

How does Invisalign treatment work?

Invisalign treatment works by applying gentle pressure on your teeth and getting them in the right position over time. The entire process is custom-made to fit the problems and needs of each patient so you can be sure it’s the optimal treatment for you.

So if you feel self-conscious about your crooked teeth you need to make an appointment with your orthodontist and talk about the best options for you.

Keep in mind that Invisalign is not for everyone and if you have severe issues with misalignment you might have to opt for some other treatment. This is why there are a few steps before you begin to wear the aligner.


The first step on your Invisalign journey is a consultation with your dentist or orthodontist. Most offices now offer a free consultation where the team of professionals can assess the current state of your teeth and decide if you are a good candidate for the procedure.

While Invisalign treatment is an amazing option for many patients there are some cases with overly crowded teeth or bite issues that can’t be corrected with clear aligners.

This is why it’s important to have the best dentist available and make the first appointment as soon as possible to get on the right path to your best smile.

X rays and Preparation

When you and your dentist decide that Invisalign is the best treatment for your case you will most likely have to do an X-ray to get a better idea of what needs to be fixed. The X-ray images along with photographs and the impressions made from your upper and lower jaw will give the orthodontist the full picture of your jaw bone and teeth.

This is all then transferred to highly sophisticated computer technology and processed to make the best Invisalign braces that will correct any issues in your teeth.

This phase might also include additional dental work that is needed before you begin the treatment and teeth straightening. It can involve getting cavities checked and fixed, prosthetic teeth or crowns, and similar procedures.

This whole process from digital scan to getting your new aligner might take a few days depending on the severity of your case and other factors.

First fitting

When all of the preparation is completed, you may expect your first testing of new Invisalign trays. This will be done in the dentist’s office to make sure everything is fitting just right and you don’t feel too much discomfort.

It might be a strange sensation to have plastic aligners in your mouth, but most people get used to it after a few days. The important thing is to listen to your doctor’s recommendations and stick to the 22 hours a day wearing plan.

Clear aligners

Invisalign treatment has several trays of aligners and a precise plan that will tell you when is the time to switch to the next set of aligners. This treatment plan is designed to gently and constantly improve the position of your teeth without causing too much stress and discomfort.

This part of the treatment will be done at home and most of the time there is no need to visit your doctor for constant check-ups and adjustments like you would with metal braces.

All you have to do is follow the plan and listen to instructions to have the best and fastest results.


Once you are done with aligners and your teeth shift into the right position you need to wear the retainers to maintain your perfect smile. Retainers are only worn during the night and they are also made from high-quality and comfortable plastic.

It’s important to wear them as instructed because teeth have the tendency to shift back to their previous position. Retainers will keep them in the new and improved alignment and considering that they don’t have to be worn all the time it’s easy to stick to the plan.

After some time you might even skip a night with retainers because this new align technology is working so well that your teeth will stay in the right position when the whole treatment is done.

So, having a permanently bright and straight smile is one of the biggest Invisalign pros.

How do your teeth move with Invisalign?

Pressure is applied to the right place and at the right time to move your teeth into the proper position. This way Invisalign tray will move your teeth about 0.33 millimeters before it’s time to move on to the next set of aligners. This takes on average one or two weeks, depending on the position of your teeth and the projected results.

This is why it’s very important to follow the plan and the directions when it comes to changing to your new set. Unlike metal braces, you can do the entire process on your own and there is no need to constantly visit your dentist.

Invisalign braces will move your teeth horizontally, vertically and even rotate them if they need that to be positioned in the right place. All of this will be done while you are going about your day and without any discomfort that you would feel with metal braces.

Who is eligible for Invisalign aligners?

Even though many people are now interested in getting the best treatment for their crooked smiles, not all patients are eligible for the process. Here are a few things that clear aligners can correct:

  • Crowded teeth
  • Bite issues
  • Gapped teeth
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite

Most of these cases will benefit from Invisalign however, it’s up to your orthodontist to make the final call and decide if you are the right candidate. After a careful examination and consultations, you can be sure if this treatment will give you the optimal results or not.

Invisalign limitations

While the treatment will work wonders for many patients there are some cases that are not treatable with Invisalign. This might be if you have:

  • Unusually small or pegged teeth
  • Very large gaps
  • Intrusion or extrusion of the teeth when Invisalign can’t treat the problem
  • Rotated teeth that are not suitable for aligners wear
  • Prior dental work that obstructs Invisalign work and effect

Once again, it’s up to your dentist to assess the situation and make sure that you are getting the appropriate treatment that will actually make your teeth better.

How long does the Invisalign treatment last?

The average time of Invisalign treatment is 12 to 18 months but this will depend on various factors like the current state of your teeth and your dedication to the treatment plan.

If you want a straighter smile it’s crucial to wear the aligners 22 hours a day and keep up with your oral health to avoid issues like gum disease and cavities.

In addition, the treatment time will always depend on the current and final position of your teeth. More crowding and crooked teeth usually take a bit more wear time. But, the good news is that the treatment is completely comfortable and much faster than any other treatment option on the market.

When will you see the first results?

You might be surprised to hear that some patients see slight improvement after just a few weeks of wearing Invisalign. This is not always the case, so make sure to follow the plan for your Invisalign aligners to have the optimal results.

While it might take a few months to see bigger progress, you can be sure that you are on the best track to your amazing new smile.

Who can use this orthodontic treatment?

Invisalign aligners are for everyone, no matter if you are an adult or younger. This orthodontic treatment is also perfect for teenagers because it’s so unnoticeable and invisible that it’s often the best treatment option.

Keep in mind that the only thing that can stop you from getting the Invisalign treatment started is the current condition of your teeth. In some severe cases, these braces are simply not going to get the job done, and not every patient is a suitable candidate.

On the other hand, the American Association of Orthodontists suggests that all dental procedures involving teeth straightening are more efficient if the patient is younger. This is not surprising considering that younger yaws and teeth are more pliable and move easily, so any treatment like Invisalign that gently pushes on the teeth is more effective if the patient is young.

Adults also have amazing results with clear aligners as they are not interrupting daily activities and can be worn to work. It might take a few more weeks to see the best results, but this increased treatment time is absolutely worth it.

How to clean Invisalign aligners?

One of the best features of Invisalign aligners is the fact that they are completely and easily removable so you can clean your teeth and the braces many times per day. Unlike metal braces that are fixed to your teeth, Invisalign will not leave permanent marks on your enamel and it will never cause tooth decay due to poor oral hygiene.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your Invisalign aligners:

  • Cleaning the aligners – Clear aligners should be cleaned with lukewarm water and a toothbrush. Always keep in mind that hot water might warp the plastic causing it to lose shape and not work as well. Since aligners need to be removed for every meal and drink it’s also a good opportunity to clean the or at least give the braces a good rinse under the water before popping them right back.
  • Cleaning your teeth – Just like before the Invisalign treatment it’s important to maintain oral health and brush your teeth as usual. Because you can’t eat with the clear aligners in you need to make sure you are brushing your teeth after each meal before placing the aligner back.
  • Maintaining the aligner – All Invisalign aligners will come in trays where you can safely store your Invisalign braces. This will ensure they are not damaged or lost when you are not wearing them.

Keeping your aligner safe is very important because in case you lose or damage one tray you will probably need to go back to the previous set until you make an appointment with your dentist. This will ensure that the teeth are not shifting back too much and you can proceed with the straightening process uninterrupted.

How much does Invisalign treatment cost?

The cost of each treatment will depend on many factors like:

  • Your place of residence
  • The chosen orthodontist
  • Preparatory work on your teeth and jaw

All things considered, you can’t define the cost unless you make an appointment with your orthodontist and make all the arrangements there. Since each tray is made to perfectly fit and treat each patient the price will vary a lot.

In addition, make sure to shop around for the best price and see if your dental insurance will cover some of the costs.

But, can you really put a price on a confident smile?


Does Invisalign treatment hurt?

No, Invisalign treatment is not painful.

Some patients will report slight discomfort and tightening when they have a new set of aligners in, but this is completely normal. Since Invisalign is applying gentle pressure on your teeth it’s expected to have some soreness first few days, but this usually subsides fast.

This is one of the reasons why it’s recommended to start new trays at night or before you go to bed. This way your jaw and teeth will have some time to get adjusted to the new sensation and you will not have any problems in the morning.

How long do you need to wear clear aligners each day?

Clear aligners need to be worn for at least 20 to 22 hours per day.

This might sound demanding, but in reality, it only takes a couple of days to get used to the new routine and have your aligner in most of the time. Considering how comfortable and barely visible they are you will most likely forget you have them in your mouth.

The only time it’s recommended to get your aligners out is during a meal or when having a drink, or while brushing and cleaning your teeth.

By wearing the aligners for most of the day you will have the best results sooner and your perfectly straight smile fast. That is a good motivation to keep wearing the braces all day.

Are there any food limitations when you are wearing Invisalign?

No, there are no food limitations when you are wearing Invisalign as long as you are taking the aligners out when you are eating and drinking.

You can freely indulge in any type of food you normally love and eat, just make sure to take your clear aligners out before you start the meal. This will prevent staining and even tooth decay from the food that would get stuck between your teeth and the aligner.

Once you are done eating and drinking you should brush your teeth and rinse the aligners before putting them back in. This will save your oral health and ensure healthy gums while you are on the way to getting your straight teeth.

Are my teeth going to be perfectly straight after Invisalign?

Perfection is what this treatment is all about, but the end result will depend on many factors including the previous state of your teeth and your dedication to the entire process.

One thing is for sure, over 96% of people are more than amazed with the results and in the end, it will look totally natural and perfect to you. Is it going to be perfectly straight? Realistically no, because there is no such thing as perfection, but you will love how your teeth look and you will have more confidence.

Final Thoughts

Invisalign is an amazing treatment for teenagers and adults who are ready to dedicate some time and effort and wear the braces for the appropriate amount of time each day. This is the best opportunity to get the smile you know you deserve.

Each treatment plan will come with enough trays that will cover the entire process so you don’t have to visit your dentist often. This is just one of many convenient features that makes Invisalign one of the most popular choices.

With our detailed guide, the decision should be an easy one to make. So, contact your dentist today and make an appointment as the first step to a better version of yourself.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.