Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about Invisalign and Clear Braces


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What are Clear Braces? In our office, Invisalign really works!

Clear braces” or “clear aligners” are based on an orthodontic technique that is actually about 70 years old. Orthodontics moves teeth by pushing or pulling on them. Conventional metal braces apply these forces by attaching brackets to the teeth and these brackets hold a metal wire, called an archwire, which is actually a spring. This metal spring provides the force to push or pull the teeth into a new position. Instead of using metal brackets and wires, clear aligners use a series of clear plastic trays that gently push or pull the teeth into position. Each set of clear aligners is worn for 2 or 3 weeks and each set moves the teeth a small step. You can see this gentle incremental movement here in a movie.  At the end of about two weeks, the teeth have moved to a new position and a new set of aligners is then worn to move the teeth in the next step. Using a series of these clear aligners, the teeth are gently moved to their final, cosmetic position.


Over the last 70 years the theory has stayed the same but the materials used to make the aligner trays have improved tremendously. The new, clear tray materials, especially the material used by Invisalign, have much more elasticity so they can move the teeth much more quickly and easily.



What are the Advantages of Clear Braces over Convention Metal Braces?

Most people have heard that Invisalign (and other clear aligners) are “Removable, Comfortable and Invisible.” All true but what exactly does this mean for a patient?

Probably the biggest advantage, but also paradoxically a disadvantage, is that the aligners are removable. This is great when you want to eat something hard, chewy or sticky that you couldn’t eat with conventional metal braces. It’s also great when you want to brush and floss … a really cumbersome and difficult process with non-removable metal braces. This is why there is no increase in gum problems or cavities with clear aligners. Are you having a close up picture taken for a special occasion? No problem! You can take your aligners out for a few minutes.

But here’s the rub. You have to remember to put them back in your mouth!  Aligners need to be worn about 22 hours a day to effectively move teeth. Wearing them in your pocket doesn’t count! Clear aligner therapy, unlike convention metal braces, depends more than anything on your willingness to wear them. Wearing them only half the time does not move the teeth only have as fast; the teeth stop moving at all! People interested in the benefits of clear aligners must be aware of the commitment to wear them in order to get the great results they offer.

Clear aligner therapy is usually more comfortable than conventional orthodontics because it uses more gentle pressure to move the teeth. When someone says they had their braces “tightened,” it’s because the metal wire is putting a lot of force on the teeth. This can hurt. When you switch to the next set of aligners, the new set typically feels snug for about an hour. But no one, in the hundreds of patients we have treated with clear aligners, has ever said it hurts.

Lastly, clear aligners are clear for a reason. We could just as easily make them green instead and they would work just as well. But the fact that they are clear means that from a speaking distance of about 14 inches, other people cannot see that you are wearing them. We have lots of patients, including some of our own dental staff, that deal with the public every day and no one call tell they are having their smile improved with clear orthodontics!


What are the Advantages of Conventional Metal Braces?

One of the biggest advantages of convention metal braces is that they are not removable so patient compliance is not an issue as far as moving the teeth is concerned. (Patient compliance with brushing and flossing effectively is a very big issue, however.) If you want straight teeth and you are not willing to wear clear aligners 22 hours a day, conventional orthodontics is your only other orthodontic alternative. (See the next item below about some other cosmetic options.)

For complex bite problems and for people who will require jaw surgery, metal braces are still the best option. Also, for some types of treatment in children, such as impacted or congenitally missing permanent teeth, conventional braces are better.


I already had orthodontics when I was younger.

Can I still straighten my teeth with clear braces or Invisalign?

Yes, absolutely. Probably half the people we treat have had previous orthodontic treatment, usually with convention metal braces.


What Other Options do I have to get a Great Smile?

Modern dentistry has a lot to offer besides orthodontics! Simple tooth whitening is inexpensive, relatively quick and offers an easy way to brighten up your smile. Even slightly crocked teeth look a lot better when they are whiter.

Cosmetic bonding is a nice solution for teeth with chips or small spaces (Click here to see our page on Cosmetic Bonding).

When more extensive changes are necessary, porcelain veneers are often a good option. The laboratory fabricated thin pieces of porcelain are bonded to the front surface of the teeth, often with the removal of little or no tooth structure.

Crowns (or “caps”) are still sometimes necessary when a lot of the natural tooth has been destroyed by decay or large fillings. But modern, all porcelain crowns not only require the removal of less of the remaining tooth but are also much more esthetic than the older porcelain and metal crowns done a few years ago.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, many people got their “great smile” with full or partial removable dentures. You would be surprised at some of the most famous movie stars of that era were smiling with false teeth!  Fortunately, over the last 30 years, and especially over the last 10 years, dental implants have allowed us to replace missing teeth with very esthetic, permanent, non-removable alternatives.


How Much Does Invisalign cost?

In our office, $4950 or less for Invisalign for adults or teens. Call us for a free consultation at 510-394-2570