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Invisalign uses a series of clear removable aligners to straighten your teeth without metal wires or brackets.

About the author, Dr. Stella Kim

The materials on this page were prepared and medically reviewed by Dr. Stella Kim, DDS, a San Francisco dentist and a graduate of the UCSF School of Dentistry.

Many patients are curious about Invisalign, because they would like to have straighter teeth but don’t want to go through traditional orthodontic treatment with all its wires and braces.

It’s important to note that Invisalign can’t treat every orthodontic issue. It works for certain people who have specific orthodontic needs. However, if you fall within this category, Invisalign can be a great way to get the smile you want with minimal disruption to your life.

happy tooth

How Invisalign works

The clear Invisalign aligners are made through a combination of our expertise and 3D computer imaging technology. We have a new set of aligners fabricated for each treatment stage, and those stages typically last about two weeks each. On the day of delivery, we may bond some small, tooth-colored bumps (called attachments) on selected teeth to facilitate tooth movement and retention of the aligners.

You will wear one set of aligners day and night continuously, for a minimum of 22 hours per day. You remove your aligners only to eat, drink, brush, and floss. Aligners are replaced in a specific series, according to your doctor’s instructions, usually every two weeks. As you replace each aligner, your teeth will move—little by little, week by week—until they have straightened to their final desired position.

After your treatment goals have been met, you can go back to your normal oral health routines. However, you will continue to wear a post-treatment retainer at night, to help preserve the progress you’ve made and prevent the teeth from relapsing.

Invisalign treatment timeline

At SF Dental, we limit our Invisalign cases to situations where the total treatment time averages between 6–18 months. This way we can accurately predict the results, duration of treatment, and cost. For more complex or long-lasting orthodontic treatment, we may refer you to a specialist.

During your Invisalign treatment, you’ll visit our office about once every 4-6 weeks to ensure that the movement of your teeth is progressing as planned. If the need arises, we can also do monitoring by email and/or Internet chat between these sessions, although this is rarely necessary.

Am I a candidate for Invisalign?

For a proper assessment, you’ll need to come into the office for an evaluation. However, Invisalign works well for many mild orthodontic issues, including the following:

  • Slight to moderate crowding of teeth
  • Slight gaps between the teeth
  • Small crossbites
  • Overbites and underbites, as long as they are mild and without much skeletal discrepancy
  • Slightly crooked teeth

Invisalign does not work very well for more extreme cases, such as:

  • Malocclusion caused by jaw alignment issues
  • Extreme crowding or spacing over 5 mm
  • Teeth that are crooked due to severe tooth rotation (more than 45 degrees)
  • Severely tipped teeth
  • Teeth with short clinical crowns

That said, some progress may be possible even in less ideal cases, as long as you are realistic about the potential outcome. In addition, some orthodontists will use Invisalign as part of a larger orthodontic treatment, to reduce the amount of time you need to wear traditional orthodontic appliances.

We’ll be happy to go over all of your options with you at SF Dental when you come in for an evaluation.

Further Reading