Katie OrmsbyInvisible Braces Expert

Katie enjoys helping readers make sense of Invisible Braces options. She's previously written business and shopping features for The Seattle Times and Seattle Met magazine. She has a degree in journalism and political science from the University of Washington.

How Invisible Braces Work

Orthodontists call invisible braces “teeth aligners” or “clear aligners,” and these breakthrough products have become a highly popular alternative to traditional braces that use metal or clear ceramic brackets to achieve their effects.

Beyond the obvious cosmetic distinctions between the two, invisible braces also use a different teeth straightening method. Many dentists and orthodontists believe invisible aligners offer a gentler and safer alternative to bracket-style braces. Additionally, clear aligners make entirely at-home teeth straightening possible.

Let’s dive in and explore how invisible braces work to align teeth and what you can expect if you decide to use them.

The Basics of Invisible Braces

The best teeth straightening aligners are custom-made, removable plastic dental trays that you place over your teeth. They’re usually made from one of two materials: transparent plastic, or a type of ceramic that seamlessly matches the natural white shade of your teeth.

Most treatment plans call for these removable dental trays to be replaced every two weeks. This allows your orthodontist to make subtle adjustments to the force being applied to your teeth as your treatment progresses, which generates permanent results over time. Each tray prompts your teeth to move further and further toward their final planned position, which your orthodontist will determine at the outset of the process, often with the help of computer-powered modeling.

Because the dental trays are removable, you will continue to brush your teeth and floss as usual over the course of your treatment. Invisible braces are all but undetectable to the casual observer, but people might be able to tell you’re wearing them if they look closely. Thus, you can also opt to remove the dental tray during special occasions if you prefer to do so.

Most treatment plans span anywhere from about six months to 18 months, with most patients going through 18 to 30 different removable dental trays along the way. Then, many systems involve invisible dental retainers that maintain permanent results.

Can I Straighten My Teeth Without Braces?

Yes, traditional metal braces aren’t the only teeth straighteners on the market. Instead of old-fashioned braces, you can consider clear aligners. These see-through braces have become popular thanks to online teeth straightening companies.

But how do invisible braces work? First, a little physics primer. In physics, two types of forces can cause stationary objects to move. The first is a pull force, which moves an object toward the direction of the force. The second is a push force, which does the opposite.

Traditional braces apply a pull force. Over time, the gradual pulling draws your teeth toward their final, straightened position. Over time, orthodontists have refined their techniques to minimize the risks involved with pulling teeth into place, but some patients experience mild pain, gum sensitivity, and/or occasional bleeding.

Invisible braces work differently. They apply a gentle push force, causing your teeth to rotate as they gently shift into place. This results in a pain-free experience that carries no risk of bleeding.

One interesting fact about invisible braces is that each of the dental trays you will use over the course of your treatment actually completes its job within about the first 24 hours. However, it continues to be used for about 7-14 days to allow your gums and bones to adjust to the new position of your teeth, ensuring they will not revert to their original position.

What Dental Issues Can Invisible Braces Treat?

Invisible braces can address most of the same issues as traditional bracket-style braces. These include:

What Dental Issues Can’t Be Treated With Invisible Braces?

Clear aligners have some limitations. They are not able to address the following types of dental issues:

You also may not be able to use invisible braces if you have previously had certain types of dental work done. For example, aligner systems may be incompatible with dental bridges.

The Benefits of Invisible Braces

According to dental professionals, invisible braces offer the following benefits:

People who use invisible braces also face far fewer limitations on the foods they are able to eat. For example, people wearing traditional braces are often told to avoid things like corn on the cob, apples, popcorn, hard candy, gum, and other sticky or chewy items. Since they are removable, invisible braces carry no such restrictions. You can continue to eat and enjoy all your favorite foods.

Some studies have also linked invisible braces with better tooth and gum health, relative to people who use traditional braces. Researchers believe this is also linked to their removability, which allows patients to continue to brush, floss, and use mouthwash to access every nook, cranny, and surface in the mouth.

Do Invisible Braces Pose Any Risks or Drawbacks?

Clear aligners pose few risks and drawbacks, but there are a few to be aware of. They include:

Invisible braces also tend to be somewhat more expensive than conventional braces. Many factors influence costs, including the duration of your treatment and the complexity of the cosmetic issue you are trying to solve.

However, insurance covers many top invisible braces brands like Invisalign, SmileDirectClub, and Byte. Some dental insurance plans partially or fully cover their costs, while others do not. So, if you’re unsure whether your dental plan covers them, check with your provider.

How Much Does Invisalign Cost?

Invisalign is one of the best-known clear aligner systems, but it’s also one of the most expensive. There are many Invisalign alternatives that are more affordable. And unlike Invisalign, competitors like SmileDirectClub and Byte can straighten your teeth entirely from home.

ProviderCost of Standard Treatment100% At-Home Treatment
Invisalign$3000-$7000No
SmileDirectClub$1950Yes
Byte$1895Yes

While all invisible braces use a similar set of principles to achieve effects, some systems are more commonly recommended than others when it comes to treating specific issues. If you’re interested in a clear aligner system, most providers will refund the cost of your impressions if they aren’t able to come up with a solution for your teeth. So, it’s a low or no financial risk process.

Given these points, clear aligners cost less than you might think. So, if you’re interested in Invisalign vs. braces, then there are affordable alternatives to consider. Some of the cheapest clear aligners are great teeth straightening options. You don’t have to settle for old-fashioned metal braces in order to score cheap braces.

Now, you’re all set to pick the best teeth straightening kit for your smile.