Skip to Content

An In-Depth Guide to Invisalign

This post is featured on behalf of Authority Dental.

If you're considering Invisalign as an adult, read this guide first.

I started my Invisalign treatment in May 2015 primarily to straighten out my bottom teeth. I’ve been asked about my Invisalign treatment several times, so I figured I’d put together a comprehensive guide of my Invisalign experience.

I want to preface this by saying that while Invisalign was preferable to braces for me, I didn’t really enjoy the experience. There wasn’t anything really wrong with it, but I found it to be really inconvenient and frustrating at times, and I pretty much hated the feeling of plastic on my teeth.

Obviously, there are a lot of aspects of the treatment that boil down to preference and your lifestyle. There’s a lot of information here, and I tried to be as comprehensive as possible, noting the things I discovered and wish I had know before I started Invisalign.

[clickToTweet tweet=”An In-Depth Guide to Invisalign” quote=”An In-Depth Guide to Invisalign”]

Things to know about Invisalign:

1. You actually have to wear them. This sounds silly, but you really need to be wearing your trays 20-22 hours per day. That means no long lunches and no taking your time to drink coffee or tea — you need to have your trays in your mouth pretty much all the time.

2. They shouldn’t ever hurt. The Invisalign trays are putting pressure on your teeth to move them. You’ll feel the pressure when you put in a new set of trays, but it should never be painful. If it is painful, that means you’re moving your trays too soon and need to wear the previous set for a few more days.

3. There will be slight discomfort during the first few days of new trays. It takes your teeth only a few days to move but it takes the roots longer to adjust. this is why you need to wear each set of trays for a minimum of two weeks. that said, the trays are putting pressure on your teeth which means that there will be some discomfort (not pain). To deal with that, I used Orajel on my gums and took Advil.

4. Brush your teeth after you eat. So, full disclosure: I didn’t always do this (you won’t either) because it’s not always convenient. It’s a little gross, but you will survive. But it will be a lot easier to keep your trays clean if you brush your teeth after you eat. It’s annoying as hell, but cleaning really dirty trays sucks and takes a lot of time. Plus if you don’t brush your teeth anything left on them is basically sitting on your teeth between plastic and enamel. I didn’t end up with any cavities from this, but I suspect I would have if I wasn’t adamant about brushing them.

Pro-tip: I made myself a travel “Invisalign bag” that I kept in my purse for when I was out or traveling. I had a small toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash (all travel-sized) and an extra tray case in it. I used an old Ipsy bag to keep everything in and it was the most convenient way to brush my teeth when I was out.

5. Don’t use hot water on them. They are made of plastic and they will melt and become distorted under hot temperatures. Use cold or just barely warm water if you must.

6. Attachments. In order for your trays to move your teeth, they need little places to “grip” onto. These are called attachments. The Invisalign system is determined by a computer and it figures out where your attachments need to go. It’s made of composite material your dentist will put on your teeth that fit into your Invisalign trays to move your teeth.

I initially had 9 attachments and then 1 attachment with my refinements. For the first few days you have them, every time you take your trays out to eat, your attachments will cut your mouth, make you bite your lips and cheeks, and just generally be a pain in the ass until the sharpness wears down and you adjust to having them in your mouth.

7. You probably won’t experience staining. During my treatment i was so worried about staining around my attachments. Once they were removed, there wasn’t any staining. Just keep brushing your teeth regularly and you’ll be fine. You can always whiten afterwards if you do experience staining.

8. Starting the Invisalign process is pretty simple. I mentioned to my dentist I wanted to explore Invisalign and we made an appointment. For me, the initial consultation was $350. The impressions/photos are good for 6 months before you need to do it again. If you start the treatment then, that initial cost is rolled into your total treatment cost. If you don’t, you are responsible for the cost. I started mine right away so the cost of the consultation was rolled into my total cost.

(Note: This may vary depending on your insurance and your dentist office. Be sure to ask before you have impressions taken so that you don’t get stuck with a large bill.)

9. If you lose your trays… My dentist said to keep my old set of trays for if I lost or damaged my current ones. If you lose your trays, call your dentist asap to re-order the set and then wear the trays from immediately before your current set until the new ones come in. I was told the cost of replacement trays is $50. (I didn’t have to replace any trays so I can’t verify this with 100% certainty, but again, just check in with your dentist.)

10. Keeping your teeth in place after your treatment is complete. The fibers in your gums have memory, which means that your teeth will move unless they are being held in place. This means you need a retainer to keep them from moving. I have a permanent retainer on my bottom 6 teeth. The metal wire is bonded to your teeth and is meant to stay there for years and years as your teeth adapt to their new position. It was very annoying to get used to, but after a few weeks you adapt easily and move on with your life.

In most cases, a permanent retainer can only be worn on the upper teeth or the bottom teeth–not both. This is because your teeth will hit the retainer, preventing your from fully using your jaw. Here is a fairly comprehensive post on permanent retainers. While I have a permanent retainer on my bottom teeth, I have a removable retainer on my top teeth that I wear while I sleep. You may end up with a permanent and a removable or two removable retainers. Your preference does matter but my dentist recommended the permanent one.

11. Schedule a cleaning right after you have your attachments removed. This was a coincidence for me, but I’m so glad it happened this way! During my cleaning, my dental hygienist was able to remove composite material that had gotten left behind when my attachments were removed. Plus, I just felt like I finally had a clean mouth after wearing Invisalign for so long.

12. Don’t eat with your trays in. This would seem like a no brainer, but I’ve read in forums where people discussed food they would eat with their trays in. This is actually pretty gross (and I would hate to clean your trays after this), but also eating with your trays in (or drinking hot or colored liquids) can distort and damage the trays. You can drink cold or room temperature water, and that’s about it. My dentist did say it was okay to have sugar-free gum, and that the chewing even helped the trays move your teeth faster, but I never did this so I can’t verify with any certainty.

13. The best time to put new trays in is at night, right before you go to sleep. Trust me on this one. This is a tip I picked up through reading a blog post somewhere, but it totally 100% is the best option. By putting your trays in at night you’re giving your teeth some time to adjust and you’ll be asleep for the the majority of the new pressure.

14. Is the “Invisalign diet” a real thing? Some people lose weight on Invisalign because they cut out snacks since they don’t want to remove their trays or they can’t drink as many calorie-dense drinks (alcohol, Starbucks, etc) with Invisalign. I didn’t lose any weight because of this so I think it probably depends on your habits beforehand and how they change during your treatment.

Invisalign FAQ

How long does the treatment last? The average time for Invisalign is one year. From start to finish, I had mine for 7 months. I started with 10 trays and opted for 3 refinement trays. I wore one set of trays for 3 weeks versus the typical 2 weeks per tray set. There was a 3 week waiting time for my refinements to come in. During that time, I wore my 10th set of trays.

How do you clean the trays? I didn’t do anything special or use any special cleaner. I gave my Invisalign trays a “baking soda bath” every 2-3 days. Basically I mixed a teaspoon or so of baking soda with water in a small tupperware container and let my trays soak while I was eating dinner. Otherwise, I just rinsed them really well and bought them a dedicated toothbrush with soft bristles. I occasionally rinsed them with vinegar to keep them from smelling like a mouth.

Pro-tip: Don’t use anything abrasive on your trays–it will scratch them and make them cloudy getting ride of that “invisible” aspect of Invisalign.

When do you get new trays? My dentist had me come in once a month to pick up my next two sets of trays. He checked to make sure they were all still fitting properly and everything was progressing as it should be. I don’t know if this is standard practice, but it probably depends on how your dentist prefers to do it.

How much does it cost? The real answer is obviously that it depends. I can tell you that with my 13 trays, my Invisalign treatment cost $3,500. I had a lower number of trays than average so I’d say you could expect to pay anywhere between $3,500 – $7,500+ for your Invisalign. You won’t know until you go have impressions taken. It also depends on what your insurance covers. In the name of full disclosure, my insurance covered 50% of my Invisalign, meaning my out of pocket cost was $1,750. Here is a great guide on Authority Dental about the pricing of Invisalign.

Does Dental Insurance Cover Invisalign? If you have dental insurance, either through an individual plan or through an employer plan, there’s a possibility you may be able to receive coverage for up to half of the cost of Invisalign treatment. 

You’ll need to check whether your plan includes orthodontics benefits, and what exclusions apply. Smile Prep has created a very helpful resource that breaks down the ins-and-outs of getting Invisalign covered by dental insurance, including information about the major dental insurance carriers.

How do refinements work? So refinements come at the end of your initial Invisalign treatment. After you’ve gone through your trays, you can decide if you’re happy with how your teeth look or if you want more movement. You go through the impression/photo process again, your dentist will send it off, and your refinement trays will come back 2-3 weeks later. It’s basically just a continuation of your original treatment. My 3 refinement tray sets did not cost me any additional money.

What happens if a tray doesn’t fit? Occasionally you will have a set of trays that doesn’t fit perfectly. One or two of my trays left with me with extra space between a tooth and a tray. It kind of felt like there was a “bubble” preventing the tray from sitting right. Your dentist will keep an eye on it. If it’s a continued problem, you’ll have new impressions/photos taken for the computer to regenerate your treatment. I didn’t have to do that.

Can anyone do Invisalign? I don’t know. There are some issues and movements that may be necessary for you that Invisalign can’t do. Only your dentist can tell you what will work for your mouth.

Does it actually work? Well, honestly, yes, it does work. But I want to say that you might not end up with perfectly straight teeth. While my front teeth are perfectly straight now, I still have a few teeth that won’t ever be straight. This has to do with the way my mouth is shaped and the way my teeth are shaped. If those teeth were perfectly straight, I would have gaping which would then be a whole different issue.

Things I loved about Invisalign:

  • You can take them out (such a sweet relief on some days)
  • They’re “invisible” (you can still sort of see them, but they mostly blend in)

Things I didn’t love about Invisalign:

  • They get sticky in the heat (they always felt sticky in my mouth when it was really hot outside)
  • You have to clean them daily
  • You can’t take a long time to drink your coffee
  • You have to brush your teeth in weird places (like the side of the road, true story)
  • You *might* have to wear a some sets longer than two weeks which extends the overall time for your treatment
  • Attachments (I bit my lips so many times)

Final Thoughts:

Overall I’m very glad I did Invisalign, and I am extremely satisfied with my results.

I’m also glad I did it early on because I don’t think i could have handled more trays. The general treatment wasn’t very compatible with my lifestyle (travel, eating out, a love for drinking coffee all day long), but I made it work. But don’t let this discourage you from getting it! While there may be minor inconveniences, I believe it’s still worth it.

Ultimately, if you want Invisalign for one reason or another, I recommend it.

Like i said, this is just my experience with Invisalign and what I learned from my dentist during the process. It’s pretty similar for everyone but will depend on your dentist/orthodontist’s preferences and the length of your treatment.

If you have any questions on my experience or about Invisalign in general that I missed, I’m happy to answer them in the comments below! And feel free to share your experience with Invisalign, too!


About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.