Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Invisalign review: Are these invisible braces worth up to £5,000?

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2,925
inc. VAT (price dependent on buyer's dental condition)

If you can swallow the considerable costs, Invisalign’s invisible teeth braces will put a smile on your face

Pros 
Incredible results
Virtually invisible
No restrictions on what can be eaten
Regular check ins to ensure smooth progress
Cons 
Hugely expensive
Trays can get unpleasant after extended use
Not much of a window for eating and drinking
Advertisement

I have – or used to have – huge gaps between my front teeth that are – or rather were – also somewhat crooked. When I was 13, I almost got braces, but I didn’t get them in the end, because the dentist warned that after six to nine months of wearing metal wires on my teeth, they might just wander back to their starting position again. Frankly, it didn’t seem worth the risk of ridicule.
 
Twenty-four years later, I find myself simultaneously more and less concerned about what people think. I’ve finally fixed my teeth, and was prepared to put up with a year’s worth of tooth straightening for that perfect smile.

    

It doesn’t hurt that things are much less noticeable than they used to be of course, thanks to Invisalign.

Invisalign review: What you need to know

If you still think of braces as thick metal rails that go along the teeth like that classic episode of The Simpsons, then you’re somewhat out of date. Invisalign is made up of clear plastic trays that sit over your teeth, gradually shifting them to where they should be. Each tray is custom-made for your teeth via X-rays and scans, and replaced with the next adjustment every one-to-two weeks to gradually fix your smile over a period of months.
 
Clear braces? What’s the catch? Well, there are certainly a couple. Alongside the high price involved, which I’ll get onto in a minute, they’re pretty invasive to your daily routine. The plastic trays need to be worn for 22 hours per day, with the remaining two set aside for eating, drinking and cleaning your teeth. If you’re a slow eater, that’s quite a tight schedule.

 
Doing all of this is pretty damned important: given these plastic shells are held against your teeth, you don’t want food particles stuck against them, and while you can drink water with them in, anything else is a big risk on account of the plastic’s susceptibility to staining. From a distance, nobody can tell you’re wearing Invisalign – but that effect is ruined if the trays are stained brown by coffee, red by wine or orange by juice. If this does happen to you, the good news is that you’re only at most two weeks away from a fresh clear set.

But it’s undeniably invasive, especially if you’re someone with an active social life based on bars, coffee shops and meals out. But even if you’re not, you’ll want to keep a travel toothbrush with you at all times. 

Invisalign review: Price and competition

Said inconvenience is small potatoes compared to the price. As it says at the top of the article, the cost is – on average – between £1,500 and £5,000 depending on the starting state of your teeth. For me, the cost comes to £2,925 – or 13 months’ worth of retainers at £225 a go. My dentist has capped this, so even though my teeth stubbornly took longer than planned (my current ETA is 16 months) the price will never exceed £2,925 – you might want to get a similar guarantee from yours.
 
The price can vary wildly between practitioners, so it’s definitely worth shopping around. But do bear in mind that you’ll need to go back every six weeks for a checkup and new trays, so it pays to find somewhere local. 
 
Oh, and you can reduce that cost a little if you only need one set of teeth fixed… but probably not by as much as you think. Given my top set was the problem, I was told I could just use a single tray, but:
 
A) the final results wouldn’t be as good, because leaving the bottom set untouched would limit the maneuverability of the top
 
...and... 
 
B) It’d only knock two months off the treatment, for a saving of just £450. I figured if I was paying this much, I may as well go the whole hog.
 
That said, there are cheaper options. Not only are there the usual metal braces, but other clear brace companies have popped up, some of which cut out the regular checkups bringing the cost down. 
 
The most prominent of these is Smile Club Direct, which charges £1,539 for a similar system. Here, you have a scan taken – either in store or remotely – and then get all your trays in one go. It’s cheaper, but if your teeth are as crooked as mine, you might value the peace of mind that comes from monthly check-ins and adjustments from your dental practitioner.       

Invisalign review: Initial consultation and fitting

The good news is that you’ll get an idea of the cost ahead of time. Most Invisalign practitioners offer a free consultation where they’ll give you an estimate of the time and cost involved, as well as their opinion of how impressive the results will be. 
 
Once you sign on the dotted line, your teeth will be scanned one by one with a handheld tool, and you’ll be given an X-ray for a full impression of your mouth, so that the trays can be moulded to fit your bite. Then you wait for your first set of trays to be built, but in this time I was sent a short video showing the improvement brought with each month flying by at second intervals. Improvements for me really kicks in in 3-4 seconds in.

 
Then there’s the actual fitting itself. This isn’t the most comfortable experience in the world, but nothing compared to other invasive dental procedures. It basically involves you holding your mouth open while teeth are checked and small enamel-coloured attachments are applied to some in order to aid their movement. 
 
After that, you’re given your first batch of trays, the dates they need to be changed and a kit to keep them in tip-top nick. For me that involved a small travel toothbrush, a case to put them in at mealtimes and a mint-flavoured squishy to bite down on when I pop them back in. Pineapple and bubble gum (!) are also available, apparently...

Invisalign review: Living with the braces

First up, are they invisible? From a distance, I would say yes. They’re transparent, and the chances are people aren’t paying enough attention to your mouth to spot anything amiss.
 
Get up close though and observant types will definitely be able to tell. The plastic has a wet reflectiveness to it that seems slightly amiss, and the enamel coloured attachments stick out in a noticeable way. You can see the look in the picture below.

 
 
Are they painful? Not in my experience, but it’s not exactly comfortable either. For me, it’s more like a constant pressure, but your mileage may vary. Oh, and the first few days you may speak a little strangely while your mouth gets used to them. Thankfully this goes away pretty quickly, but it’s something to bear in mind if you have any public speaking engagements lined up.  

Changing to the next tray along is the time when you may feel some discomfort, because each tray is designed to move the teeth on a little more each time. The best advice is to do this last thing at night along with a painkiller, and you shouldn’t be aware of the problem by the following morning.
 
The biggest hassle has been what I alluded to earlier: you have to take them out every time you eat anything or drink any liquid that isn’t water. There are hacks around the latter – some say clear, non sugary spirits are okay, and a straw will mitigate the damage – but there’s no way around the food issue. 
 
If you’re trying to lose weight, this is actually a surprising perk: trust me, any will to snack will be completely lost when you realise that having a bag of crisps will involve peeling off your trays, finding the case, eating the snack, brushing your teeth and then forcing the trays back on again. Far easier just to drink more water and wait until dinner time.

Oh, and your lips will be prone to cracking and dryness, because the trays block saliva to the front of your mouth. Add a lip balm to the portable dental care kit you take everywhere if it bothers you.

Invisalign review: Verdict

I’ve been wearing Invisalign now for 15 months, and this morning I picked up six more trays to do the adjustments. But even after a few months I was noticing sufficient improvements to justify the treatment – if my teeth had started off from their positions at month #6, I probably wouldn’t have felt the need to sign up. 
 
Compare and contrast two pictures of me before Invisalign, and after.

 
I’ve now covered the cost of my treatment, paid in installments over the last year, and for me it was definitely worth it. I’m getting things caught between my front teeth for the first time in my life, and no longer worry about the secret judgement of people about my smile (sidenote: I suspect these fears were always overblown, since I’ve only started noticing other people’s teeth since I fixed my own.)
 
But it is a huge expense, no doubt. In short, I can’t fault the process, but whether the actual monetary cost will be worth the high price of entry is something that only you can decide.