The Invisalign Process Explained

Invisalign is one of the most interesting and exciting developments in orthodontics in recent years. How does the Invisalign process work? Read on to learn more.

close-up of woman wearing Invisalign - Invisalign process blyss dental

Orthodontic treatment is any treatment focused on changing the alignment of the teeth within the mouth. This can mean bringing teeth together, pushing them apart, rotating them – or commonly, all of the above. Traditionally this meant attaching metal braces to the teeth. Today, the Invisalign process provides an innovative and radically different way to straighten teeth.

Related Article: Invisalign In San Diego: Braces For People Who Hate The Idea Of Braces

The process of getting Invisalign has a lot of overlap with getting regular braces – consultations, checking the alignment of teeth, and planning. However, there are some key points of difference that make Invisalign a much smoother process for both patients and their dentists.

Getting Invisalign is a multi-stage process. At every step along the way, there are things you should know beforehand that can make your treatment as efficient – and effective – as possible. Invisalign works well if you also do your part.

I’ll go over the stages below, and provide as much useful information to help guide you.

Invisalign Process Stage 1: Initial Consultation and Prequalification

The first stage of the Invisalign process is the same as for any other dental treatment: a consult.

patient consulting with dentist

The initial consultation is a key step in the whole Invisalign treatment process. It is essential for your dentist to assess your overall oral health before undergoing the treatment.

During the consult, the dentist or orthodontist will assess your oral health and determine if Invisalign is the right treatment for you. You may need a different type of appliance to start with, such as traditional braces. You may need teeth extracted before any orthodontic work can begin.

In order to get an accurate look at your teeth, your dentist will take an x-ray or 3D scan of your mouth. Within minutes, your dentist will have a life-like 3D model of your teeth available to look at and assess. They will see how every tooth is shaped and positioned and can check how they sit together – all on the computer with you.

After your consult, your dentist can advise you on the best course of action.

What you should know:

Consult times and fees will change depending on the dentist. Some offer free consults, others may offer to absorb the cost of the consult if you proceed with treatment, and others will charge for it separately.

At Blyss Dental, we offer our patients free initial consultation. Book an appointment now.

An Invisalign consult can last up to an hour.

Tips for a successful consult:

  • Check to see if your insurance will cover the cost of the consult.
  • Always read reviews when considering a new dentist. Ask friends and family for their recommendations.
  • Know what your dentist includes in their Invisalign package. Some include everything from consultation to the final retainer. Others may break the process down into smaller packages.
  • What brand of clear aligners do they use? There are more than just Invisalign today, and not all of them have the same standards and reliability.

Invisalign Process Stage 2: Treatment Planning

Once you’re cleared for Invisalign, it’s time to plan the treatment.

This is one of the areas where the Invisalign process has been innovative. The entire treatment plan, from the first aligner to the last, is calculated on a computer.

Those 3D scans or impressions that were taken during your consult are fed into the Invisalign computer program. The system analyzes the 3D model and works out the correct alignment of the teeth. It then calculates all the steps needed to take the teeth from the initial scan to the final proposed look.

Invisalign 3d scanning

Blyss Dental in San Diego uses 3D scanning to accurately capture your teeth’s alignment.

Your dentist can make any adjustments they think might be necessary to the model before approving it. Both you and the dentist can look through the entire treatment process from beginning to end before the first aligner has even been made.

The 3D predictions aren’t perfect, however. Everyone’s mouths are different and things can change over time. Therefore only the first few months’ worth of aligners will be made, to begin with, before a follow-up with your dentist later (see below).

Your dentist might also identify other areas of your mouth that need to be addressed before you get Invisalign. This is to ensure the best possible outcome for your teeth, by starting with the healthiest mouth possible.

Read More: Top 12 Most Important Questions to Ask Before Getting a Full Mouth Reconstruction

What you should know:

This stage is often part of the initial consult. Occasionally, a dentist might want to see you twice, particularly if other things need to be addressed. For most people, however, this plan will be worked out during the previous stage.

Invisalign Process Stage 3: Preparation Procedures

If your dentist has identified any problem areas in the mouth, now is the time to get them treated. This can include:

  • Fillings
  • Cleaning, possibly even deep cleaning
  • Addressing any gum problems such as gingivitis or periodontitis
  • Root canal for problem teeth
  • Tooth extractions to make room for the other teeth to move

The time and cost involved in this step will obviously change quite a lot depending on how much work needs to be done. At a minimum, you’re looking at a regular dental cleaning like you’d get at your 6-monthly checkup – remove any plaque, a bit of polish, and you’re good to go.

close-up of dental cleaning - pre-treatment procedure

Before the actual Invisalign treatment, the dentist will have to address other areas of your teeth that need to be fixed. The most common is dental cleaning.

Root canal treatments, on the other end of the spectrum, can take several dental visits to properly complete.

You may also need to have studs attached to your teeth as part of Invisalign. These are tooth-colored attachments that the Invisalign “grabs” onto to help pull teeth into position.

Tips for a successful treatment:

  • Ideally, you want to do everything that is recommended, but you may not have the time or budget to allow it.
  • If there are multiple treatments recommended, get your dentist to list them as a priority. What is necessary and what is nice to have?
  • Check which treatments are covered under insurance.
  • Discuss payment plans for big-ticket items that are unavoidable. At Blyss Dental, we offer many types of Invisalign financing plans including from Care Credit and Lending Club.
  • Factor in potential treatments on top of the cost of Invisalign itself when considering Invisalign.

Related Article: Invisalign Cost Insider Tips: How to Save Thousands of Dollars on Your Invisalign Treatment

Invisalign Process Stage 4: Receiving Your First Trays

Once everything is good to go, it’s time to get your first trays!

Invisalign trays - clear aligners

Once all the issues in your mouth have been addressed, your dentist will give you several months’ worth of clear aligners.

You will receive several months’ worth of aligners to begin with. You’ll have an appointment with your dentist to go over the process of taking them out and putting them in.

Tips for successful Invisalign treatment process:

  • Listen to your dentist! They will provide you with the best advice for wearing, replacing, and taking care of your Invisalign.
  • You need to wear your Invisalign aligners 18 to 22 hours a day as recommended
  • Don’t drink anything but water while wearing your Invisalign. They can get stained, or harbor bacteria.

Invisalign Process Stage 5: Follow-up Appointments

Every few months you’ll return to the dentist to check the progress of the treatment. This usually coincides with when your collection of aligners is about to run out.

During these checkups, you’ll find out if your future aligners need to be adjusted from the original plan. Sometimes you can need more aligners, sometimes you can need less – or at the very least, move through the aligners a little faster.

Patient consulting with dentist

All throughout the Invisalign process, you will have to regularly visit your dentist for check-ups. This will ensure that you’re on the right path towards perfectly aligned teeth.

Your dentist will also do regular check-and-cleans to ensure your teeth are staying healthy during treatment.

You’ll then be asked to come back to collect your new aligners at a later date.

Tips for successful Invisalign treatment:

  • Again, listen to your dentist!
  • Don’t forget to brush your teeth and floss as normal. As the Invisalign puts pressure on teeth, gums become more susceptible to disease than ever.
  • Don’t skip appointments if you can avoid it. Delaying these checkups can make the treatment take longer, and if you wait too long, even set back progress.

Invisalign Process Stage 6: Finishing Treatment

Once you reach the end of your planned treatment, you’ll return to the dentist for a final checkup.

Invisalign final check-up

The final Invisalign check-up is as important as the first since, at this stage, the dentist will assess if the treatment worked or if you need extra aligners.

Sometimes you’ll find out that you may need a few extra aligners – around half a dozen for most people – to get your teeth just into that very final position. Other times you might be lucky and find out that’s it – you’re done!

All up, your Invisalign treatment will have lasted an average of 7-18 months. For more complex cases, you might have had your aligners for almost 2 years. However long it took, congratulations, you’ve finished.

Well, almost…

Invisalign Process Stage 7: Installation of Retainers

Teeth move over time. This is natural. Over the next few months and years, your teeth will leave their new positions and move into new ones. To avoid this happening, retainers are used after orthodontic treatment.

Invisalign retainers

After the treatment, your dentist will give you retainers – fixed or removable – to maintain the alignment of your teeth.

There are two types of retainer: fixed and removable.

A fixed retainer is a thin bar that’s attached to the back of your teeth to keep them in place. It doesn’t interfere with chewing or speaking but does take a little getting used to. It’s the best, most reliable way to keep your teeth in position.

Removable retainers are worn at night. The benefit is there’s nothing attached to your teeth permanently. However, they take more getting used to. And if you forget to wear them too much, your teeth will move out of alignment.

Blyss Dental Invisalign process explained infographic


The Invisalign process in San Diego will take anywhere from one to two years – about 18 months on average.

It’s important to start your Invisalign by finding the right dentist. Someone who clearly communicates the process and costs; someone who helps you every step of the way; and someone who provides a complete service that doesn’t leave you in the dark about what’s happening next.

Thinking of getting Invisalign for straighter teeth? Contact us now and book your free consultation.