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February 21, 2020

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Invisalign Alternatives – Are they worth it?

Invisalign was the only company offering clear aligners in the past. Founded in 1997, part of their competitive advantage has been to protect their intellectual property by filing patents. Since 2017, 40 key patents have expired and in 2018, an average of 23 patents will expire annually.  This has created an opportunity for other companies to attempt to capture market share for patients who want to straighten their teeth using clear aligners. Several newer companies claim to straighten teeth at a fraction of the cost, with some offering ‘mail in kits’ where molds of your teeth and delivery of your aligners are done by mail without a visit to an orthodontist! Many patients wonder whether mail-in kits work as well as Invisalign and if it is a viable solution to get that perfect smile.


One of the key differences between Invisalign and mail-in kit companies is the impression process. Impressions or molds of your teeth are probably THE most important factor in diagnosing what needs to be done, how quickly the teeth can be moved, how many aligners are needed, and where the final positions of the teeth need to be. In addition, the fit of the aligners is only as good as the impressions or molds of the teeth. Orthodontists train for years to do this properly and accurately. An untrained person often has difficulty obtaining proper tooth molds and as a result, damage to the teeth has occurred in patients throughout the country because of improper tooth movement and/or poor aligner fit. Certain companies send a mail-in kit to make a mold of the teeth. An impression on themselves is attempted, taken and sent into the company. Although this option may sound more convenient, an inaccurate impression or mold will yield a poor result at best and damage to your teeth and/or gums in the worst case.

Our offices use the latest technology. Our 3d dimensional scanning avoids the need for goopy and potentially inaccurate impressions. Once the scan which involves no radiation and takes about 3 minutes is completed, one of our orthodontists will evaluate it and make recommendations to the aligner fabrication company (ie, Invisalign) on how, where and how quickly to move the teeth. The plan is created based on the concerns you voice, and is then monitored and discussed with the patient by one of our orthodontists.

All Clear Aligners Are Not the Same

Invisalign aligners

Invisalign aligners often require very small tooth colored smooth bonding attachments to be placed by the orthodontist in order to effectively move the teeth into the desired position. They also help keep the aligners in place. Attachments can reduce the amount of movement as your teeth shift into place making it more comfortable and quicker. Mail order clear aligner companies do not include these tooth attachments, thereby allowing the aligners to slide around the teeth, leading to incorrect tooth movements and improper final tooth positioning.

Patient Care

Many mail-in companies provide an 800 number to call if help is needed. Our orthodontists at Rhode Island Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics are happy to discuss questions and concerns. Our friendly, professional staff work with you to make sure you are completely satisfied with your results.

For a free consultation, call (401) 828-1171 today!

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