Invisalign is a series of clear, removable teeth aligners that both orthodontists and dentists use as an alternative to traditional metal dental braces. As of April 2008, more than 730,000 patients have completed or are currently in treatment.
Invisalign is designed, manufactured, and marketed by Santa Clara-based medical-device company Align Technology, Inc. Align says that over 35,790 doctors are trained to provide Invisalign treatment in the U.S., with 48,130 doctors worldwide. As of January 29, 2008, Align Technology has 1,307 employees worldwide, and has manufactured more than 32 million aligners. The company has 133 patents.
Invisalign prices range from $1,500 to $5,250
The product also has potential disadvantages: the very fact that the aligners are removable means they are not continually correcting the teeth. Unlike traditional fixed braces, they are largely dependent on a patient’s habits and their consistency in wearing the aligners. The success of the Invisalign aligners is based on a patient’s commitment to wear the aligners for a minimum of 20–22 hours per day, only removing them when they are eating, drinking, or brushing their teeth.
An orthodontist begins by taking dental impressions, x-rays and photographs of the patient’s teeth and sending them to Align Technology. The impressions are put through a CT scan from which a computer creates a three-dimensional model. Technicians then individualize the teeth in the computer model and move them to their final position as prescribed by the orthodontist. Custom software then simulates the movement of the teeth in stages. The orthodontist reviews the simulation online using Align Technology’s ClinCheck via a web browser and approves or modifies the treatment. Once approved, a plastic resin aligner is manufactured for each stage of the computer simulation and shipped to the orthodontist.
The treatment price is often more than traditional braces. Treatment price is set by the dentist or orthodontist, although the cost of treatment varies considerably by doctor. Doctor fees are usually determined by complexity and length of treatment. In the U.S., treatments range in price from $3,000 to $9,000.
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