How long does Invisalign take?

Chris Steele
Founder and Editor
Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.
Chris Steele
Updated on
September 12, 2023

Invisalign is an alternative dental treatment to traditional metal braces. Using transparent and discreet aligners, Invisalign can be used to fix minor imperfections as well as correct a range of other, more complex dental issues. Here’s how it works and how long you can expect Invisalign treatment to take if it’s an option available to you.

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What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is the brand name for a clear aligner (similar to a mouthguard) that’s used in dental treatment. It’s suitable for both adults and children and can be an alternative to traditional metal braces.

Invisalign aligners are near-invisible, according to some wearers. This can make them a good option if you need orthodontic treatment but are worried about traditional braces making you feel self-conscious at school or work.  

How does Invisalign work?

The first step is to have your teeth scanned so that your aligners can be moulded to fit over them as discreetly and securely as possible. Your dentist or orthodontist will also take you through a bespoke treatment plan and explain how long the process might take.

Once treatment starts, you’ll need regular check-ups (usually every 6-8 weeks) to review progress and change aligners as your teeth respond.

To help ensure you meet the milestones in your treatment plan, you’ll need to follow any instructions your dentist gives you. In some cases, this could mean wearing your aligners for between 20 to 22 hours each day. The only times they should be removed are when you’re eating or brushing your teeth. If you can, it’s also worth taking out your aligners when you drink coloured liquids like tea, coffee or juice as these can cause staining.

How long does Invisalign treatment take? 

Treatment time will vary according to how complex your needs are. On average, cosmetic or minor corrections can take as little as three months, while moderate to complex changes could take 12 months to two years.  

The longer the treatment, the more aligners you’ll need; for instance, more complex dental work could mean you’ll need up to 50 sets of aligners.

There are different types of Invisalign aligners available, so your dentist or orthodontist will choose the range most suitable based on the treatment you need, for example:

1. Invisalign i7

This is often used for minor, mainly cosmetic corrections where treatment plans only foresee the need for seven aligners (hence the name). 

If your dentist uses Invisalign i7 for treatment, you should expect to see results within three months.

2. Invisalign Go

The Invisalign Go system was only launched in the UK in 2022. It’s aimed at minor corrections, for instance, slight overcrowding. 

You should see results in around three to four months of starting treatment. 

3. Invisalign Lite

Invisalign Lite can be used to achieve mild to moderate changes. You’ll likely need around 14 aligners for treatment, lasting between six and eight months. 

4. Invisalign Full

Invisalign Full is the most flexible system in the treatment range and can be used for most cases, whether you need minor or extensive work carried out. 

Your dentist will create as many aligners as you need to treat your teeth effectively, so treatment time will depend on how complex your case is, but it could take up to 12 months or even longer.

5. Invisalign Teen

This range is designed specifically for teens whose teeth may still be coming through. The aligners also have discreet markings on them that gradually fade so that you know they’re being worn for the right length of time. 

The Invisalign Teen system also includes a limited number of free aligners in case any get lost. Treatment time will depend on the amount of work needed. 

6. Invisalign First

This treatment is designed for younger children whose teeth are showing early signs of misalignment or overcrowding. Starting Invisalign treatment early can help minimise the need for complex work later on, but this is something your dentist will discuss with you.

Is Invisalign treatment quicker compared to other braces and aligners?

This will fundamentally depend on how complex your dental needs are. In some mild to moderate cases, Invisalign can help achieve quicker results than traditional metal braces. That said, you’ll need to remember that Invisalign isn’t suitable for all orthodontic work.

While Invisalign is effective at treating a wide range of issues, metal braces are still the preferred choice for more complicated treatment. This is partly because traditional braces apply more force to your teeth and can be manipulated to correct multiple problems at once.

Do all dental practices offer Invisalign treatment?

No, dentists and orthodontists need special training before they can offer Invisalign so don’t assume that it’s offered by all dental practices. You can find your nearest provider by typing in your postcode at the Invisalign website.

Dental practices are also graded based on how many Invisalign procedures they’ve carried out. The more cases they’ve treated, the higher their grade, for example, ‘bronze’ level practices will need to have treated up to four patients in six months. This is the minimum number of cases a dentist will need in order to qualify as an Invisalign provider. The next levels are gold, gold plus, then platinum and platinum plus. 

The highest level is diamond. Practices that achieve diamond level must complete around 150 cases each year

Is a diamond-level practice better than bronze level?

It’s worth remembering that levels correspond to the number of cases treated; it doesn’t necessarily reflect the ability of the dentist or orthodontist. For example, a diamond-level practice doesn’t mean it has ‘better’ orthodontists than a gold-level practice, only that it’s treated more patients with Invisalign.

With that in mind, it’s important to consider the advice your dentist or orthodontist gives you. Invisalign might be more discreet, but it might not be the most suitable treatment for the dental work you need.

What’s the difference between Invisalign and other orthodontic treatments?

The biggest difference is that Invisalign is discreet, so most of the time, it’s not even noticeable that you’re having orthodontic treatment. They’re also made from a material exclusively made for Invisalign called SmartTrack, which creates a snug and comfortable fit.  

Invisalign aligners can also help you maintain good oral hygiene as you can remove them. On the other hand, traditional metal braces are fixed to your teeth, which can make it much harder to properly brush and floss them.

How much does Invisalign cost?

Treatment cost ultimately comes down to the complexity of the work and the number of aligners you need. As a rough guide, prices for adults and teens range from £2,000 to £6,000. 

Is Invisalign more expensive than other braces?

Invisalign can be more expensive, but it really depends on your individual needs. For many wearers, the convenience and discretion that Invisalign treatment offers outweigh the expense.

Can you get Invisalign treatment on the NHS?

Orthodontic treatment is free for under 18s, but Invisalign aligners are not typically available on the NHS.

Standard NHS braces are made of metal as it’s considered the more cost-effective option based on the budgets available. If your child would prefer Invisalign treatment, you’ll usually need to pay for this privately.

If you’re an adult, orthodontic treatment is not normally available on the NHS, and you’ll be expected to cover the cost of braces or aligners yourself.

Does private dental insurance cover Invisalign treatment?

Private dental insurance policies mainly cover ‘preventative and restorative’ treatment only. This typically includes check-ups, x-rays, hygiene appointments, fillings and crowns. Oral cancer care is often part of private dental packages, too.

Orthodontic or cosmetic treatment, on the other hand, isn’t always included as part of a standard policy. That said, some private dental insurance policies cover the cost of clear aligners, such as Invisalign treatment, either in full or up to the value of traditional metal braces. For example, if standard braces cost you £3,000, but you wanted Invisalign treatment costing £4,000, you’d be expected to pay the £1,000 difference yourself. With that in mind, it’s in your interest to check what different dental insurance policies cover to avoid disappointment.

If you’d like to explore private dental insurance in more detail, contact us. We can put you in touch with a regulated broker who can take you through all your options, enabling you to choose a policy that’s right for your needs and your budget.

Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

Chris Steele
Founder and Editor

Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.