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If you’re looking to straighten up your teeth this year and have done your research, you’ve no doubt heard of Invisalign®. One of the first questions our orthodontist hears is, “How long do you have to wear Invisalign to get a straight smile?”

The simple answer is: It depends.

Invisalign is one of the most popular and well-known modern orthodontic solutions.

It works by gently adjusting your teeth into their ideal position through a series of clear, custom-fit aligner trays. You’ll periodically swap out your trays over the course of your treatment until your teeth are perfectly aligned.

Young blond woman holding Invisalign aligners with text on image: "How Long Do You Have to Wear Invisalign?"

One of the many benefits of Invisalign is that it delivers results much faster than traditional metal braces.

For simple cases, Invisalign treatment could be as short as six months. Most treatment times are in the range of 12 to 18 months, though each patient is different.

If that sounds like a long time, consider that most traditional metal braces take at least two years to finish straightening your teeth! You’ll also begin to see results within a few weeks of starting your Invisalign treatment.

When it comes to the length of treatment time, Invisalign is the clear winner.

Invisalign treatment is a breeze

Invisalign also has the advantage that even during your treatment, you’ll experience minimal impact on your daily life.

The aligner trays…Opens in a new window to Invisalign homepage… are transparent and discreet – most people won’t even notice you are wearing them.

Better yet, Invisalign aligners are removable. You can take them out for special events and daily activities like brushing, flossing, and eating.

Unlike metal braces, you don’t have to deal with getting food stuck in them. There’s no need to hide your smile for photos because you’re embarrassed by your “brace face.”

Invisalign treatment is super convenient AND fast.

But what’s the catch?

Do you really have to wear Invisalign 22 hours a day?

Most patients LOVE that Invisalign is removable. But that same benefit can also be a curse for patients who struggle with compliance.

Invisalign aligners need to be worn at least 22 hours a day to be effective.

Yes, that is almost all the time!

You can take them out to eat, brush, and floss, but then you should put them right back in when you’re done. You even need to wear them when you sleep. No cheating.

What happens if you don’t wear Invisalign for a day?

If you have a special event coming up, such as a wedding, interview, professional photos, or performance, talk to your orthodontist. You may be okay to leave them out during that time without affecting your plan. Just be careful it doesn’t become a habit.

Quoted text: "Invisalign aligners need to be worn at least 22 hours a day to be effective."

What happens if you don’t wear your Invisalign for 22 hours a day?

If you aren’t wearing your aligners at least 22 hours a day, your teeth aren’t getting enough force to make progress towards your goals.

Even worse, they’ll start to shift back into their original place, potentially undoing months of hard work and considerably lengthening your treatment time.

Longer treatment times may also mean additional costs for appointments and adjustments to your treatment.

Don’t let that be you!

Stick to your plan, practice patience, and you’ll have a straight smile in no time.

If you are really concerned about your ability to wear your aligners consistently, then fixed braces may actually be a better option for you. You’ll have no choice but to wear them 24/7.

Why does Invisalign treatment length vary so much?

Each person’s smile goals and alignment needs are unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer here.

The main things that affect how long you have to wear Invisalign are:

  • How much your teeth need to move to get to their desired position. The farther the distance, the longer the treatment time.
  • The pace of teeth movement. This differs from person to person. Some people’s bone structure and composition naturally cause their teeth to shift slower than others.
  • The complexity of your alignment issues. The more complex, the more time and aligner trays you’ll need.
  • Again, how compliant you are with the plan. If not worn long enough, treatment will definitely take longer and likely not work as well.

Let’s explore a few other factors that can affect how long you have to wear Invisalign.

Closing gapped teeth

Invisalign can be used to close gaps and unwanted spacing in teeth.

However, there are limitations. Large gaps up to 6mm could extend your treatment time to 24 months, whereas smaller gaps require much less.

For very large gaps over 6mm, Invisalign likely won’t be effective. In that case, traditional braces may be recommended by your orthodontist.

Evening out crowded teeth

Mild crowding can take as little as 6 to 12 months to fix with Invisalign. In severe cases, Invisalign is likely not the best option.

Your orthodontist can recommend what’s best for you. Sometimes it means combining Invisalign with another treatment method, and other times it means you don’t use Invisalign at all.

Does age matter?

Contrary to what you might think, Invisalign doesn’t necessarily take longer for mature adults than it does for teens and young people.

Again, each person’s genetics shape their bone structure and composition, which plays a key role in how long you have to wear Invisalign.

Close up of a bearded man holding Invisalign clear aligners.

Straightening your smile is likely easier than you think

Keep in mind that moving teeth comfortably and permanently takes time. No orthodontic solution is going to be instantaneous. Invisalign is likely the quickest and most convenient technology currently available.

No matter what your timeline, Invisalign is definitely a straight smile solution worth considering.

When you’re ready to take the next steps, schedule a consultation with an experienced Invisalign orthodontist. They will perform a thorough evaluation of your teeth and discuss your goals, and ultimately determine if Invisalign is the right solution for you.

From there, they’ll craft a custom treatment plan and provide an estimated timeline specific to your needs.

Your Invisalign expert in Elgin, IL

Our in-house Invisalign orthodontist, Dr. Jay Patel, is passionate about transforming smiles. He’s been practicing dentistry since 1986, with a diverse and extensive range of experience.

If Dr. Patel determines that Invisalign isn’t the best option for you, don’t worry!

We offer multiple orthodontic services to get you the smile of your dreams, including traditional braces.

You can count on us to always be honest and transparent, only recommending a service if it is truly the best long-term solution for you.

We have two convenient locations in Carol Stream and Elgin, IL, and proudly serve surrounding communities in Bloomingdale, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Bartlett, Wayne, Glendale Heights, and West Chicago. Note that only our Elgin office does Invisalign treatment.

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