I finished my Invisalign treatment at DocBraces in Ottawa! I'm still pinching myself. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I walked in to start my first round of Invisalign aligners, but that was all the way back on Halloween night 2018. Time really does fly!
I'm thrilled with my new smile. For nearly 40 years I hid my smile and would actually speak differently just to hide my teeth. Now I catch myself smiling all the time and it's hard to even put into words what that feels like.
Over the past two years I've received countless questions about my Invisalign treatment and the wonderful team at DocBraces, and I've loved receiving messages from so many of you who also decided to take your first steps on this journey.
I know there are some who might not be comfortable reaching out to ask questions, and that's okay! I'll answer the most-asked questions right here so you'll have a detailed resource you can come back to whenever you like.
This part goes without saying but I'm gonna say it anyway: I'm not a doctor or an orthodontist, and none of this article constitutes medical advice. I'm simply sharing what I've learned through my own experience and I hope it's helpful to those of you considering Invisalign treatment.
Let's do this!
how long does Invisalign treatment take?
Generally speaking, your total treatment time would be about the same whether you're looking at traditional braces or Invisalign treatment, sometimes Invisalign is even a smidge faster. That means if you're looking at one year for braces, you'll likely be looking at a year or less for Invisaglin treatment.
Every single treatment plan is completely personalized based on the patient and will reflect the expertise and approach of a specific orthodontist, so no two treatment plans are exactly alike. Most folks fall somewhere in the range of 6-24 months.
Based on my consultation, my orthodontist at DocBraces recommended an Invisalign treatment plan that would take 18-24 months, roughly the same amount of time I would have needed for traditional braces. FYI, many orthodontists will provide ranges rather than a specific number of months. That's because depending on how your teeth are moving, you may have a few intervals where you need to be rescanned for a new set of Invisalign aligners and those take a few weeks to arrive.
Personally I had 2-3 rescans and COVID threw us a curveball with spring 2020's widespread quarantine. But even with those delays, I was completely finished my Invisalign treatment within 22 months. Woohoo!
how much does Invisalign treatment cost?
Invisalign treatment generally costs about the same as traditional braces. In Canada, orthodontics are private healthcare, and costs vary dramatically from one provider to another because they're free to set their own prices and fee structures.
But that said, any particular orthodontist generally charges about the same for Invisalign treatment as they would for traditional braces. There are pros and cons to consider for each method of treatment and some folks may be a better candidate for one than the other. Most orthodontists want patients to chose what's best for them rather than basing such a big decision on price.
how to compare orthodontists and prices
In Canada we're not really used to private healthcare services, so I strongly encourage you to do your homework before choosing an orthodontist. Book consultations at two or three different places, and even if you like the first orthodontist, visit at least one more: it'll be a helpful comparison even if it simply confirms that you still want to go with the first one.
When I started this journey I just kinda assumed prices and plans for Invisalign treatment would be the same everywhere, but gosh was I wrong. I learned that everything from timelines, to costs, to fee structures, to personalties and treatment approaches are very different.
Here are few examples based on my own experience, and I've withheld the names of the first two orthodontic practices that I chose not to proceed with:
Orthodontist A: I paid $300 for my consult and they sweet-talked me into $200 in x-rays. So I paid $500 on the day of my consult and I ended up with x-rays I didn't need because ultimately I didn't chose that practice. This orthodontist seemed more accustomed to treating kids than adult patients, and didn't really grasp that this was a big deal for me. Spoke to me as if I was 12. They estimated 24 months of treatment at a total cost of $6500. 30% was due upon starting treatment, with the full amount payable up to one year after completing treatment (with interest).
Orthodontist B: I paid $300 for my consult and was smart enough to decline x-rays this time. Ironically, no one smiled at this entire practice. They were very matter-of-fact and the orthodontist straight-out asked me if I was considering a nose-job. My whole life I've had a deviated septum and the breathing problems and sleep issues that go with it, and I'd LOVE to tackle it one day. But I thought it was quite forward of them to ask, and it really threw me off because walking through the door to discuss the health of my teeth was already a big deal for me. They estimated 12 months of treatment (accelerated approach with possible tooth extraction) and a total cost of $7200. 50% due upon starting treatment, full amount due upon completing treatment. No financing options available.
DocBraces: Consultation was free! The entire team at DocBraces was warm and friendly, and they really understood where I was coming from as an adult patient. They have three totally different treatment streams for children, teens, and adults, and nearly 50% of their patients are adults. And it shows. They empathized with my years of anxiety about my teeth, and understood that I was nervous about how the aligners would look and whether I'd sound different when I spoke. They also seemed the most focused on removing barriers to treatment: at DocBraces the patient chooses the amount they want to pay upon starting treatment, as long as it's at least $1, and there are a range of interest-free financing options to make payments as flexible and manageable as possible. They estimated 18-24 months of treatment with a total cost of $5300.
is Invisalign treatment covered by insurance?
Whether or not Invisalign treatment is covered by insurance depends on your insurance provider and your specific case. Log into your insurer's online portal or dig up your paperwork and take a very close look at all the terms and conditions of your plan.
Many insurers cover Invisalign treatment the same way they cover traditional braces: they often only provide coverage if treatment is deemed non-cosmetic, i.e., necessary for the health of your teeth, the function of your bite, or a whole host of other things I don't pretend to be an expert in. Definitely ask all providers you meet with whether they consider your case to be cosmetic or non-cosmetic, and ask them to put it in writing on your estimate.
Let's say you find out you qualify for coverage from your insurance provider. Now you'll need to do even more reading of your fine print, because plans themselves vary. Some might cover a percentage of the entire treatment cost (I've heard of lucky folks with as much as 80% covered), while others cover a fixed annual amount (say $1000 per calendar year), and others cover a fixed amount for the entire lifetime of the plan (company covers X amount once in your lifetime or for as long as you're with that provider). My own insurance plan was a bit of a confusing hybrid: it would cover up to 80% of a one-time fee of $1500 once in the lifetime of my plan.
how does Invisalign treatment work?
I'm not a medical expert so I'm going to share a helpful explanation from DocBraces:
Invisalign uses a series of clear, surgical-grade plastic aligners that are custom-made to discreetly and comfortably reposition your teeth, based on a customized treatment plan created by your orthodontist. The trays are virtually unnoticeable and can be removed at any time, which means cleaning and maintenance is simple, and you can continue eating whatever you like.
Each set of Invisalign trays are worn 22 hours a day and you'll start a new one every one to two weeks. Each new tray is slightly different so, over time, these subtle changes will cause your teeth to slowly move into their desired position. Every 8-10 weeks you'll visit your orthodontist for a checkup: they'll verify that everything is progressing as it should, and provide you with your next batch of aligners.
Those of you who've been following my journey already know this, but honesty and transparency are incredibly important to me so I'm going to say it again here:
When I first met with DocBraces, I was wowed by their team and immediately knew they were right right fit for me. After such disappointing experiences at the other two orthodontic practices, DocBraces was a breath of fresh air. I fully intended and expected to pay out of pocket for my treatment with them. But then the unimaginable happened:
They’d seen my blog posts (like this one and this one) and Instagram Stories about my decades-long hang-ups about my teeth, and said they wanted to provide my treatment free of charge. I burst into tears and nearly fell off my chair, and I can still hardly believe it now. They didn't even ask me to write this article. For real. This blog post and all my Instagram posts and stories along the way are 100% my opinion.
As I sit here at my laptop, it's still hard to find the words to describe this. To have finally tackled my fears and insecurities about my teeth.
It took me nearly 40 years but I finally know how it feels to love my smile. And I'm forever grateful.
All photos by the immensely talented Hello Lovely Ottawa © 2020