Add Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowery to the long list of celebrities who are, or have been, quietly straightening their teeth with Invisalign™. Right before his victory speech after having won the NBA title in June 2019, the star basketball player casually popped out his Invisalign trays – and social media lit up glee.
Despite all the positive press that Invisalign routinely receives, why don’t more people wear the system? About 20 percent of the U.S. population has something wrong with the occlusion of their teeth, the way the top and bottom teeth align. Out of a population of about 327.2 million, that percentage comes to about 65 million people with untreated malocclusion – compare that to the roughly 2.5 million worldwide Invisalign wearers.
With all those numbers in mind, the question stands: Why don’t more people wear Invisalign?
Perception: It Can Be Hard to Tell Who’s Wearing Invisalign
Despite playing game after game in front of national viewing audiences, there were still many NBA fans and Invisalign wearers who had no idea the outspoken Lowery was wearing invisible aligners all this time.
It doesn’t change the tally of worldwide Invisalign users, but this example could at least explain, in part, why it doesn’t feel like a lot of people wear invisible aligners. It’s hard to tell who’s wearing Invisalign, which plays into the perception that you rarely see people wearing the system. It might not be that it’s rare to see people wearing Invisalign. It’s likely that it’s rare to recognize that people are wearing it.
Reality: Braces Are Better Suited for Some People
As convenient and efficient as invisible aligner trays are, metal braces are still the best solution for the more urgent cases of malocclusion, according to Eung-Kwon Pae, chairman of the Department of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry.
“In fact, any removable appliance has a critical limitation, that is, it’s unable to move teeth a long way,” he said in a Baltimore Sun story last year. “Thus, orthodontists do not recommend Invisalign for cases when adults need extraction of teeth to camouflage disharmony in jaw size.”
Perception: Some People Are Concerned about the Maintenance
Though Invisalign may offer results just as fast or even faster for a particular person, that individual may still opt to go with traditional braces for a number of reasons. They feel they’ll have a hard time keeping their invisible aligners in for the required 22 hours each day. With traditional braces, the patient can’t just pop them out whenever they want to.
In a post describing the top things she wished she knew before getting Invisalign, Popsugar Author Anna Monette Roberts points to several maintenance issues she has run into while wearing invisible aligners.
For one, it’s so easy to unintentionally stain the aligner trays, she said.
“I have seen it so many times — my coffee- and tea-drinking friends who didn’t stick to a regimented tooth brushing habit ended up staining their attachments,” said Roberts. “The practically invisible composite begins to look like orange corn kernel pieces stuck all over their teeth. Yuck! As a result, every cup of coffee or tea must be immediately followed by a teeth brushing.”
Other maintenance issues she and others have pointed too include:
- Only cold beverages are acceptable with aligners in
- Completion of initial treatment may be followed by more sets of aligners meant to correct specific teeth
- You have to keep them in at least 22 hours each day
- Lipstick can stain aligners, while removing the trays can do slight damage to manicured nails
Reality: Braces Are Still More Widely Available
Yet another reason the true popularity of Invisalign is hard to gauge is that metal braces enjoy much more awareness. Braces are more widely available than Invisalign and other invisible aligner systems, though that tide is changing fast.
Invisible aligners, including Invisalign and competitors, comprised only about 15 percent of the total market for orthodontics Invisalign itself accounted for about 10 percent of the market.
Right now, the market for invisible aligners is valued at about $2.2 billion. But the market is projected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent and is expected to hit a $6.6 billion valuation by 2026.
Perception: The Stigma is Not as Strong Anymore
Maybe not nearly as big of a factor as the previously mentioned reasons so many people still choose metal braces: The stigma of wearing braces has been fading.
Times have changed. These days, adults living in a “modern society” are bolder and are confident enough to wear braces publicly, according to the University of Maryland’s Pae.
Many adults “feel metal braces signify youth,” he said. “As was the case for an 87-year-old who I treated in Los Angeles which demonstrates that there is no age-discriminating factor in orthodontic treatment.”
Find Out Which Route Is Best for You
There are so many compelling reasons to go with Invisalign if you or a family member would like straighter, healthier teeth. But depending on personal preferences and lifestyle, traditional braces still may best serve you or a loved one.
Click here to schedule a consultation with a local orthodontist to find out more about getting Invisalign in Sunnyside, Queens, NY and to determine if traditional braces might be a better choice.