Where It Began
The original technology behind Invisalign trays was the innovation of two Stanford University graduates, Kelsey Wirth and Zia Chishti. After completing his orthodontic treatment and having his metal braces removed, Chishti was given his own plastic retainer by his orthodontist to hold his teeth in position. It was from the observation that these plastic retainers are also able to move his teeth back into place whenever they started moving out of alignment that he realized retainers on its own may just be as effective at aligning teeth!
He then began his quest to create a much more convenient, less invasive and less visible alternative to metal braces. Such an invention will also be invaluable to the psyche of adults and teenagers who are usually embarrassed by metal braces creating a “metal train track” on their teeth and all the other physical and logistical inconveniences that come with it.
Making The Idea Happen
With his background in Computer Science, Chishti had a brainwave – these new teeth aligners could first be designed using 3D CAD software to the desired specifics before being sent for manufacturing. He shared this idea with fellow Stanford student Kelsey Wirth and they started working together to make this a reality. After working with developers on the idea and gaining more traction, they roped in 2 more partners and then formed the company, Align Technology, in 1997.
With a good idea that is well developed and has great potential, investors started coming in. Align Technology began to set up shop in a garage in Menlo Park, California, right in Silicon Valley. With the right people and financial resources, Align Technology created “incremental retainers” with 3D design software, software programming and 3D printing technology. With software they developed in-house, they can virtually model a patient’s current bite and then use that to design an aligner specifically for the patient.
in 1998, Align Technology got FDA approval for Invisalign, a patented name from the words “invisible” and “aligners”. Now they can start selling.
Getting The Brand Out Into The World
Development of the technique did not automatically open the doors of recognition for these two Stanford grads, especially since they are not trained orthodontists themselves. After facing numerous rejections, the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry permitted the young men to carry out a feasibility study over actual patients. It was only after their invention was patented and widely received by the patients that they got down to marketing the product to orthodontists. Because of strong demand from consumers due to its effectiveness, safety and ease-of-use, orthodontists started to love it too. Well, maybe they are just following the money. Orthodontists started making use of the technique commercially for the first time in 1999.
In 2005, Zia Chishti severed his ties with Align Technology, the parent company which was his own creation. He went on to establish his own startup – OrthoClear. Eventually, Align Technology moved court, and following a protracted legal battle, Align compensated Zia and requested him to halt production.
A Growing Brand
Invisalign is in now in demand more than ever before. They are now seen as an alternative to braces with a cutting edge technology offering the same result but built on a different system altogether. If figures are to be considered, the number of patients who have benefited from Invisalign has grown manifolds from 80,000 in the year 2002. It has also received a number of awards for medical design, quick growth and stereolithography.
It was in the year 2005 when the company expanded its operations to Japan by the acquisition of General Orthodontic which was an orthodontics firm. Additionally, the same year saw Harvard School of Dental Medicine include Invisalign certification as a part of their courses for the orthodontic graduate students.
In the year 2005, the Invisalign Express 10 got released that was using 10 aligners and was followed by Invisalign 1.5 in the year 2009. The years 2010 and 2011 saw an upgrade to the technology with the release of Invisalign G3 and G4 that were used for carrying out more complex treatments. The Invisalign Express 5 that was introduced in the year 2012 and the G5 version getting released in 2014 were designed for treating deep bites.
Effectiveness of Invisalign Aligners
For individuals of all age groups starting from a 10-year-old to an octogenarian who has no other choices but to opt for metallic braces that are not aesthetically appealing to say the least, advancements in orthodontic technologies have led to the appearance of ceramic braces or porcelain veneers that were less noticeable compared to the metallic or stainless steel dental supports. However, the invention of clear aligners – Invisalign, that did not require one to strap wires or brackets onto one’s teeth was a giant leap in this arena of dentistry.
Regarding Invisalign as braces is a misnomer as this orthodontic treatment technique basically entails fitting a series or set of trays or retainers for effecting gradual movement of teeth. The Invisalign trays are constructed out of a supreme grade of durable and transparent plastics that are essentially sterile and can be worn for extended periods without causing discomfort to the wearer. For the Invisalign aligners to efficiently move teeth to the desired extent, they need to be worn for nothing less than 22 hours daily.
It is possible to make aligners according to specifications of the particular patient. Our aesthetic dental clinic in Singapore takes measurements of a specific patient’s dental structure with respect to size and shape of every tooth. Thereafter, an aligner is designed using CAD (computer-aided design) software, and 3D visualization system. The professional designing a personalized Invisalign doesn’t need to be an orthodontist or even a dentist for that matter (but it helps if the designer is a dentist). The dentist, on the other hand, has to be tech-savvy and have a fair idea about software design and programming.
Since the invention of Invisalign in 1997 and the subsequent patenting, the mechanism has benefited more than 1.5 million patients.