Invisalign is the brand name of one of the largest orthodontic companies in the world, Align Technology. They are based out of California and have been in existence for over twenty years. Many orthodontists and general dentists, such as myself, have become certified to be providers of Invisalign through their dental school education or continuing education. Invisalign charges dentists and orthodontists a fee for every patient that uses their system, and helps to design and manufacture the aligners that move a patient’s teeth into better alignment. It is an alternative to traditional braces.
Other companies have recently started to challenge the dominance that Invisalign has held over the clear aligner market. Various smaller companies attempt to compete with Invisalign by charging dentists a slightly lower fee while trying to provide the same service. The biggest difficulty that smaller companies face is that Align Technology has had decades of data and feedback, allowing them to continually optimize the efficiency and predictability of Invisalign. Competitors are playing catch-up and competing by imitation right now. However, technology advances quickly and the competitors may one day be as good, or even better than Invisalign.
A relatively new form of competition is the Smile Direct Club. This is another competitor of Invisalign that essentially cuts out the dentist or orthodontist and markets directly to patients. Patients can take impressions of their own teeth and send them through the mail to Smile Direct Club, and have aligners shipped directly to them. In most cases, a dentist or orthodontist does NOT see the patient during the course of treatment. Personally, I feel there is a lot of inherent risk in allowing patients to control their own treatment without dental supervision. Very simple cases where only a few teeth are slightly out of position may go smoothly, but I feel more moderate to complex cases require a dentist to be involved. Time will tell if Smile Direct Club produces consistent, quality results.