A huge aspect of cosmetic dentistry is the Invisalign phenomenon.

Until 1997 orthodontics offered no alternative to traditional braces. For at least 40 years the only option for someone wanting the straight teeth they weren’t born with was to get metal braces – a wonderful modern technique in and of itself. Metal braces gave the opportunity for anyone to have the smile they wanted. It’s not fast, it’s not easy, and it’s certainly not the most comfortable, but it works.

One of the major issues of metal brace wearers was that all the brackets cross along the front of their teeth. It’s unattractive, inside lip injuries are common, and they can be unsightly after a meal. Wearers can be very self-conscious which is not something you need when your wires have just been tightened.

Systems development began in which the brackets could be placed behind the teeth. These systems came with their own set of problems that hadn’t been considered: that the interior is much more difficult to clean, and the brackets more likely to be damaged simply because the tongue has more access.

It’s the strongest muscle of the body, ya know; more than capable of also pushing the wire out of alignment,

It was the desire for more effective, and more comfortable teeth straightening solutions that had Invisalign begin its research and development into not the first set of plastic aligners.

New understanding of plastics and how teeth move had to be found.

That it did, Invisalign was emerged, and the invisible braces, or clear plastic aligner industry was born. Gentler than the conventional metal, removable plastic trays work faster and more effectively. What metal braces can do in 3 years, Invisalign can in half the time, all planned with software and hand-held scanners.

To date, Invisalign has treated more than six million patients. With 35,000 providers in the first decade, there are now more than double that worldwide. It is estimated that by 2023, Invisalign or aligner-type products will account for 50 percent of the teeth straightening market.

Orthodontists are shifting away from fixed brace techniques appliances because removable clear aligners have advantages beyond aesthetics. Notably, patients have fewer clinic visits and spend less time in the chair. On average, results are seen faster than with traditional braces, notwithstanding that you can actually see your teeth.

Price wise, clear aligners can be thousands of dollars cheaper than old style train tracks.

In a lot of practices, more than three-quarters of patients specifically request Invisalign, and the majority when offered the choice, choose it.

There’s something to be said about being the first kid on the block. Ask Hoover. And coke.

Invisalign also changed the demographics of patients – more adults are straightening their teeth because it’s a method that doesn’t make them feel like a 1970s teen. For some dental practices adults realigning their smile account for more than half their patients.

So Invisalign cracked the code and Smilestyler turned up in Melbourne, is gaining a reputation within Australia and is now taking on this $US30 billion tooth fairy giant.

While Invisalign focuses on orthodontists, SmileStyler is specifically targeted at dentists. Smilestyler knew there was a revenue decline for dentists year-on-year over time, with a range of market forces driving that process.

What became apparent was that really good dentists were developing a clear aligner business inside their practice, doing simple cases but nevertheless bleeding into the orthodontic market to add revenue to their practice. Smilestyler identified that as its key focus.

Aussie dentists can scan their patients and send the digital files directly for manufacture in Melbourne, making the process only a few days, in to six to eight with other brands. Smilestyler simplifies it for dentists not because they’re stupid but because they don’t specialise in teeth realignment like orthodontists. About three months into the treatment the dentist takes another scan. Algorithms tell whether it’s appropriate for the next set of aligners. That’s the beauty of digitisation. It’s not to say clear aligners are entirely without discomfort but brackets and wire systems are inherently irritating to the mouth, on top of the throbbing ache of moving teeth.

With the current class action against Invisalign for violating numerous anti-trust laws and consumer protection laws, it’s brand and reputation may suffer. Should it lose the case, the payout would be in the hundreds of millions.

More than 40,000 Australians a year use clear aligners, and globally, it’s the fastest growing dental category. There are an estimated 100 million consumers in Asia with an estimated worth of over $US200 million. It outstrips dental cosmetics in gross turnover; the poor cousin is dental veneer services.

There seems little reason for Australian dentists nationally, to not support a wholly Australian manufactured product, particularly in light of the worldwide logistic nightmare the COVID pandemic brings.

The strength of Australian economy used to ride on the back of sheep. Maybe the strength of a successful Aussie dental clinic is to convert the flocks from Invisalign to Smilestyler.

Not only is it useful to support locally grown, it could prove Invisalign’s lesson for trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.