Ever since the Positioner first appeared in 1944, it has been possible to provide orthodontic treatment by using plastic, removable braces. Since then, both the Positioner, that resembles a sports mouth-protector, and the thinner, transparent Aligner have been continuously improved. The very first feasible treatment procedure using a thin, transparent aligner was described by Sheridan as early as the 1980’s and was called the Essix Retainer. They’re still in use today.
At the end of the 1990’s, the American company Align Technologies introduced, under the name of Invisalign, a perfected, orthodontic treatment procedure using transparent, removable aligners. The only real new thing about this was that a lot of them were produced by computer using just one tooth impression taken right at the start of the process. Whereas with the old aligner systems, new impressions had to be taken again and again to achieve any significant movement of the teeth. Other aligner products like ClearAligner aim at the same goal but don’t offer technical perfection such as Invisalign.
Aligners are virtually invisible even when the person is speaking or laughing and they do not usually impede speech which makes them suitable for the esthetic treatment of adults. However, like all removable appliances, they do have a limited effect and are therefore only really suitable for simple or moderate treatment procedures. Since they were introduced onto the German market in 2001, the use of Invisalign has spread rapidly. When handled properly it’s a sensible and tested treatment procedure. Meanwhile, Invisalign is accepted as a suitable orthodontic treatment method as a result of a revised verdict from the German Association of Orthodontists in 2004. However, it is not accepted by any of the public health insurance companies and is only grudgingly accepted by the private ones.