Clear braces. Invisible aligners. Clear Aligners. Invisible braces. Invisalign. Marketers nowadays treat these terms interchangeably in an attempt to capture search engine traffic. But they actually refer to very different modalities of orthodontic treatment. Let's start from the beginning.
In 1999 a company called Align Technology introduced a revolutionary orthodontic technology called Invisalign. Align spent astronomical amounts of money marketing Invisalign to the public to create demand for their patented product. Orthodontists had no choice but to offer it as a treatment option to patients. Align did such a good job with their marketing that the brand "Invisalign" became synonymous with clear aligners in the same way that "Kleenex" is synonymous with facial tissue. The Invisalign brand still dominates the in-office clear aligner market today. Because the brand "Invisalign" is so ingrained in the consumer psyche, marketers have exploited the word "Invisible" to describe both braces and aligners.
Clear aligners are transparent, thermoplastic, removable "trays" that use gentle pressure to gradually align teeth. They have many benefits in terms of convenience and aesthetics, but also some limitations as compared to traditional braces.
There are now dozens of clear aligner manufacturers, many of whom serve the growing at-home clear aligner market. The at-home treatment model offers convenience and affordability to patients with mild or moderate misalignment.
Though often used interchangeably with clear aligners, clear braces are something entirely different. Clear braces are actually just like regular braces, except the attachments are transparent.
Like traditional braces and Invisalign, clear braces have to be administered through an in-office treatment model. Braces (clear or regular) are still the best way to treat complex orthodontic cases.