What Do the Invisalign Provider Designations Really Mean?

Megan P on 11 Oct 2011 at 11:00am

RealSelf members know that online reviews are influential when choosing a health-care provider.  Invisalign (the “invisible” braces) tries to guide potential patients to “better” providers, but do their ratings benefit the consumer, or the company?

They classify providers as: Preferred, PremierPremier Elite, or Super Elite.

The qualifications are based on quantity of cases only -- and nothing related to the quality of the outcome.

If you do a web search to see what sets these providers apart from one another it’s difficult to find any information.  The Invisalign site ranks the designations from least to most experience, but doesn’t share the criteria to earn those designations.

The PR firm that works for Align (the makers of Invisalign) was kind enough to confirm the provider qualifications as listed below, with a note that the company doesn’t make this information public. No wonder it is so difficult to come by!

The Qualifications:

Invisalign preferred providerPreferred:
       • Treats 10 cases per year

Premier:
         • Has treated at least 50 cases total
         • Treats at least 25 cases every 6 months

Premier Elite:
         • Has treated at least 300 cases total
         • Treats 50 cases every 6 months

 Super Elite:
         • Invisalign announced this “rare” designation over the summer
         • Their PR firm told RealSelf “the information regarding the Super Elite designation is not information the company is making available publicly at this time.”

There are no continuing education requirements for any of the designations, despite popular beliefs to the contrary.

And why no mention to the quality of results?

Align’s PR firm said, “Align provides prospective patients with information regarding Invisalign product experience. It is not a comment on or evaluation of clinical competency, which Align defers to the state licensing boards and to the profession to determine, as clinical standards of care are not within Align’s purview or authority.”

In other words, no, quality of treatment outcome is not evaluated by Align.

Invisalign photos before and afterIt is also worth noting that the Invisalign site states “Where multiple Invisalign providers are associated with a single combined practice, the Invisalign Advantage Program designation reflects that of the dentist or orthodontist with the most Invisalign cases submitted.”

Translation: if an inexperienced dentist works at the same office as an Elite Premier Provider the entire office can be promoted as that level. So if you solely use the designations to help choose your provider, make sure to ask what level of experience the dentist who will be treating you has.

Quantity of cases does mean more practice, but it's not always equivalent to quality.

Photo credits: Microsoft Office and Smikey Io on Wikimedia; Invisalign

Comments (10)

Even though I'm reading this [thank you Megan] one year after it was posted, I find it a bit misleading for Invisalign to assign such classifications solely on the quantity of cases. When I see that very nice plaque declaring that my dentist is a Premier Provider, I equate it to continuing education and training with Invisalign. I even commented to her at my last visit, "Wow! You went from Preferred to Premier. Congratulations." Next time I see her, I'm going to ask if I was case #50 which catapulted her from Preferred to Premier provider :) She has been our family dentist for 30 years and welcomes my tongue-in-cheek humor. Seriously, I happen to know how dedicated my dentist is to continuing education and keeping abreast of the latest advances in dentistry and orthodontia and that's why I entrust my Invisalign treatment to her. But for those seeking a provider, Invisalign's classification ratings are deceptive. As a former OR nurse, I've watched the same surgeon repeat the same mistakes time and time again, so quantity doesn't always mean quality. That leaves us with "buyer beware" when choosing a dentist/orthodontist to treat with Invisalign.
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Thank you for sharing about kids dental health. I am a mother and I am concern of my kids dental health. I would like to have quality Invisalign Preferred Provider since dental health is very important.
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Quality dental services and result is really important to us. It makes an individual to be more confident through orthodontist gainesville ga.
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According to an online video published on June 16, 2011 by Dr. Wadler of Bellaire Family Orthodontics in TX, when he achieved Super Elite status...

Super Elite:
-Must have successfully have treated 800 cases
-Must submit 100 cases in a 6 month period

At the time, there were apparently only 15 Orthodontists in the world who had achieved this status.

:P
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While I agree in that in many cases the more you do something the better you get at it. But, this is not always a linear assumption that can be made. There are those that take further education seriously and those who learn the basics and plow along. Invisalign is no different. A DDS is not required by law (in Alberta) to earn CE credits if they are using Invisalign and practicing orthodontics. It then becomes and individuals choice as to how much education surrounding Invisalign that they engage in. This can have a big impact on the quality of the results.
Quality of result is also about understanding that Invisalign is not an appropriate choice for all cases. The designations are a good start but the PR firm that advertises Invisalign would do well to add some deeper meaning to these designations.
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The more cases you treat, the more experience you have and you can avoid pitfalls and substandard results. The success of Invisalign has a lot to do with case selection, patient compliance and doctor experience. In my experience, the cases in which the results were not ideal had to do mostly with patient compliance. The designations are a good indicator of a doctor's experience. Experience means a lot to the success of Invisalign along with patient compliance.
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I fully agree with you Dr. Amato, but don't you think the way the designations are presented and promoted to the general public is a bit misleading?

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Yeah, I'm also not sure why Invisalign wouldn't just opt to openly admit their designations are only for quantity of cases completed. I don't think any consumer would find fault with them openly admitting they are not the proper source for assessing the quality of treatment.

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I don't understand why Invisalign wouldn't make any of that info public.

To me, saying "here are our measurements for these designations -- interpret it as you wish" looks much less suspect than saying "Here our designations -- but we won't tell you what it takes to attain each level." 

I'm also quite surprised that they group partnered dentists together. What if one does them all the time and the other doesn't? That's quite misleading. Certainly most dentists are honest enough to be up front about their experience if you ask, but like any profession there's always a dishonest few :(

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