Someone’s smile is perhaps the aspect of a person that most individuals notice first. Whether it is a job interview or a first date with a stranger, a person’s smile can reveal a lot about someone during a first impression. With such an important role in human interaction, the teeth behind a person’s smile have been subjected to medical procedures to become brilliantly white and straight. Millions of people around the world spend large amounts of money in order to achieve that picture-perfect smile. Before 1997, there were not very many options when it came to the options available to straighten teeth outside of traditional orthodontic braces. Many teenagers, even today, still go through years of wearing traditional braces. While very effective, braces offer some individuals insecurity and self-consciousness about their appearance.
But in 1997, Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth founded Align Technology, they created the incredibly popular alternative to braces called Invisalign. Zia Chishti was the one who hatched the concept of “incremental retainers” during his experience with orthodontics as an adult. It happened when he was in the retainer phase of his orthodontic process when he found himself struggling with his retainer when he thought that the same approach could be applied to the entire orthodontic procedure, the idea of Invisalign was born. He pitched the idea to Kelsey Wirth, and the two began looking for developers to help them with their idea. Being in the heart of technological innovation in the San Francisco area, the two Stanford students thought to look on their on campus first. They eventually teamed up with Apostolos Lerios and Brain Freyburger and the four of them created Align Technology and began the process of developing their new, revolutionary product in a garage in Menlo Park (similar to a lot of other startup success stories).
A large amount of research was done in Computer Assisted Design (CAD) modeling, capturing geometry and the use of 3D printers in order to begin transforming their idea into an actual product. Having access to the campus lab at Stanford ultimately helped them perfect the programming necessary to create the “incremental retainers” technology. This proved to be difficult since no one in the group had any prior orthodontic training whatsoever.
In 1998, Align Technology received $140 Million in venture capital funding and the approval from the FDA for the Invisalign product. Even with the FDA’s approval, orthodontists were very skeptical of the product and system itself since none of the founding members had any expertise in the subject matter of orthodontics. However, it was only a short time before the consumer demand grew so great for Invisalign that orthodontists had to comply. In 2000, Align Technology launched a $31 million TV advertising campaign to generate massive interest in Invisalign. The TV campaign was widely successful and by the end of the year over 75 percent of all orthodontists in the United States were trained in Invisalign systems, and even general dentists were getting involved. The company went public in 2001, which raised $130 million more in funds. Now the company has grown from four to over 3,000 employees and rakes in more than $500 million in revenue each year.
In a few short years, Invisalign went from an idea being worked on in a garage to being a legitimate and fair competitor to traditional braces in just about every dentist and orthodontist office in the country. Today, Invisalign is still extremely popular and if you want to learn more about if it is a good option for you, visit us at Doral Sedation & Family Dentistry in Miami or contact us.