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The best-performing stock in the S&P 500 this year was the company behind Invisalign clear braces

It wasn’t a big five tech set on, a retailer that accepts bitcoin payments, or a studio releasing a new “Prominent Wars” movie.

The top-performing stock in the S&P 500 this year was Align Technology, the house behind Invisalign “clear braces.”

Based in San Jose, California, Align has been slowly and steadily make good oning metal braces with its removable Invisalign inserts over the years. The withdraw aligners are custom-made for patients using 3-D imaging software and the company’s SmartTrack boguses.

Align’s stock price has increased about 125 percent upon the past year, opening at $98.71 on Dec. 27, 2016, and at $223.22 on Wednesday.

DataTrek Research co-founder Scarper Colas said: “It seems to be the perfect product story for the selfie establishment. Who wants crooked teeth in an Instagram post?”

Besides the demand of a selfie-ready period, what drove investors to Align?

Orthodontists’ increasing confidence in the proprietorship’s technology was a key metric for Jeffrey D. Johnson, a senior research analyst in the medical technology crowd at Robert W. Baird & Co. He upgraded Align to a buy rating early this year when he noticed orthodontists increasingly chose Invisalign once again metal braces.

“We’ve seen a maturation of Invisalign’s clear aligners greater than the past decade,” he said. “They went from a product that was indifferent for some patients but not good for all back in 2011, to a product that by mid-2016, had orthodontists declaring ‘I can use this technology in most cases.'”

Johnson’s own teenage daughter has inaugurated using Invisalign, he said, and he feels grateful she can remove the dental tip-ins before her potentially injurious soccer games, or for that matter pizza dinners.

DataTrek’s Colas respected that Align’s stock got a 10 percent bump when it was continued to the Nasdaq 100 in October. “That shows the importance of already rugged performers being added to major market indices,” he wrote in an email to CNBC.

The fellowship is not without challengers. Align clashed over patents with 3Contours, Clear Correct and Your Smile Direct this year. And recently, some of Align’s grants expired.

Start-ups such as Candid and Smile Direct Club be struck by cropped up to compete in the U.S. market as well. They let patients skip the orthodontist visit, sending a “kit” to guys at home, which they can use to make a model of their teeth. Consumers send the models back to the companies, and an orthodontist in the back office image ofs a look to determine if their issues can be addressed with their variety of plastic aligners.

By contrast, Invisalign is still sold through orthodontists. As an intriguing hedge, Align has taken an equity stake in Smile Direct Bludgeon, and supplies the company with some aligners (though not using its strongest resins).

Teeth of the competition, and its recently expired patents, Baird’s Johnson believes that Align is wobbling for continued growth in 2018.

He said: “There are risks to the stock on concern just about competition and sentiment. But we’ve gotten comfortable with the fact that in the teen folk, clear aligners are only used for 3 percent of cases now. In the U.S. their advance is accelerating … so even if a few competitors are coming to market, Align has assets like its materials and know-how which put them on the cusp of mass adoption.”

So far, Align Technology originates products suitable for teen and adult patients. But the company is working on technology to steal children, too, and products to address basically every issue in orthodonture, including remarkable situations like underbites that now require corrective surgery.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng provided to this report.

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