How Much Do Invisible Braces Cost?

Over the past three decades, the options for people looking to straighten their teeth have expanded significantly. Where once the only option was cumbersome and highly-visible metal braces bonded to the front of the teeth, today, newer options include ceramic braces that are harder to see and lingual braces that adhere to the back of the teeth and are hidden from sight.

The least visible option that’s available today came on the market over 20 years ago. In 1998, the FDA approved Invisalign clear aligners. This approach features fully removable clear plastic trays that slip over the teeth snugly. If this sounds like a retainer, that’s because the two are very similar. However, rather than simply hold your teeth in place, aligners slowly correct the alignment of your smile.

These trays, which the patient typically wears for 20 to 22 hours per day, gently push the teeth into the desired position over time. As the teeth shift, a new tray is swapped in, typically every one to two weeks, to keep moving the teeth towards their optimal position. When the teeth have reached their optimal position, the patient switches to a retainer tray to wear at night to maintain the new alignment.

This advancement in orthodontia has meant that more adults can get the teeth-straightening benefits of braces without the intrusive, and sometimes very obvious, change to their appearance that metal braces present.

“Clear aligners are rising in popularity because they’re a discreet and innovative method to effectively straighten teeth,” says Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, chief clinical officer with SmileDirectClub, a telehealth-based invisible aligner company based in Nashville, Tennessee. For many patients, clear aligners also offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional orthodontics.

[See: 9 Habits That Are Killing Your Teeth]

Prices Vary by Type, Severity of Misalignment and Geographic Location

The cost of braces, whether conventional, lingual or clear aligners, can vary widely, depending on your specific needs and where you live. For example, if you have severe malocclusion — the technical term for teeth that are very crooked — and it takes three years to straighten them, you should naturally expect to pay more than someone whose teeth aren’t as crooked and are finished with treatment in a year.

According to the American Dental Association’s 2020 Survey of Dental Fees report (the most recent edition available), the average cost of braces is about $6,000, but that average varies by geographic region.

Cost of Different Types of Braces

Dental product maker Oral-B offers some additional average price info for different kinds of braces. These are broad ranges based on average costs, and they can vary significantly if your teeth are severely misaligned or you live in an area with a high cost-of-living or fewer orthodontist options.

Metal braces: $3,000 to $7,000. These are the old-school metal braces that adolescents typically sport, and they tend to be the least expensive type of braces. They sometimes cause pain as the teeth move into place and the metal brackets can cut the delicate skin inside the cheeks or the tongue, though they rarely cause enough injury to result an emergency dental visit.

Users also need to stay away from gum, gummy or chewy foods and other foods that can break brackets or wires. Despite these drawbacks, metal braces are a tried and true method of straightening teeth that are widely available at orthodontist’s offices around the country.

Clear aligners, such as Invisalign: $4,000 to $7,400. Through a series of clear, removable plastic trays that fit snugly over the teeth, you can move your teeth without visible metal on the front of the teeth. These are offered by certified orthodontists and have become widely available around the country.

A spokesperson for Align Technology, Inc., the company that owns Invisalign, notes that with its aligners, you can’t begin treatment until you’ve visited an Invisalign-trained dentist or orthodontist, a visit that includes them taking photos and a 3D scan of your teeth.

Ceramic braces: $4,000 to $8,000. With ceramic braces, the brackets, while larger than metal braces brackets, are made of transparent or white ceramic, making them less obvious than those found in conventional braces. The approach is virtually identical to that with conventional metal braces, but the materials cost a bit more, hence the higher average price. Ceramic braces can also cause some gum sensitivity and may be less durable than metal. The treatment period also tends to be longer and the brackets can develop stains over time.

Lingual braces: $8,000 to 10,000 or more. These braces look more like conventional metal braces, but are installed behind the teeth so they’re less visible. They are more expensive because they’re more complicated to adjust, given their less-accessible placement behind the teeth.

They’re also custom-molded to your teeth using more expensive materials than conventional braces, and the treatment period is often longer than with traditional braces. But they’re virtually invisible, which can be a key selling point for some people and for those who might not be candidates for invisible aligners, such as individuals with more severe misalignment.

Some insurance plans do offer a benefit for braces or aligners, but not all do. Check your policy carefully for details.

[See: 6 Tips to Overcome Fears of Going to the Dentist.]

Clear Aligner Options

While Invisalign, the biggest name brand for invisible braces, clocks in at a similar average price to metal braces, other types of clear aligners have entered the market. Some of these, such as those offered by SmileDirectClub, are less expensive.

SmileDirectClub patients have two payment options:

Single Pay. A one-time payment of $1,950.

SmilePay. A $250 down payment and $89 per month for 24 months. “There are no credit checks or forms to fill out for payment” Sulitzer notes.

To start with SmileDirectClub, patients must use an impression kit that makes a mold of your unique teeth. The impression kit costs $59. You’ll also have to visit a SmileShop, one of SmileDirectClub’s brick-and-mortar locations, for a 3D scan at the start of treatment to make sure you’re a good fit for this approach. That scan is free.

Treatment can be completed in as little as 4 to 6 months of wearing the aligners as directed, depending on the case. After completing treatment, patients are advised to wear retainers indefinitely. Those cost $99 per set.

Other brands in this space include:

Byte

Byte offers a few different options:

An all-day aligner system for $82 per month for 32 months (with $249 down payment) and including the Byte Protection Plan. Or a one-time payment of $1,895, not including the protection plan (valued at $649). The protection plan includes five years of retainers and coverage for lost or stolen aligners.

An at-night aligner system for $99 per month for 32 months with $299 down payment, which includes the Byte Protection Plan, or a one-time payment of $2,295 not including the protection plan (valued at $779).

Users must also pay a $95 fee for the impression kit to get started with the treatment. If you’re determined to not be a good fit for Byte aligners, that $95 fee will be refunded. A one-month supply of Byte’s BrightByte teeth whitening foam is included with all plans, as is an FDA-cleared high-frequency vibration device called HyperByte that may speed up treatment while reducing discomfort.

Candid

With Candid, you start with an in-person visit to a Candid Shop, where a dentist or orthodontist will scan your teeth. From then on, you can do additional scans every 14 days from home with a special device to help keep treatment on track.

Treatment with Candid costs $1,895, which includes the full set of clear aligners, monitoring by an orthodontist and whitening foam. Custom financing plans are available starting at $65 per month for 36 months with $199 down or $0 and 0% APR.

Patients using Candid typically complete treatment in 4 to 12 months, and usually only require only two in-office visits. Virtual check-ins occur every 14 days.

NewSmile

NewSmile offers all-day or night-only options. For its all-day aligners, it has a few different cost options:

Fast Track for $1,245. This package includes the impression kit, treatment preview, invisible aligners, retainers (worth $149) and whitening foam (worth $39). This is their lowest costs treatment and quickest process.

Monthly Plan for $74 per month over 18 months with no down payment and starting at 0% interest. This package also includes the impression kit, treatment preview, invisible aligners, retainers (worth $149) and whitening foam (worth $39).

Impression Kit + Preview. If you’re not sure about going all in, you can also opt for NewSmile’s $49 impression kit plus preview package, which includes the impression kit and a preview image of how your teeth may look once you complete your treatment. If you like what you see, you can pay for your aligners and get started with treatment. If you’re not a good candidate for this type of treatment, you can request a refund.

For it’s night-only aligners, NewSmile also has a few cost options:

Night Aligners for $1,345. This includes the impression kit, treatment preview, invisible aligners, retainers (worth $149) and whitening foam (worth $39).

Night Aligners Monthly. This plan costs $80 per month over 18 months with no down payment and starting at 0% interest. This package also includes the impression kit, treatment preview, invisible aligners, retainers (worth $149) and whitening foam (worth $39).

Night Aligners Preview Plan. Start with the $49 impression kit plus preview package, which includes the impression kit and a preview image of how your teeth may look once you complete your treatment. If you like what you see, you can pay for your aligners and get started with treatment. If you’re not a good candidate for this type of treatment, you can request a refund.

AlignerCo.

AlignerCo positions itself as the least-expensive option for clear aligners. There is no in-person visit, rather you start with an at-home impression kit and mail it back to the company for a customized treatment plan. The cost of treatment, if you’re opting for the one-time payment SmileAdvantage plan, costs just $895 and includes an impression kit, invisible aligners and retainers. You’ll also get a free teeth whitening kit with this plan.

You can also finance through AlignerCo for $81 per month over 12 months with its SmileFlex option or $95 per month for 11 months with $275 down with its SmileFlex Easy plan.

AlignerCo also offers NightOnly Clear Aligners which are worn for 8 to 10 hours per day for 6 to 8 months, and they include the same financing options.

What to Expect from Clear Aligner Treatment

Sulitzer says SmileDirectClub’s aligners are “designed for mild-to-moderate teeth correction, including treating space between teeth, crowding, rotations and some bite correction.” Users must be at least 12 years old with all permanent teeth present (i.e. no baby teeth left) before beginning treatment. This is typically the age when your child’s dentist may recommend seeing an orthodontist.

By contrast, Invisalign’s spokesperson says that their process can “treat approximately 90% of malocclusion from adults to teens to kids as young as 6 years old.” Most patients complete treatment in 12 to 18 months, “although many patients can start seeing results in a matter of weeks.”

Sulitzer adds that “any form of teeth straightening should always be prescribed and monitored by a state-licensed dentist or orthodontist, including the use of clear aligners.” SmileDirectClub offers this via a “telehealth platform that remotely connects licensed practitioners with customers, maintaining connections through an online patient portal and 24/7 customer care.”

Treatment plans are customized to the individual patient and progress is monitored with regular checkups, either in-person via the company’s partner network or via the telehealth platform.

This telehealth approach helps keep costs down. “While our customers may not be visiting a dentist or orthodontist office in person, their care is still guided by these professionals remotely through telehealth,” Sulitzer says.?

[Read: Best TMJ Exercises for Jaw Pain Relief.]

One User’s Experience With Invisible Braces

Suzanne Heim-Bowen, a retired school psychologist living in the San Francisco area, was an early adopter of Invisalign, the first type of clear aligner to enter the market. She got hers nearly 20 years ago when she was in her mid-40s. “I was one of the people early on getting Invisalign and other adults also saw that I had it. There were only a few dentists at the time who offered it,” she recalls.

Heim-Bowen says her experience with clear aligners was good, though being diligent about wearing them the prescribed number of hours each day was key. “It worked for me. I only had to take it out when I ate and make sure I didn’t lose it, which is kind of easy to do, actually,” she says.

Indeed, like metal retainers of yore that would often find their way into the middle school cafeteria’s trash barrel when forgotten on the lunch tray, invisible aligners are even easier to forget because they’re harder to see.

Heim-Bowen says she used Invisalign straighteners for about a year, and when she was finished, her smile had improved. “My teeth are not perfect, but I’m OK with that.” She still wears the retainer every night while she sleeps to keep her teeth in place.

The retainer also helps prevent her from grinding her teeth while she sleeps. “I guess that it’s protected my teeth because I’ve been through one or two retainers for the bottom, so it’s really helped to keep from grinding,” she says.

Because the invisible aligners she used “cost about the same as metal braces” at the time, “I thought it was cost effective,” she says.

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How Much Do Invisible Braces Cost? originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 03/18/22: The story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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