Invisalign Invisible Braces: How Does Invisalign Work? How Much Does it Cost? Your Full Guide


Invisible braces like Invisalign are becoming ever more popular, especially among adults. They are a great option for people who want to straighten their teeth while avoiding a ‘metal mouth’ smile.

braces vs invisalign
What is Invisalign? A less noticeable way to get a straighter smile

That’s why, in this guide, we will answer the following questions so you can make an informed decision about the right orthodontic treatment for you:

  • How much does Invisalign cost?
  • Does Invisalign work?
  • What is the best brand of invisible braces?
  • Is Invisalign worth it?

You can read about some of the most popular brands of clear aligner brace in the US, plus find out how much you can expect to pay for your treatment.

What is Invisalign?

The term ‘invisible braces‘ refers to a way of straightening teeth that uses a series of clear plastic aligners (also known as ‘trays’) to gradually move teeth into the alignment. You may also hear them called ‘removable braces’, although the correct term is ‘clear aligners’.

Although they aren’t completely invisible, they use advanced technology which makes them barely detectable. Most people can’t spot that someone is wearing clear aligners until they are told.

The best-known type of invisible brace in the US is the Invisalign system, but other similar brands are also available. If you’re wondering how to choose between the different types of invisible brace, we’ll cover these later in more detail.

Teeth aligners can be used to treat a range of mild and moderate tooth alignment problems, including:

They may also be a good choice for people whose teeth have started to move back to their original position following previous orthodontic treatment.

Invisalign invisible braces and other types as well can be used to treat around 90% of orthodontic cases; only the most severe will require another type of brace. You can find out if you’re eligible for invisible braces in under two minutes by completing our free Smile Test. Fill out the form below to get started! It takes less than two minutes to get your results.

Check your eligibility
for invisible braces
Step 1 / 4
1 Choose the image that most closely resembles your teeth:
2 Give some more information about the spaces between your teeth:
Upper teeth:
Lower teeth:
3 General information
I would like to begin orthodontic treatment:
Have you previously had orthodontic treatment (with metal braces, clear braces, or any other type)?
4 Please provide the following details to complete the process:

Why are they so popular?

How much are Invisalign
These invisible braces are hard to spot

Although relatively new to the market, invisible aligner braces have become very popular very quickly as they offer an inconspicuous way to achieve a better smile.

Many adults decide to wear braces because they feel uncomfortable with the way they look. But did you know that having misaligned teeth can lead to dental problems later in life as it’s harder to keep them clean? Because of this, invisible braces can be considered an investment not just in your smile, but in your oral health as well.

Transparent braces are a popular choice for professionals who worry that more visible braces will cause them to be taken less seriously or even teased at work. After all, don’t we usually think of school children wearing braces?

Although the presence of this stigma is lessening, it’s understandable for people to feel self-conscious about wearing braces in adulthood.

Another reason why people may opt for treatment with clear aligners is if they have a big day coming up, like a wedding. Many brides would consider their wedding photos ruined by a metallic smile, so they instead choose transparent braces. Some adults and teens may also play a contact sport or a wind instrument where traditional braces are not recommended.

How does Invisalign work?

How does Invisalign work?
Dental impressions help your dentist plan your treatment

Your dentist or orthodontist will begin your treatment either by taking a mold of your teeth which can be used to create a digital scan, or by scanning your teeth directly using the latest imaging technology. This scan is used to plan your treatment step by step with the help of a computer program. From this, your clear aligners are created.

The 3D plan allows you to see ‘before and after’ views of your teeth before the treatment has even begun. This allows you and your dentist or orthodontist to visualize the predicted outcome of your treatment and discuss different treatment options you may want to consider.

It may be necessary for you to have your teeth filed along some sides as part of your treatment. This painless process creates tiny gaps between teeth to give them space to move, and it can also even out cosmetic imperfections.

Each invisible teeth aligner is customized to fit your teeth and shaped to apply pressure in exactly the right places to slowly shift them into alignment.

You’ll need to switch to a new clear aligner every one to two weeks, depending on your dentist’s recommendation, but this doesn’t mean having checkups that often. Your dentist or orthodontist will only need to check the progress of your treatment every four to six weeks or so before providing you with new sets of teeth aligners.

How long does Invisalign take?

Treatment can take anywhere from nine months to 18 months or more but typically lasts just over a year. Since longer treatment requires more trays to be made, the invisible braces or Invisalign price increases considerably for longer treatment durations.

With Invisalign treatment it may be necessary to add “Invisalign buttons or attachments” to certain teeth to help the aligners work more effectively, especially if gentle force is needed for tooth rotation or a more complex movement is necessary. In the video below you can see how this happens as part of the fitting process:

After treatment

After treatment with clear aligners, you’ll need to wear a retainer at night to keep your teeth in place. Your orthodontist or dentist may recommend wearing it during the day at first, too.

Invisalign retainers, branded as Vivera retainers, are designed to be almost unnoticeable. Other types of retainer use metal wires to keep your teeth in place but are still removable.

It’s possible that you’ll need to wear a retainer for the rest of your life to stop your teeth from moving out of alignment (known as relapse).

Invisalign braces

The brand Invisalign is almost synonymous with this kind of orthodontic treatment, so we’ll begin here.

Align Technology, the company behind Invisalign, was founded in 1997. The product hit the American market with full force in the year 2000, backed by a persuasive marketing campaign.

Up to then, there had been very little innovation in the orthodontics market, except for lighter and whiter materials being developed over the years. All braces used essentially the same system of wires and brackets attached to teeth.

Invisalign buttons and attachments
Ask which is better for you: Invisalign vs braces

So when the ‘invisible brace’ concept first appeared, it offered a completely new way to subtly straighten teeth.

The original invisible brace has now made a worldwide name for itself. Align Technology started with just one product—now known as Invisalign Full— but has since then developed a range of other products to treat different cases.

The different types of Invisalign braces

Invisalign Full

This is the original and most common Invisalign treatment, used to correct more complicated problems with tooth alignment. Full treatment usually takes 12-18 months but will continue until the desired result is achieved.

During your treatment time, you’ll need to visit your dentist every four to eight weeks to check how your teeth are responding and to order your next sets of aligners. Your dentist may fit small Invisalign attachments to some of your teeth as part of your treatment. These help the braces adjust your teeth faster and more efficiently. For some people, the Invisalign attachments are the most noticeable part of the braces. 

The video below shows one patient’s experience and her Invisalign results with her Invisalign Full treatment, which she has now completed. She talks about the discomfort she experienced and shares some tips for keeping trays clean. 

Invisalign Express

For minor to moderate cases which don’t need Full treatment, Invisalign Express offers mild correction. There are two lengths of Express treatment: one uses up to five aligners and takes three months, and the other uses up to 10 aligners and takes around six months.

One thing to consider if you opt for the Invisalign Express treatment, is that the number of aligners you get is set, so five with Express 5 and 10 with Express 10. That means that if you don’t get the results you want in time, you are out of luck. Whereas with Invisalign Full, your dentist can extend your treatment to order more aligners if your teeth don’t respond exactly as planned. 

The reduced treatment time for Invisalign Express means that the braces can treat a limited range of problems. These include:

  • Slight overcrowding or spacing (up to 2mm per arch)
  • Mild crookedness of front teeth
  • Early relapse from previous orthodontic work

The obvious benefit is that the Invisalign Express cost is less than Invisalign Full, as long as you only need the number of aligners provided.

Invisalign Teen

invisible braces for teens
Invisalign teen is a special type of aligner for younger patients

Because teeth and jaws are still developing during teenage years, it’s a great time to fix any alignment problems. However, some brands of invisible aligner braces are not designed to accommodate the growing jaw of a teenager.

With removable braces there is also the risk that the patient will be tempted to remove them for longer than the recommended time each day.

Invisalign Teen is specially designed to help teenagers straighten their teeth while the dentition and jaws are still evolving. This aligner system comes with special features including:

  • Up to six free replacement aligners to replace lost or damaged ones
  • Tooth eruption tabs to allow space for growing teeth
  • Compliance indicators which show parents and dentists whether the wearer is keeping their aligners in for the required 22 hours a day
  • Special aligners to encourage lower jaw advancement and enable treatment without elastics

Invisible braces cost more than traditional metal braces, but some parents may say it’s a small price to pay for their child to have a straighter smile without the risk of bullying and name-calling that often comes with wearing braces. This system is also a good option if their child plays a contact sport or a wind instrument.

In this video, one mum explains why this was the right choice for her daughter:

If you’re considering invisible braces for your teen, you can check their eligibility with our free test here. It only takes a couple of minutes to get your result. After that, you can book an appointment with a dentist or orthodontist to discuss the treatment options further.

Invisalign: before and after

These Invisalign before and after photos show Invisalign results and how effective these invisible aligners can be at correcting the position of teeth.

Before InvisalignAfter invisalign

Invisalign reviews

How Invisalign works
Does Invisalign work?

 So, the most important question: Does Invisalign work?

If you want to know what other people think of using Invisalign, there are plenty of sites with Invisalign reviews where you can get an honest opinion of the process and view Invisalign ‘before and after’ photos. If you’re short on time, check out our Invisalign reviews article which summarizes honest reviews from real users.

Some Invisalign reviews mention mouth sores, ulcers, and bleeding gums in the first few days while their mouths adjust to the trays. Others say they have difficulty removing them at first, but most people soon get used to them and have a positive experience.

“My first tray when I didn’t have any Invisalign attachments was super easy. Then I got the Invisalign attachments when I started tray 2 and ouch! I hardly ate anything for 3 days because it hurt so much getting my trays on off and on. But I’m adjusted now and it’s much easier and less painful,” said one user from San Diego, CA.

The inconvenience of having to remove the teeth aligners every time you eat or drink anything except water can be annoying, but on the other hand, you don’t have the fiddly cleaning of metal braces to deal with.

Another Invisalign review says: “Boy is Invisalign a lifestyle change! Drinking my morning coffee has turned from an enjoyable few hours of sipping, to a sprint to the finish! When you only have a few hours to take trays out during the day and you’re using 20 minutes of that to brush your teeth, you have to eat and drink fast!” said another reviewer from Grand Rapids, MI.

Invisible aligner braces won’t be the right choice for everyone, so it’s a good idea to read some Invisalign reviews for yourself before making a choice.

Other brands of invisible aligner brace

Invisalign has arguably the best reputation in the US and brings 20 years of expertise to the market. However, your local dentist may also offer other aligner brace solutions including those mentioned below. Keep in mind that some companies, particularly newer ones, may not have invested as much in their research and technology, so you should consider this when making your choice.

ClearCorrect braces

ClearCorrect aligners
ClearCorrect is a popular Invisalign alternative

ClearCorrect, Invisalign alternative and probably the next biggest name in aligner orthodontics, released its first product in 2006.

All ClearCorrect braces are manufactured in Texas and shipped out to dentists in the US, the UK, and Australia. A dentist uses impressions or a scanner to capture the current position of the patient’s teeth before creating a treatment plan.

Patients must wear their aligners for at least 22 hours every day. Treatment may take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the complexity of the tooth straightening required.

Some users prefer Clearcorrect vs Invisalign because the trays are all sent at once and they seem to be thinner and therefore less noticeable than Invisalign. 

ClearSmile braces

Another Invisalign alternative, British Croydon-based company ClearSmile, offers a variety of adult braces, including ClearSmile Brace and ClearSmile Aligner. The ClearSmile Aligner focuses on straightening the front eight to 10 teeth.

Treatment with ClearSmile aligners begins by taking impressions of the teeth. These are then analyzed using Archwize software which produces a diagnostic report. This report allows patients to see ‘before and after’ views of their teeth on 3D animated models before treatment commences.

The ClearSmile production method combines 3D printing and molding to ensure a close and comfortable fit for the patient. Further impressions may be taken every six aligners to ensure that the teeth are moving into place as intended.

Inman Aligner braces

This treatment is widely available in the US and has recently been introduced to the UK market.

inman clear aligner
Inman aligner braces apply pressure from the front and back

The Inman Aligner is another of the Invisalign competitors and offers a slightly different take on the clear aligner brace. Using patented technology, the spring-loaded system applies pressure to the front and back of the teeth simultaneously to bring them into line. Treatment usually takes 6-18 weeks to complete.

This treatment only works on the front teeth, so unlike Invisalign, it’s not a full orthodontic solution. Patients are often people who wore braces when they were younger but now have crooked teeth again because they stopped wearing a retainer.

Inman aligners only have to be worn for 16-20 hours a day, which is less than other styles of aligner brace.

On the downside, Inman aligner braces aren’t really invisible. Although the ‘bow’ which spans the front teeth is made from clear plastic, it usually has a wire running through it. The metal springs and clasps which attach to the rear teeth are also quite visible when you smile.

Other invisible brace brands

Other brands of clear aligner and Invisalign alternative such as ClearPath and Eon are also available. Each manufacturer has its own unique selling points. ClearPath, for example, does not use any attachments while Eon claims to use a stronger, more stain-resistant material than many of its competitors

Some orthodontists offer more than one brand of invisible brace, so you can ask which one they recommend for your treatment, and why. It’s worth noting that some Invisalign reviews suggest people experience greater comfort from this brand because of the material and the way it fits around their gums.

How much does Invisalign cost?

How much is Invisalign?
Invisalign costs a bit more than traditional braces

In most cases, Invisalign costs more than the traditional metal ‘train track’ alternative. However, the price of Invisalign is one that most people are willing to pay for the benefits of having their teeth straightened discreetly.

The price that orthodontists charge for each type of brace is up to them, so you’ll find that charges differ from one location to another. The cost of Invisalign and other transparent braces will also depend on the complexity of your treatment and the expected duration. If you are a suitable candidate for Invisalign Express, for instance, the cost will be lower than if you needed Invisalign Full.

Check out this table that compares Invisalign prices for Full, Express and Teen:

Type of Invisalign treatment Full Express 10 Express 5 Teen
Approximate cost $3,500–$8,500 $2,500–$5,000 $1,500–$3,000 $3,000–$6,500
Number of aligners 20–30 10 5 20–30
Treatment duration 12–18 months 20 weeks 10 weeks 12–18 months
Suitable for Mild to moderate problems Mild cases Minor adjustments Mild to moderate problems


As a rough guide, we can say that Invisalign costs around $3,500 – $8,500 in the US (for Full). It’s a broad range because of all the variables involved. The best way to get an accurate quotation for your treatment is simply to visit an Invisalign orthodontist for a consultation.

As you can see from the table below, the average cost of Invisalign is similar to or less than other discreet alternatives such as ceramic braces and lingual braces (more about these options further down).

Type of Appliance Approximate Price
Invisible $3,500–$8,500
Lingual (incognito) $5,000–$13,000
Ceramic $3,000–$10,000
Self-ligating (Damon) $2,500–$8,000
Traditional metal $2,500–$7,500


You can find more information about the different types of braces in our full guide to braces for adults and teens.

Paying for your treatment

If you’re putting off treatment because of the cost of invisible braces, your dentist may be able to help you spread the payments out. Many dentists offer dental payment plans that will allow you to pay a deposit up-front and then pay off the remaining amount during your treatment.

If you’re considering using financing for dental treatment, it’s worth shopping around for a dental practice that offers 0% finance. This can make a big difference to the total cost of your invisible aligners.

paying a dentist
Speak to your dentist about the cost of Invisalign

In the US, Invisalign gives certain dentists a coveted ‘Top 1% Provider’ status. This ranks a practitioner’s experience with Invisalign compared to all others around the world.

As a consumer, it should give you peace of mind that the dentist is competent with the treatment, but there may be an added cost benefit too. Top 1% Providers receive preferential Invisalign prices which they often pass on to customers. So this is something you should look out for when selecting a clinic for your treatment.

Does insurance cover Invisalign?

Your health or dental insurance may well provide partial coverage for orthodontic work for children under 18. Adults are less likely to be covered although more providers are starting to expand their dental insurance offering to include orthodontic work. 

Check your policy for details, and take note of the percentage covered and the lifetime maximum per person insured. Be wary of switching providers halfway through orthodontic treatment, as the new policy may not cover work that has already begun. Also, keep in mind that even if you have insurance for orthodontic work, the Invisalign cost with insurance will most likely not be completely covered. 

Additionally, check out our article on Medicaid to find out more about if your state-funded insurance will cover orthodontic work. 

What’s the cost of clear Invisalign retainers after teeth straightening treatment?

When your orthodontic treatment has finished, you’ll need to keep your teeth in place with retainers. Invisalign retainers are available under the brand name Vivera. These can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on how well you look after them.

Invisalign retainer
Hawley retainers are a cheaper alternative to Invisalign retainers

The average cost of Invisalign retainers will vary from one dentist to another, but you can expect to pay between $300 and $750 annually (for one set every three months).

A similar style of retainer, called an Essix retainer, is available from most dentists at a more affordable price. Hawley retainers, which use acrylic and wires, are another option.

Whichever type of retainer you choose, you’ll need to factor in the lifetime cost of using one when budgeting for your orthodontic treatment. If you stop using a retainer, your Invisalign results will recede.

How much does Invisalign cost for top teeth only?

If you only need braces for your top teeth, you can probably use Invisible Express which is for minor corrections. The Express system costs from $1,500–$5,000, depending on whether you get five or 10 aligners.

Invisalign vs braces

Use of Invisalign vs braces has a lot of benefits, including :

  • Aligners are virtually invisible so the wearer feels less self-conscious
  • They can be removed for up to four hours a day for eating, cleaning, and any special occasions or events where the wearer wants to be brace-free
  • There are no restrictions on what the user can eat during treatment (as long as aligners are removed first)
  • They are a more hygienic option as food can’t get stuck in them
  • Trays are easy to clean, and teeth can be cleaned as normal
  • Visits to the orthodontist may not be needed as often

Naturally, there are some downsides to Invisalign vs braces too:

  • Treatment can take longer than with fixed braces

    keeping teeth clean
    Oral hygiene is very important if you use aligner braces
  • Teeth aligners can be lost and are expensive to replace
  • They are not suitable for the most severe cases that require more complicated treatment, for example rotating teeth or moving them vertically
  • Aligners must be removed before eating or drinking anything except water
  • The wearer must brush their teeth before replacing aligners after eating
  • Self-discipline is needed for the wearer to keep aligners in for at least 20-22 hours a day
  • Invisalign vs braces cost more in general

That final point is very important; people who may be tempted to skip a day or keep their aligners out for more than four hours a day might be better off wearing fixed braces that can’t be removed at all. Failing to follow these guidelines means treatment will be less effective or will take longer.

Wearers of any kind of braces need to be meticulous with their oral hygiene to minimize the chances of tooth decay, gum disease or staining during treatment.

Check out this table for a summary of braces vs Invisalign pros and cons:

Invisible braces Traditional braces
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Very discreet Potentially longer treatment Often cheaper than Invisalign Can be very noticeable
Removable May be more expensive Treats severe malocclusion Harder to clean
No off-limits foods Only treats minor to moderate cases Good for forgetful patients Some foods are off limits
Easy to clean Requires self-discipline May be shorter treatment time

Which is most effective?

Although the Invisalign vs braces debate rages on, there’s no denying the fact that over the past 20 years, more than seven million patients have now used Invisalign braces for better smiles in 90+ countries. Celebrities who have corrected their smiles inconspicuously include Oprah Winfrey, Keira Knightley, Kate Middleton, Tom Cruise and Justin Bieber.

Over the past 20 years, Invisalign has invested a lot in research and development so its aligners can now be used to treat 90% of orthodontic cases. This includes some severe misalignment problems which, in the past, could only have been treated with traditional metal braces.

What’s more, the American Association of Orthodontics has also weighed in on this debate. According to them, the skill of your orthodontist is more important in deciding the effectiveness of treatment than whether you choose invisible braces or traditional braces. 

Other types of clear braces

Invisalign how long
Clear braces are also less noticeable

If you like the idea of less noticeable braces but decide against Invisalign for some reason, there are other options you may want to consider.

Ceramic braces and clear braces, such as Damon braces and the ClearSmile Brace, use the same system of brackets and wires as metal braces. The key difference is that the brackets (and sometimes the wires) are made from a material that is tooth-colored or white. This helps make the braces less obvious, particularly from a distance, but the problem with discomfort remains.

Clear braces can be a good alternative for people who are not eligible for aligner brace treatment but still want a straighter smile the subtle way. Another option to consider is lingual braces, which are hardly noticeable as they are fixed behind the teeth. Lingual braces are typically the most expensive type though, and some users find them uncomfortable.

If you’re considering dental braces for yourself or your teen, it’s best to visit a dentist or orthodontist who is experienced with using several different types of braces. They will be able to give you a professional opinion on the best type of orthodontic treatment for you.


Many adults and teens choose to straighten their teeth with invisible braces because they don’t want people to notice they are wearing braces at all. They also like the convenience of being able to remove their aligners to eat as normal.

Of all the brands available, Invisalign is the best known, and for good reason. With over 20 years of expertise, Invisalign has proven its effectiveness and can now be used to treat 90% of orthodontic cases, even severe malocclusion which you might think require metal braces.

Find out if you or your teen are suitable candidates for invisible braces by completing our Smile Test here. It’s completely free and it takes less than two minutes to fill in some details about your teeth.


How much is Invisalign?

The average cost of Invisalign is usually more than traditional metal braces. Invisalign costs, for Full, are anywhere between $3,500–$8,500 in the US.

What is the difference between Smile Direct Club vs Invisalign?

Smile direct vs Invisalign
Invisalign vs Smile Direct Club means professional supervision along the way

Like Invisalign and other clear aligner brands, Smile Direct Club (SDC) offers invisible braces for treatment. Yes, SDC is less expensive than Invisalign, but it shouldn’t be considered a sort of “cheap Invisalign” that will yield the same results. There is a big difference between Invisalign and SDC, and that is that with SDC, there are no in-office appointments with your doctor or orthodontist. For this reason, SDC is considered by many in the professional field, including the ADA, to not be a good Invisalign alternative. 

Where can I find Invisalign near me?

Ask your dentist if their office offers treatment with clear aligners like Invisalign. You can also go to the website of the brand you’re are interested in and they will help you find a dentist in your area. 

How do you clean Invisalign?

If you’re wondering how to clean Invisalign, you’re in luck because there are a variety of products available to clean your clear aligners. Perhaps the most popular Invisalign cleaner are Invisalign cleaning crystals. They remove plaque and odors from your clear aligners in about 15 minutes. 

Does Invisalign cause pain?

Invisalign pain
Does Invisalign hurt?

 Especially at the beginning of your treatment, as your teeth first start adjusting, you will probably feel some pain. Patients who have had both braces and Invisalign tend to agree that Invisalign is less painful than traditional braces. 

What are some Invisalign tips for optimizing treatment?

  • Always store your aligners in your invisible braces or Invisalign case
  • Clean your aligners with an Invisalign cleaner like Invisalign cleaning crystals
  • Use Invisalign chewies to make your aligners fit better

Can Invisalign fix overbite?

Invisalign can be used to fix overbite in mild to moderate cases. Invisalign overbite treatment will probably require Invisalign Full instead of Express. 

Invisalign Invisible Braces: How Does Invisalign Work? How Much Does it Cost? Your Full Guide
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Sources ADA discourages DIY orthodontics through resolution. Consulted 6 August 2019.

AAO: Braces vs. Clear Aligners. Consulted 6 August 2019. Who we are. Consulted 6 August 2019.