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.
But how much do invisible braces cost, do they really work, and which is the best brand? In this guide, we will answer these questions and more so you can make an informed decision about the right orthodontic treatment for you.
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.
Table of contents
- 1 What are invisible braces?
- 2 How do aligner systems work?
- 3 Invisalign braces
- 4 Other brands of invisible aligner brace
- 5 How much do invisible braces cost?
- 6 Invisible braces vs. metal braces
- 7 Conclusion
What are invisible braces?
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.
Why are they so popular?
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 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 this mode of treatment 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 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 do aligner systems work?
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 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 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 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.
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 price of invisible braces increases considerably for longer treatment durations.
With Invisalign treatment it may be necessary to add “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 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).
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.
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
This is the 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.
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 ten aligners and takes around six months.
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
These braces may cost slightly 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. The 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 before and after photos show how effective these invisible aligners can be at correcting the position of teeth.
|Before Invisalign||After invisalign|
If you want to know what other people think of using Invisalign, there are plenty of review sites where you can get an honest opinion of the process and view ‘before and after’ photos. If you’re short on time, check out our Invisalign reviews article which summarizes honest reviews from real users.
Some people report 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 attachments was super easy. Then I got 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.
“Boy is Invisalign is a lifestyle change! Drinking my morning coffee has turned from a 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 your 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 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, 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.
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 8-10 teeth.
Treatment with ClearSmile aligners begins by taking impressions of the teeth. These are then analysed 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.
The Inman Aligner 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 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 do invisible braces cost?
In most cases, invisible braces cost slightly more than the traditional metal ‘train track’ alternative. However, it’s a price most people are willing to pay for the benefits of having their teeth straightened discretely.
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.
As a rough guide, we can say that Invisalign costs around $2,000 – $8,000 in the US. 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 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).
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.
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.
Your health or dental insurance may well provide partial coverage for orthodontic work for under-18s. 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 half way through orthodontic treatment, as the new policy may not cover work that has already begun.
What’s the cost of clear 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.
The cost of Vivera clear 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.
Invisible braces vs. metal braces
Clear aligner braces offer many benefits over alternative forms of fixed braces. These include:
- 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, too:
- Treatment can take longer than with fixed 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
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.
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 4 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.
Other types of clear braces
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 malocclusions which you might think required 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.