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By Andrea Agostini
Updated: November 17, 2021 12:27 PM ET | Originally published: September 8, 2021
A hand holding Invisalign braces
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Orthodontic treatment is often necessary to help improve the bite, jaw position and tooth alignment. In the past, braces with noticeable wires and brackets were the only option, but nowadays there are alternatives.

Invisalign offers undetectable orthodontia that can be just as effective as conventional braces. Take a closer look at our guide to learn more about Invisalign, how much it costs and if it’s worth the price tag.

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What Is Invisalign?

Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment that gradually aligns and straightens your teeth with clear, removable aligners. From start to finish, the treatment plan is administered and supervised by a qualified dentist or orthodontist.

Reasons to get Invisalign include:

  • Crowded teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Open bite, overbite, underbite or crossbite
  • Too wide or narrow spacing between teeth

Invisalign aligners are custom made for each patient out of FDA-approved, medical-grade plastic. In many cases, the treatment is considered just as effective as traditional braces, and more convenient. The plastic trays are easier to clean and users can remove them to eat, drink and floss more comfortably.

How Does Invisalign Work?

Invisalign works by applying pressure and force, gradually shifting your teeth into the correct alignment and position. Certain patients may also need bone-colored attachments that bond to the teeth, to help the aligner trays work more effectively.

To start treatment, request an evaluation with an Invisalign provider. During the initial consultation, the dentist will take x-rays to evaluate your oral health and determine your eligibility.

After evaluation and approval, your doctor will work out a treatment plan, take an impression of your bite and order a custom set of aligners. Aligners are upgraded progressively at your doctor’s discretion. Treatment time takes 12 to 18 months on average and patients must wear the aligner at least 22 hours a day for the best results.

Eager to reveal their best smile, it is common for patients to request teeth whitening during their Invisalign treatment. The doctor may offer a low-intensity whitening gel to apply inside the aligners at night, but patients can also purchase effective, over-the-counter products from various teeth whitening companies.

Invisalign pros and cons

Pros
  • FDA approved
  • Removable
  • Easy to clean
  • Discreet, invisible braces
  • No broken wires or brackets
  • Low level of discomfort
Cons
  • Complex cases may not be eligible
  • Invisalign may not work on patients with bridgework
  • Aligners must be removed to eat or drink to prevent buildup and cavities
  • Must be worn at least 22 hours a day
  • Aligners may get lost or misplaced
  • Younger patients may require more parental oversight to ensure proper use

Invisalign vs braces

Invisalign Conventional braces Lingual Braces
Cost $3,000–$7,000 $3,000–$7,000 $5,000-$13,000
Treatment Removable clear, plastic aligner trays Plastic, ceramic or metal brackets attached to front of teeth Conventional braces attached to the back of teeth by a trained orthodontist
Treatment time 12 to 18 months 12 to 24 months 18 to 24 months
Initial adjustment period Mild discomfort and tightness Discomfort and pain. May cause friction and mouth sores Less discomfort and pain. Affects speech for longer
Maintenance -Easy to clean -Can be misplaced accidentally -Easily damaged with hot water -Requires fewer visits to the dentist office -Brushing and flossing is harder -No risk of misplacing them. -Risk of broken wires. -Requires regular adjustment visits -Brushing and flossing is harder -No risk of misplacing them. -Risk of broken wires. -Requires regular adjustment visits
Aftercare Wear a retainer and maintain good oral hygiene Wear a retainer and maintain good oral hygiene Wear a retainer and maintain good oral hygiene
Best for Patients with mild to moderate cases that want undetectable braces Patients with mild to severe cases that need conventional braces Patients with mild to severe cases with access to a trained orthodontist

Invisalign vs other clear aligners

Invisalign is the most popular clear aligner company, but it is not the only one. Its direct competitor, ClearCorrect, makes plastic aligners out of a thinner material. ClearCorrect is made out of polyurethane resin while Invisalign is composed of patented thermoplastic material. Both constructions are FDA-approved, BPA and phthalates-free.

ClearCorrect and Invisalign are exclusively administered by dentists or orthodontists. Other companies, like SmileDirectClub, offer affordable, direct-to-consumer aligners without requiring in-person oversight. Unsupervised orthodontic treatment risks permanent damage, which is why these direct-to-consumer companies are not recommended by dental professionals.

Invisalign Clear Correct SmileDirect Club
Undetectable aligners Undetectable aligners Undetectable aligners
Requires visit to dental office Requires visit to dental office Does not require visit to dental office
In-person treatment and regular follow-up appointments In-person treatment and regular follow-up appointments No in-person treatment or follow-up appointments
Total cost between $3,000-$7,000 Total cost between $2,000 to $8,000 Total cost between around $2,000

How Much Does Invisalign Cost?

Invisalign costs between $3,000 and $7,000, but the final cost depends on the severity of each case and treatment length.

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Factors that affect Invisalign cost

  • Treatment length
  • Overall oral health
  • Type of malocclusion: misaligned teeth, crowding, overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite, etc
  • Number of aligners necessary
  • Number of attachments, if needed
  • Your doctor's location and associated costs. Urban areas are generally more expensive than rural areas

Does insurance cover Invisalign?

Insurance plans may cover the cost of Invisalign if your policy includes dental insurance plans and orthodontic coverage. Unfortunately, insurance coverage for orthodontia is partial and you will still need to pay a portion out-of-pocket.

To make sure Invisalign is covered:

  • Get a complete breakdown of your dental coverage from your provider
  • Change providers or purchase a separate dental insurance plan if your current insurance policy does not offer orthodontic coverage
  • Confirm Invisalign qualifies, as some policies may only cover traditional metal braces
  • Make sure coverage is active before your first orthodontist visit
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Pay close attention to coverage limits and exclusions, since health insurance companies rarely cover 100% of orthodontic treatments. Some plans only cover Invisalign treatment or braces on children 19 years or younger and most providers set a lifetime maximum amount.

A lifetime maximum amount is the most an insurance provider will pay for orthodontia. The lifetime maximum amount is a one-time benefit – once insurance pays up to this limit, it will not pay anymore, even if the policy renews while you’re still in treatment.

If the limit is $1,400 and treatment cost is closer to $3,000, the patient is responsible for the remaining $1,600. Insurance will generally cover 50% of each payment (down payment and subsequent installment payments) up to the maximum amount. After that, it is up to the patient to pay off the remaining balance.

Ways to save on Invisalign

You will incur significant out-of-pocket expenses for any orthodontic treatment, even with a dental healthcare plan. We’ve outlined other payment and financing options to help you save money on Invisalign.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account or Arrangement (FSA) is a tax-favored account to help pay for health expenses that are not covered by your health insurance. You can use an FSA to pay for Invisalign for yourself, your spouse or your dependents.

FSA’s are established by employers, through work-provided health insurance. People who are self-employed or do not have health insurance through their jobs are not eligible.

How an FSA works:

  • Employee agrees to a salary reduction at the start of the year – Make sure the amount matches a yearly estimate of medical expenses, as any unused money is forfeited at the end of the year.
  • Employers contribute a portion of your pre-tax paycheck – Contributions are distributed quarterly, up to a maximum amount of $2,750 per year. Some employers may add their own contributions.
  • Submit reimbursement claim to the FSA – To access the money, you must apply through your employer. After providing proof of medical expenses and a statement from your insurance confirming treatment is not covered, you will be reimbursed the full amount, tax-free.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

A Health Savings Account is a tax-free savings account to help to cover health-related expenses. Unlike an FSA, if your employer doesn’t offer an HSA, you can set it up as an individual. Eligibility requirements are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

  • You must be enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)– A HDPD is a health plan with a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family.
  • You must not be enrolled in Medicare or covered by another health plan – “other health plans” include your spouse’s health policy or FSA, disability, dental and vision care or long-term care coverage.
  • You must not be claimed as a dependent – Dependents claimed in the most recent tax return do not qualify for an HSA, even if they are currently independent.

How an HSA works:

  • Employer-provided HSA – Your contribution is taken from your paycheck, tax-free, and deposited in the savings account. Any unused funds roll over to the next year and may earn interest. Annual contributions are capped at $3,550 for an individual and $6,750 for a family.
  • Individual HSA – You claim contributions as tax deductions on your tax return, effectively reducing your taxable income. Any unused funds roll over to the next year and may earn interest. Annual contributions are capped at $3,550 for an individual and $6,750 for a family.

No-interest credit card

Patients can use 0% APR credit cards to pay for Invisalign. Dental health providers often partner with companies like Care Credit that specialize in financing out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Credit cards must be used carefully and under the right circumstances. Care Credit offers 0% APR financing for up to 24 months but after this promotion period ends, the company may charge up to 30% in interest on the remaining balance. Any missed payments cancel the promotional period prematurely, as well.

If you use a credit card to pay for Invisalign, make sure to pay on time and settle the debt before the 0% APR term ends. Explore other payment options if you can’t make timely payments, or if credit card debt will drastically increase your credit utilization ratio and damage your credit score.

Monthly payment plans

Most dentists and orthodontists offer monthly payment plans to their patients. Expect to pay between $99 and $250 monthly, depending on the overall cost of treatment and the repayment term.

Make sure to ask the dental office if they offer 0% financing and whether they require a down payment.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Children’s Health Insurance Program offers health insurance to children from low-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid. During the Medicaid application process, you will also find out whether your children are eligible for CHIP.

Certain CHIP benefits vary per state, but comprehensive coverage, including dental care, is available nationwide. If braces are deemed medically necessary, parents can finance orthodontic treatment for their children with this program.

Dental school clinics

Dental school clinics offer an affordable alternative for patients who do not have orthodontic coverage, or who cannot afford Invisalign, even with dental insurance. Prices are significantly lower at these clinics, when compared to private dental offices.

Dentistry students provide dental care under close supervision by faculty members. Patients may be apprehensive of receiving medical care from students, but care at these institutions is well-regarded. Treatment is closely monitored by experienced faculty members and students are incentivized to do their best job because their grades depend on it.

Pros
  • Affordable treatment costs compared to private practices
  • Each step is verified and approved by a supervising faculty member
  • Access to dentistry specialists who can evaluate your case, if needed
  • Access to treatments and procedures that not all private practices offer
  • You may have multiple students and faculty members evaluating your case
Cons
  • Treatment is slower and lengthier
  • Appointments may take longer, as they are also teaching opportunities for faculty and students
  • Scheduling appointments is complicated due to clinic hours, student schedules, and public holidays

Invisalign aftercare costs

The aftercare of your newly-aligned smile starts by wearing a retainer. A retainer keeps everything in place while your teeth and bones settle into their new positions – without it, your teeth may shift back to their old positions relatively fast.

Depending on the type of retainer, cost is between $100-$500. Most doctors include the retainer price into the overall cost of Invisalign treatment.

Types of retainers

Hawley retainer Essix retainer Bonded retainer
Priced around $350-$600 Priced around $150-$500 Priced around $250-$500
Traditional removable model Removable plastic retainer Retainer is permanently attached to the back of your teeth
Visible wire in front of teeth Invisible Invisible
More durable than clear retainers Degrades over time No risk of losing it or not wearing it enough
Easy to clean Easy to clean Takes more effort to clean
Lasts 5-10 years Lasts 3-5 years Lasts up to 20 years
Least expensive option Most expensive option

Retainer maintenance

After orthodontic treatment, general aftercare involves daily flossing, brushing and regular professional cleanings. However, your retainer also requires a maintenance routine. Cleaning and caring for your retainer looks different for each type:

Hawley retainer Essix retainer Bonded retainer
Clean daily with lukewarm water and a soft toothbrush Clean with a soft brush and dish soap Brush and floss thoroughly to prevent decay and gum disease
Avoid soaking retainer to prevent damage to metal parts Rinse with lukewarm water Purchase an interdental brush, floss threader or soft picks to clean hard-to-reach areas
Do not use hot or boiling water Deep clean regularly by soaking in water with retainer cleaning tablets Be diligent with professional cleanings
Remove before eating, drinking, swimming or playing sports Do not use hot or boiling water
Keep away from pets and high temperatures Remove before eating, drinking, swimming or playing sports
Be diligent with professional cleanings Keep away from pets and high temperatures
Be diligent with professional cleanings

Consider investing in an electric toothbrush and water flosser. These products help clean and floss your teeth thoroughly, especially if you’re wearing a permanent retainer. To purchase a water flosser, first check out our list of the best water flossers on the market.

Invisalign FAQ
How much does Invisalign cost?
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The average cost of Invisalign is between $3,000-$7,000, depending on the severity of your case and treatment length. Dental insurance covers a portion, as a fixed percentage or fixed amount, and the rest is paid out-of-pocket. Braces are roughly around the same price point, but ultimately, cost varies per case.
How long does Invisalign take?
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Invisalign treatment takes an average of 12 to 18 months, according to the company's website. Treatment length varies per individual. Complex cases or patients who do not wear their aligner trays enough may take longer. Patients who diligently wear their aligners for at least 22 hours a day will see faster results.
Is Invisalign worth getting?
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Orthodontic treatment improves oral health and overall confidence. Invisalign is worth getting as it eliminates most of the inconveniences associated with conventional braces. However, the choice may not be up to you. Invisalign has its limitations, and even if you can afford it, your orthodontist may still recommend traditional braces over plastic aligners for your particular case.
Is Invisalign cheaper than braces?
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Invisalign and traditional metal braces are roughly around the same price point (around $3,000-$7,000), but the cost depends mainly on the severity of each case. Your choice of doctor also influences price. Dental care in rural areas is more affordable than dental care in cities, and if you chose a dental school clinic over private practice, treatment is less expensive