Are Invisible Braces Expensive?
Invisible braces, also known as aligners or clear aligners, continue to make major headway in the world of orthodontics. They are just as effective at treating relatively minor cosmetic issues related to tooth alignment as traditional braces, but offer many additional benefits. Almost all patients enjoy an experience free of tooth or gum pain, and invisible braces don’t cause bleeding the way traditional braces can.
Despite their many benefits, you may also have heard that invisible braces are expensive. Let’s take a closer look at the typical costs associated with invisible braces compared to conventional ones and examine some of the other factors that influence the cost of orthodontic treatments that use clear aligners.
How Invisible Braces Work
Invisible braces use a different mechanism of action than traditional braces. Conventional braces use a pull force to draw your teeth into a new, straightened alignment over time. While this approach is proven, it does come with some drawbacks:
- Gum, tooth, and jaw pain and tenderness are fairly common side effects
- Bleeding can occur
- Patients are often advised to avoid certain types of foods for the duration of a conventional orthodontic treatment
- The wires and brackets can interfere with brushing and flossing, creating an elevated risk of developing tooth and gum problems
Invisible braces do not use wires and brackets, but instead consist of removable, customized dental trays that you simply wear over your teeth. These dental trays push your teeth into place rather than pulling them. This is a gentler approach, as it relies on rotation rather than brute force to achieve results, virtually eliminating pain and bleeding.
Patients switch to a new dental tray once every two weeks or so for the duration of their treatment, as each tray strategically moves teeth closer and closer to their final position. While some people experience a temporary feeling of pressure or discomfort when switching to a new dental tray, it is usually very mild and passes quickly.
All in all, invisible braces lead to results every bit as impressive and lasting as conventional braces, with far fewer risks and drawbacks.
Invisible vs. Traditional Braces: A Cost Comparison
Invisible braces have a reputation for being expensive, but if you crunch the numbers, it turns out to be a bit unfounded. According to one 2018 analysis conducted by an Oregon-based orthodontics office, traditional braces range in price from about $2,500 to $6,000. Invisible braces, on the other hand, usually start in the $3,500 range and max out somewhere around the $8,000 mark.
However, actual costs depend on many factors, including the system you choose. The least expensive clear aligner systems actually have a lower starting price point of around $1,900 to $2,000, according to market information reported in April 2020. The actual cost of your treatment may vary, depending on many additional considerations.
Factors that Influence the Cost of Invisible Braces
Five main factors impact the overall cost of an orthodontic treatment with invisible braces:
- The severity of the dental issue you are treating: More complex treatment plans require patients to use a greater number of dental trays. The more trays you require, the higher your overall costs will be.
- Your dental health and the condition of your teeth: In some cases, you may require preparatory treatments to get your teeth in good enough shape for invisible braces. This is more likely to happen if you have neglected your dental health for an extended period of time, and it will increase your total costs.
- The expected duration of treatment: The simplest, most straightforward treatments usually take about nine months to complete. These are also the least expensive since they require fewer materials and fewer visits to the dentist. Conversely, complex treatments can take as long as 18 months or more, which will have the opposite impact on total pricing.
- Where you are located: Every dentist and orthodontist has to pay overhead costs associated with their practice: paying their staff, paying the rent, financing tools and equipment, keeping the lights on, and so forth. If you live in a major city, chances are the office staff makes more money and the office space costs more to rent. These costs invariably get passed onto patients in the form of higher prices.
- The dental professional providing treatment: Orthodontic specialists are recommended over general dental practitioners when it comes to correcting cosmetic issues with invisible braces. However, these specialists also usually cost more to consult.
Patient compliance is another very critical consideration. With conventional braces, compliance rates are 100% because the patient cannot interfere with the treatment once the orthodontic system is in place. Invisible braces work differently: they are removable, resulting in lower compliance rates as the result of accidental or intentional misapplication of the dental trays.
If you do elect to try invisible braces, be sure to follow your dental professional’s instructions closely. Otherwise, you may extend your treatment duration, which will likely end up dinging you in the pocketbook.
Do Dental Insurance Plans Cover Invisible Braces?
One way to control the out-of-pocket cost of your invisible braces is to finance part or all of the treatment with dental insurance. However, this strategy comes with a caveat: some plans will cover them, but others will not. The only way to know for sure is to consult your plan details to see if orthodontic treatments are covered, and if they are, to what degree.
If you are married or in a legally recognized common-law relationship, you might also be able to claim your costs through your partner’s dental insurance. This will also depend on what your partner’s plan does and does not allow.
As an alternative, you could look into signing up for a dental discount card. This increasingly popular approach helps people who do not have dental insurance cover the costs of necessary and optional treatments. The companies that issue these cards negotiate reduced rates with dental professionals, much the same way insurers do. They then pass the savings on to you, which can help cushion the blow of your out-of-pocket expenses.
Finally, you can also inquire with the dental professional providing treatment to see if their office supports payment plans or financing options. This approach could increase your total costs by adding interest charges, but it will also make paying for your invisible braces easier because of affordable monthly instalments.
Are Invisible Braces Worth the Money?
Invisible braces often cost slightly more than conventional braces, leaving many would-be patients wondering if the extra money is worth it. By and large, most people who have had invisible braces would say yes because:
- They are more discreet, which is ideal for adults who are self-conscious about having visible braces
- Invisible braces make it easier to maintain good dental hygiene, which can help you avoid other, potentially costly dental treatments down the road
- In many cases, correcting cosmetic dental issues with invisible braces takes less time, which can save you some money in the long run
Just remember to keep your compliance rates as high as possible. Most dentists recommend that you wear your invisible braces for at least 22 hours per day in order to optimize your results.