Clear aligners are an excellent option if you want straighter teeth without the inconvenience of traditional metal braces. Invisalign is one of the most trusted invisible braces today. Learn all you need to know about its cost, efficacy, and alternatives.
Invisalign is often cheaper and faster than traditional metal braces.
Invisalign is currently the best clear brace for severe conditions because of its intensive in-office requirements.
For mild and moderate conditions, Invisalign may be overkill and you could save money and treatment time with Byte aligners.
Invisalign is among the more expensive invisible braces, because of the in-office visits required
With insurance, you can save north of $1000 on your treatment.
If you have a mild, or moderate case, Invisalign may not be your best option. The treatment involves intensive in-office visits that are best suited for severe cases. Here are three alternatives that could save you time and money.
Invisalign is a clear aligner, molded to accommodate both your comfort and goals for straighter teeth. As one of the oldest aligner brands around today, Invisalign has treated over 11 million patients and counting. Recently, options for children and teenagers, along with various improvements in safety and efficacy, have been introduced.
See how Invisalign compares to other aligners in our review of the best invisible braces.
Both traditional Invisalign and budget options such as Invisalign Express use more than just plastic. The company website describes SmartTrack technology, that fits around your teeth and gives constant yet gentle force throughout the day, maintaining control over their movement.
SmartForce and mandibular advancements accompany SmartTrack when necessary. SmartForce attachments are tiny shapes attached to your teeth that allow your aligner to exert more pressure on your teeth and produce more complex movement. Mandibular advancements can gently move the jaw forward if you have an overbite.
Another unique tool Invisalign uses is the iTero 3D scanner. Not used by any other aligner company, the iTero can take 6,000 images per second to create a 3D image of your teeth that’s not only high-resolution but also interactive. Finally, you can track your progress without any of the sticky impression molds.
ClinCheck is seen nowhere else and serves as the 3D interface that can calculate exactly what force must be used on your teeth. No guesswork, instead, your orthodontist can ensure that each misaligned tooth can move how and when it should.
For children and teenagers, there are blue compliance indicators on each aligner to help your child stay on track with treatment, or to help parents monitor compliance.
The Invisalign process begins with the online Smile Assessment and a search for the right dentist or orthodontist. You can use the Doctor Locator on the Invisalign website to look around for the nearest offices to your location or zip code.
The next step in your Invisalign journey is your first appointment and a digital scan. It’s best to ask your orthodontist about how your mouth will be scanned, treatment duration, and if genuine Invisalign products are available. Generic plastic aligners will not have the same abilities to use force where your teeth need it most.
Instead of using a mold, your dentist or orthodontist will typically construct a 3D image with a digital scanner capable of taking 6,000 images per second. However, some still use physical molds like most other aligner brands. The unique ClinCheck software then models the effects of different degrees of force on different teeth.
The software modeling can even show the expected treatment outcomes, long before you start to notice results. Whether you would benefit most from the full Invisalign treatment plan, Invisalign Lite, or Invisalign Express aligners can be seen too. Severe cases that involve problems with jaw alignment or structure will require other treatment.
If Invisalign is right for you, your treatment plan is made and your first Invisalign trays are “printed”. Your dentist or orthodontist will ensure your aligners fit well once they arrive. You can expect to switch aligners once every week, as your teeth gradually shift into the desired position. However, depending on your needs, you may be instructed to change them fortnightly.
You will likely have less frequent appointments than if you had standard braces. This is an appealing feature of Invisalign and other invisible aligners, as orthodontic treatment can be time-consuming.
Even though the CDC found that the average American adult spends 1.71 hours on orthodontic care every year, this is concentrated among a minority of adults at any given time. Those who do need to see an orthodontist are regularly taking time from their busy schedules, and this statistic does not include driving and waiting for treatment.
Invisalign appointments are usually every two to three tray replacements, to monitor your progress and provide extra support if needed. Some patients need buttons temporarily added to further guide teeth. Others need interproximal reduction, a minor shaving of your tooth edges to relieve crowding.
After your clear aligner treatment time is over, you will move on to aftercare retainers. These prevent any possible relapse of your teeth misalignment. The best part about your retainers is that you only need to wear them at night.
Invisalign claims to fix a wide range of orthodontic issues, such as:
Clinical research shows that aligners can effectively straighten teeth in a shorter time period than traditional braces. Overall orthodontic scores are similar between the two types of treatment, and clear aligners are more effective in segmented movement of teeth. However, metal braces are best for severe misalignment and correcting malocclusion .
The average Invisalign cost is much higher than home aligners, and even some conventional braces. Without insurance, Invisalign treatment costs $3,000 to $8,000, depending on your provider and with an average of $5,000 . If your insurance covers Invisalign, you can expect a discount. For example, if your treatment cost is $4,800, around $1,800 may be covered. Read more about Invisalign cost and insurance options here.
Reviews for Invisalign online are mixed, but describe many positive outcomes.
Reddit, perhaps the largest online forum today, does not give an overall verdict on Invisalign treatment. Some typical reviews include:
Reviews on Trustpilot are mixed, with an average of 2.2 out of five stars on the UK site. Many of these negative reviews center around customer service, which is typically related to the dentist treating them. Some describe not seeing the result they’d hoped for, such as teeth being only “halfway to their predicted result”. This is, however, in line with clinical research on efficacy .
The takeaway here? You will most likely be seen by the same dentist throughout your Invisalign journey, so it is essential that you do your research on what the Invisalign providers offer near you. It is also important that you have realistic expectations about your treatment results, as perfect correction is less likely with more severe cases.
Consumer Reports does not currently contain information about Invisalign or other clear aligners, and there is no advice about regular braces either. There is only general dental advice on avoiding unnecessary treatment and searching for quality insurance first.
You may have heard of Invisalign Express, a more convenient alternative to the full Invisalign treatment. The average Invisalign Express cost is half that of traditional Invisalign, from $1,800 to $3,500, with an average of $2,500.
But is it worthwhile? Invisalign Express reviews give a mixed verdict of this “budget” option. Managing Invisalign Express is roughly as time-consuming as traditional Invisalign treatment. Invisalign Express has strict eligibility criteria too, because the shorter course with fewer aligner changes makes anything but simple misalignments too difficult.
Invisalign Lite is between the standard Invisalign treatments and Invisalign Express, in terms of how long the treatment process takes. The average duration of your treatment plan is seven months and takes 14 aligners, which is slightly longer than the Invisalign Express option.
As a result, Invisalign Lite may be effective for more severe misalignments than Invisalign Express, but still isn’t as strong as the full Invisalign treatment. The Lite option is also in between Invisalign Express and the full treatment in terms of cost.
An open-access case report describes Invisalign Lite as beneficial for overbite with mild misalignment. Using the non-invasive treatment, teeth were rotated and spread slightly further apart. Each aligner was worn for 22 hours a day, 10 days at a time before moving to the next one. This was assisted with slight shaving of the side of some teeth, to relieve mild overcrowding.
Afterward, the patient had straight teeth and reported being satisfied with the results.
Invisalign Express is not indicated for anything more than “minimal” rotation. This patient did have noticeable, though not severe, rotation before starting with the first aligner. Invisalign Express results are therefore lesser than the Lite series .
Invisalign Express treatment may be effective in some mild cases. A case series published in the online magazine OrthoTown included a woman who chose Invisalign Express for straighter teeth. Her excess teeth spacing was 3mm and 5mm on her upper and lower jaw, respectively.
This degree of spacing meant that movements 50% larger than normal were necessary to achieve her desired results using just 10 aligners. After just 12 weeks, she had significantly straighter teeth, and was satisfied with her results using Invisalign Express.
However, this patient also had micro-osteo perforations (MOPs) performed several times during her Invisalign Express treatment plan. These are tiny holes drilled under local anesthetic, used by some orthodontists to improve success with orthodontic treatment .
Invisalign Express treatment claims to work in six months, with a maximum of 10 customized aligners. The case study described above achieved success in half of that time, at only three months, but relied on MOPs for part of this success alongside Invisalign Express.
Overall, positive Invisalign Express reviews discuss the far lower cost and shorter treatment plan. Invisalign Express pros mean you get to enjoy your new smile much sooner, but only if your misalignment is very mild.
Overall, Invisalign treatment is worth it if you can afford it, and have a mild to moderate orthodontic condition with a dental origin. This means the problem lies in how your teeth are placed, not in your bone structure (skeletal issues). Some skeletal-based malocclusions can be improved by teeth straightening, which provides an improved appearance and function.
Invisalign is the most evidence-based of the alternatives to traditional braces, as clinical studies on invisible “braces” use this brand for testing. At least partly because of this, the efficacy of Invisalign treatment has risen from an average of 41% in a 2009 review, to 50% in a 2020 update .
If you have an orthodontic condition where there is a strong skeletal component, Invisalign is unlikely to be your sole treatment and may not be right for you at all. The successful, long-term resolution of skeletal malocclusions, such as open bite, often requires metal braces, surgery, and retraining of oral habits .
Just like any other orthodontic treatment, Invisalign aligners have their own advantages and disadvantages. What’s right for you may not be the best for someone else.
Invisalign Express treatment should only be used for specific cases of misalignment. To be a candidate for Invisalign Express, there must be minimal rotation of the teeth, and under 2mm of midline correction, spacing, or crowding. There cannot be more than 1.5mm of dental expansion required either for Invisalign Express.
You may be a candidate for the Invisalign Express plan if you previously wore braces, but your teeth have begun to shift back to their original positions.
There are more invisible braces out on the market besides Invisalign, including Byte and AlignerCo. Let’s look at these Invisalign alternatives.
Byte offers home aligners, so you do not need to search for an in-person provider, unlike Invisalign. Although you must complete and send an impression kit by mail, you are also able to access support online, any time. This makes it a more affordable option, at $1,895 or $2, 295 depending on whether you choose the all-day or night options.
Byte aligners are designed with principles from cosmetic dentistry and use a vibrational seating device (HyperByte) to speed up treatment time, improve treatment quality, and position aligners more accurately. Treatment may also be faster because of the HyperByte addition, at under six months. In contrast, Invisalign may take up to two or even three years.
To learn more, read the full Byte review here.
AlignerCo is the most affordable of the home aligner companies, at a price of $1,145 without any of the regular discount offers. In-person retailers are available, but the downside is that personalized support is much less than Byte or Invisalign.
To learn more, read the full AlignerCo review here.
In short, what are the most important things we need to know about Invisalign?
Compared to traditional braces, Invisalign is the better option for mild to moderate orthodontic problems. You experience less pain, can remove your trays when eating, and enjoy a more discrete look. The downsides are that there may not be Invisalign providers in your local area, and treatment can be expensive.
No, not as long as you brush your teeth after eating and drinking, and follow all other hygiene and treatment directions. On the other hand, standard braces are known to increase the risk of dental problems such as gingivitis (gum disease) and tooth decay, because of the dental bonding and increased difficulty when it comes to cleaning your teeth .
You should not drink coffee (or anything but water) while wearing Invisalign braces. Eating and drinking anything else aside from water requires you to remove the aligner and brush your teeth afterward before re-inserting it. Your aligner will not stain if you follow these instructions.
Research suggests that although clear aligners don’t cause difficulty eating, they can potentially interfere with speaking .
When it comes to clear aligners, Invisalign works well for many people with misaligned bites, or crooked or crowded teeth. However, higher treatment costs and the need for an in-person Invisalign provider push others onto home aligners.
For a high-quality alternative, we suggest Byte, one of the most reputable home aligner companies. Byte combines the professionalism of orthodontic care with the convenience of telehealth, so you don’t miss out on treatment benefits in exchange for accessibility.