Thinking about getting invisible braces? You have more options than ever before to improve your teeth. Invisalign treatment costs between $3,000 and $7,000, although most people spend $5,000 or less, according to The Consumer Guide to Dentistry.
That's in line with the cost of traditional metal braces, which ranges between $3,000 and $10,000. The cost of invisible braces at home, however, is typically between $1,200 and $2,400.
If you're ready to upgrade your smile, here's what you need to know about the cost of Invisalign as compared with at-home clear braces, how to pay for treatment, and whether it's the right choice for you.
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Although most people spend between $3,000 and $5,000 on Invisalign braces, your costs could be higher or lower depending on your treatment plan.
In general, four main factors determine how much Invisalign costs:
Most invisible braces are designed for mild cosmetic misalignment issues of the teeth. Invisalign can treat more severe teeth and jaw misalignments, but it requires more dentist visits and aligner trays.
Because you work closely with your dentist, your treatment can be tweaked and refined if you're not getting the results you expect. These refinements and custom aligners may be included in your original treatment cost, but some dentists charge extra for those services.
Invisalign awards points to dentists who perform Invisalign treatment. As they complete more treatments, the dentists advance into higher provider tiers.
Dentists in the highest provider tiers get significant discounts (as much as 40% or more) on Invisalign lab fees. Some dentists pass these savings on to their patients.
On the other hand, these highly experienced providers can also charge more for their services than dentists who haven't completed very many treatments.
It's worth checking your dentist's provider tier and comparing costs if there are several providers in your area that offer Invisalign.
Invisalign costs vary based on where you live. In general, you'll pay more for Invisalign in urban and suburban areas than you will in rural areas.
Not surprisingly, California and New York have some of the highest Invisalign treatment costs. The lowest Invisalign costs are in rural midwestern and southern states.
Most dentists recommend that you wear a retainer after your Invisalign treatment to keep your teeth from shifting. Retainers aren't included in Invisalign costs. The price will vary by dentist, but you can expect to pay between $400 and $1,000 for a full set.
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Most insurance plans cover Invisalign the same way they cover traditional braces. If your insurance pays for orthodontia, it should pay for treatment with Invisalign.
Keep in mind most plans don't pay the full cost of braces. It's common for plans to pay a percentage of the bill or a fixed amount toward orthodontic treatment. You'll most likely have a balance even after your insurance company pays.
Some states require insurers to cover orthodontic care for children, but that requirement doesn't apply to adults. If your plan pays for adult orthodontic care, it may only do so to correct a medical or functional issue with your teeth or jaw.
It's rare for insurance plans to pay for braces for cosmetic reasons. You'll probably have to pay the full cost of treatment if you only want braces to improve your appearance.
If you're not sure about your insurance benefits, you can download the Invisalign app and check your coverage. The Invisalign app has coverage information for most major insurance plans so you can see exactly what your plan will pay.
If you have a flexible savings account (FSA) through your employer, you can use those funds to pay for Invisalign treatment. Since FSA contributions are made with pretax dollars, it's like getting a discount on your braces. Many employers issue an FSA debit card so you can pay with FSA funds at the time of service.
You can also use money in your health savings account (HSA) to pay for Invisalign. HSA funds are also tax-advantaged. Unlike flex spending accounts, however, you usually have to pay your health costs upfront with an HSA and request reimbursement from your plan.
Most Invisalign providers offer monthly payment plans, but they aren't standardized by the Invisalign company. Some dentists work with health care financing companies like Denefit and Care Credit. The finance company pays the cost of your Invisalign treatment, and you make monthly payments to the finance company.
Other providers finance Invisalign treatment themselves. You usually make a down payment before treatment begins and pay the balance in installments over the course of your treatment.
Because Invisalign providers choose which type of payment plans to offer, it's important to ask what's available before you agree to treatment. Be sure to check interest rates and other applicable fees so you get the best deal.
Some people use credit cards to pay for Invisalign. You can avoid finance charges if you open an account with a 0% introductory rate and pay off the balance during the introductory period.
Unlike SmileDirectClub and other at-home aligner services, Invisalign is an in-person treatment. It starts with a visit to an Invisalign provider for a 3D scan of your teeth and a custom treatment plan.
You'll have follow-up visits with your dentist every six to eight weeks to chart your progress, make any adjustments to your treatment plan, and pick up your next set of aligners.
This in-person element means that Invisalign can help people with more complicated dental needs. It also adds to the cost of Invisalign treatment.
If you have mild teeth misalignment, you may be able to use invisible braces at home with brands such as Byte or SmileDirectClub. These clear aligner trays are typically much less expensive than Invisalign. You can complete the treatment entirely at home without an in-person dentist visit. See our in-depth review of the best at-home aligners to help you decide whether this is a good option for your dental needs.
While most companies that offer at-home aligners offer payment plans, your insurance plan may not cover the treatment in the same manner as Invisalign is covered. Check with your plan for details. At-home aligner companies frequently offer monthly payment plans, and you may be able to use your FSA or HSA.
Lingual braces are metal braces placed on the tongue side of your teeth. Because they are on the back of your teeth, they are nearly invisible. They require regular visits with a dental provider and typically cost more than Invisalign and traditional braces. However, they may be covered by dental insurance.
The major drawback to lingual braces is that they cause a lisp when you speak. Because of the way they are placed, the braces interfere with normal speech patterns. The lisp usually gets better over time, however.
Traditional metal braces can treat a wide range of orthodontic issues. If you aren't a candidate for Invisalign or lingual braces, traditional braces may be your only option.
Invisalign treatment costs more than other clear aligners, but it can correct most types of teeth and jaw issues. If you're not a candidate for other aligner trays, Invisalign may be your best choice for invisible braces.
If you can't decide between Invisalign and lingual braces, Invisalign has several advantages. The first is the cost of treatment: Invisalign typically costs less than lingual braces. Invisalign also doesn't interfere with your speech the way lingual braces do. That's especially important for people who have to speak a lot at work or school. In addition, there are fewer dentist visits with Invisalign compared to lingual braces.
If you have minor alignment issues, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars with at-home invisible braces. But if your smile needs more than a little work, Invisalign is a reasonably priced alternative to traditional or lingual braces.
Sheila Olson has over two decades of experience writing about Medicare, health, and personal finance. Her work has been featured on sites such as Investopedia, The Motley Fool, and Boomer Benefits. Sheila holds a MPH (Master of Public Health) from Northern Arizona University.