Though they take very different approaches, both clear aligners and veneers can deliver the smile you’ve always wanted. Aligners put pressure on the teeth to move them into new positions over time. On the other hand, veneers are thin shells affixed to the front of your teeth to address cosmetic concerns like discoloration, small gaps, or chipped teeth.
But how do the costs of these very different treatment options compare? That’s what we’re here to clear up. In this guide, we’ll outline the average prices of aligners and veneers, and explain some important things to keep in mind when calculating the lifetime treatment cost.
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Average Treatment Costs
Several factors can contribute to your total treatment cost. But veneers will typically be a more expensive approach to your dream smile than aligners.
The main price advantage aligners have over veneers is that they are (for the most part) a one-time expense. In-office aligners like Invisalign and ClearCorrect range from $2,000–$9,000, depending on the severity of your treatment.
At-home clear aligners have slashed the prices of traditional teeth straightening by offering fully remote treatment. Typically, they’re the industry’s most affordable teeth-straightening solution, and most at-home clear aligner treatments cost less than $2,000.
Veneers are usually a recurring expense, since they won’t last forever, so you’ll eventually have to replace them. Veneers are typically priced per tooth, but don’t panic—most people don’t get a veneer on every single tooth. Usually, people spring for 4–8 veneers, covering the teeth that show most when they smile.
Depending on the veneer material, the price can be anywhere from $250–$2,500 per tooth. This means if you opt for eight veneers, the price will be between $2,000 and $20,000. As we’ve mentioned, this is not a one-time expense, since you’ll need to pay for replacements down the road.
What Makes Veneers More Expensive?
1. More Invasive Procedure
Your dentist will need to grind down the enamel on your teeth before applying traditional veneers. This ensures that your veneers won’t protrude farther than your natural teeth, but it’s an irreversible process. Because of the procedure’s invasiveness, sometimes patients will need a local anesthetic. These specialized processes add to the overall expense of your procedure.
2. You May Need Orthodontia First
Veneers can cover up minor gaps, but they don’t straighten your teeth. So if you’re dealing with significant jaw, bite, or crowding issues, you may need to first invest in orthodontia to correct those issues before you can get veneers.
3. Require Replacement Every 5–15 years
Veneers are a commitment. Once your enamel is gone, it’s gone for good. So when you get veneers, you are essentially agreeing to have them permanently—since it wouldn’t be safe for your teeth to go without a protective layer.
While this is a permanent commitment, it isn’t a permanent treatment. Veneers last anywhere from 5 to 15 years, depending on the material you choose. So they’re not a one-time expense. You’ll need to pay full price to replace them whenever they wear out.
4. Risk of Breaks, Damage, and Stains
The durability of your veneers depends on the materials they use, as well as your own habits and behaviors. Since veneers are not as strong as your teeth, there’s a significant risk of breakage—in which case you’d have to pay for a whole new veneer.
If you get composite veneers, they can stain like teeth, but that doesn’t mean you can whiten them like teeth. So you’ll need to replace them if you want a brighter smile. Although the veneers themselves are durable, your oral hygiene and food/drink choices can still play a major role in their longevity.
Porcelain veneers are typically more durable and stain-resistant than composite veneers. So if you’ve got a coffee habit, porcelain may be the better match. However, it is a good idea to discuss all your options with your dentist before treatment.
Types of Aligners & Their Average Costs
Clear aligners are a great way to move your teeth gradually while maintaining a relatively low profile throughout treatment. Typically, they are best for mild-to-moderate cases of spacing or crowding, as well as mild-to-moderate bite issues like underbite and crossbite (depending on the brand). There are two main types of clear aligner treatment: in-office, and at-home.
Traditional in-office clear aligner treatment has the benefit of regular appointments and oversight from a dentist or orthodontist. Since so many offices offer clear aligners, you’ll likely be able to move forward with a dentist you already see and trust.
Invisalign is the biggest traditional clear aligner company, and also one of the most expensive, with prices that often fall between $3,000 and $8,500. 3M Clarity Aligners are usually around the same, while brands like ClearCorrect ($2,000–$8,000) and SureSmile ($2,000–$6,000) can be slightly cheaper.
In-office aligners are regarded as safe and effective. They’re a great option if you’d like to have a low-profile treatment option and value in-person appointments.
Online clear aligners have turned the teeth-straightening industry on its head. You can now complete your clear aligner treatment entirely remotely, allowing for a great deal of convenience and savings.
Eliminating in-office appointments makes at-home aligners significantly more affordable. The range of price for at-home clear aligners is typically $1,000–$2,400 (though many companies offer treatment for under $2,000).
At-home options can treat mild and moderate cases of misalignment and spacing. So if you’re looking to receive the most affordable treatment possible, and your condition isn’t too severe, at-home clear aligners may be the perfect match for you.
Types of Veneers & Their Average Costs
You have the option of either traditional or “no-prep” veneers. Traditional veneers require the dentist to shave down your enamel before affixing the veneers. No-prep veneers are an alternative that does not require quite the same irreversible procedure.
Traditional Veneers (Porcelain and Composite)
We’ve mentioned that your veneers’ materials can impact their longevity, durability, and expense. So what are the options? Generally, you are making a choice between porcelain veneers or composite materials. Both can give you a striking smile!
Dental professionals often favor porcelain veneers, since they are the most durable and stain-resistant (as well as the most natural-looking). They can last 10–15 years with proper care, and they’re also the most premium option, which costs $925–$2,500 per tooth.
Comparatively, composite veneers are more approachable at $250–$1,500 per tooth. These veneers often last 5–7 years. So you’re paying about half the cost, but these veneers will last about half as long.
Since traditional veneers require your dentist to shave down your enamel, you’ll need to have veneers forever, replacing them whenever they wear out. This is a recurring expense, so it helps to consider the durability of your veneers. Over time, the total costs of less expensive options can add up if they need to be replaced more frequently.
Having options is a great feeling! If you love the look of veneers but you feel a little antsy about the permanent commitment of traditional treatment, no-prep veneers might be a good option.
These veneers don’t require enamel shaving, which means you have the freedom to have them removed if you decide they are no longer right for you. So this can be a one-time expense if you want, or you can keep replacing them every several years if you’d like!
No-prep veneers are made from the same materials as traditional ones—they’re usually just a bit thinner. They are priced at $800–$2,500 per tooth and last about 5–7 years. Since these veneers are thinner, stains on your teeth may show through. However, it’s still worth exploring all of your options with your dentist before ruling anything out.
Other Cost Considerations
There’s a lot to keep track of when trying to determine final treatment costs. Some contributing factors are less obvious, and learning about these potential costs (or savings!) ahead of time can help you save as much as possible.
If you live in a city with a high cost of living, your dentist or orthodontist will likely pay more in rent, utilities, etc. To offset those expenses, they may charge more for their treatments. That’s why, many times, treatment is more expensive in large cities and some suburbs than in rural areas.
Choosing at-home clear aligners will likely save you money wherever you live, but especially if you’re in extremely expensive cities like New York City or San Francisco.
Dentists and orthodontists often offer in-house financing options (like payment plans) to help make veneer or aligner expenses more manageable. These plans vary from office to office, so we recommend reaching out to determine your options.
Some dentists will offer discounts when you purchase a certain number of veneers, so ask around to see if you can find a discount! Since this is a recurring expense, even small savings could add up.
Many at-home clear aligner companies have in-house and/or third-party financing plans. Some of these options require a credit check, but others approve everyone. There are usually fees for these services, so if you can swing the upfront cost, it’ll save you some money in the long run. If not, these plans can be a great way to make treatment more affordable.
It is unlikely that insurance will cover your veneers, since they are typically classified as a cosmetic procedure. However, if you’re getting a veneer because of an injury or tooth damage, it’s possible your insurance may help cover the cost of repair.
It’s much more likely that insurance will cover in-office clear aligner treatments like Invisalign and ClearCorrect. Reach out to your provider to see which offices are in your network and ask how much they will be contributing.
Plans offer coverage for at-home aligners less frequently, but it’s not impossible. Some home aligner services have partnerships with certain insurance providers to partially cover their treatment. You’ll want to check with your insurance provider, as well as the at-home aligner company, to find out. Even if your home aligners aren’t covered at all, the much lower price might still make them more affordable than their in-office counterparts.
After you finish with your aligner treatment, you’ll need to wear a retainer to keep your teeth in position. You’ll need to replace these retainers every 6–12 months, and the cost depends on which company you choose, but typically you can expect to pay about $100 per retainer. Or, you can get a Hawley retainer or fixed retainer from your dentist or orthodontist, which often cost $200–$600.
Some companies offer package deals on their retainers or have programs that send a discounted retainer in the mail every six months. Be sure to determine your provider’s retainer prices before you start treatment, since this expense is ongoing and can add up over time.
Traditional veneers don’t require you to wear a retainer, but you’ll need to replace them every 5–15 years. This means you can expect to pay the treatment’s $2,000–$20,000 price more than once.
No-prep veneers aren’t as permanent, so you aren’t necessarily bound to the same repeating expense. But if you like your veneers and want to maintain your new smile, you will need to pay $6,400–$16,000 every 5–7 years.
With both veneer options, a broken veneer will mean you pay the price for a new one. And since you can’t whiten them, you’ll need to get a whole new set of veneers if you want to brighten your smile.
Clear aligners and veneers provide two very different pathways to your perfect smile. Clear aligners are pretty much always the more affordable option, since their initial cost is lower (and not recurring). That said, within the clear aligner industry, at-home aligners can save you even more during your treatment — with most companies priced around or below $2,000.
If you choose veneers, “no-prep” veneers will give you the most freedom, since they’ll keep your enamel mostly intact. But traditional, porcelain veneers are the most durable and long-lasting. Regardless of the path you choose, we’re sure you’ll end up with a smile that makes you feel like the best version of yourself.