When you think of clear aligner treatment, you probably think first of Invisalign. They revolutionized teeth straightening treatment in the late 90s and have been the largest and most prolific clear aligner producer since then. Over the years, they’ve transformed over 7 million and show no signs of slowing down. It’s no surprise that they’re a household name. But today, they’re not the only option, and new competitors have discovered innovative ways to lower clear aligner costs.
In general, orthodontic treatment is an investment, but how much you’ll pay depends on which treatment you choose. Recently-popular at-home teeth aligners like SmileDirectClub are less expensive than Invisalign but don’t offer the personal dentist care or scope of treatable conditions that Invisalign does. Even so, there’s no fixed price for Invisalign treatment. There are a number of factors that determine your final bill, and we’ve got them all for you right here.
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There’s no flat rate for Invisalign treatment because it all depends on how many office visits and aligners your condition requires. The only way to get a specific estimate for your customized treatment plan is to consult your dentist or orthodontist.
That said, average costs for Invisalign are generally between $4,000 and $6,000. This doesn’t mean that it never falls outside this range, but chances are you’ll end up pretty close. You can ask your friend what their Invisalign treatment costs, but it could be completely different from what you pay, because your teeth are unique! Again, you’ll want to schedule an examination and consultation to get a customized, accurate estimate.
5 Factors That Impact Your Treatment Cost
Your Invisalign treatment cost is based on numerous factors. Each of these can have a significant influence on the final, out-of-pocket price you pay.
1. Condition Complexity/Severity
Invisalign can treat almost the entire spectrum of teeth and jaw misalignments. This is because its regular office visits allow your dentist or orthodontist to modify and supplement your treatment with appliances that can facilitate more drastic or complex teeth movements.
However, more acute conditions take more time and supplies to correct, and your dentist’s time and supplies cost money. Therefore, a severe condition might end up with higher overall costs.
2. Office Location
Certain places are simply more expensive to do business. If your dentist/orthodontist’s office is in a city or another expensive area, their rent, utilities, etc. will cost more. Ultimately, this might mean higher costs for patients.
3. Dentist Expertise
Just like many other professions, more experienced, in-demand dental professionals can charge more money. The ones who have been administering Invisalign treatment for some time may be part of the Invisalign Advantage program, which has several member tiers ranging from bronze to diamond. Dentists and orthodontists earn points for each Invisalign treatment they complete, allowing them to advance into higher tiers.
Dentists and orthodontists in the highest tier (Diamond Plus) may charge more for their expertise than ones occupying the Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum tiers.
4. Aftercare Retainers
After you complete all of your aligners, your teeth will be nice and straight, a sparkling new smile. And you want to make sure that it stays that way. Teeth have a natural tendency to shift back after they’ve been moved. To prevent this from happening, your dentist will likely recommend wearing retainers, all day at first and then just overnight.
Invisalign works with Vivera to produce these retainers, which look much like your aligners but are even more durable. As a reputable high-quality company, Vivera’s retainers will cost a few hundred dollars, but this depends on your specific dentist or orthodontist.
Most of the time, your Invisalign treatment will deliver the exact results you expected. Regular office visits allow your dentist to continuously evaluate your progress and make adjustments when necessary to keep you on track.
But occasionally there can be a hitch in the plan. Maybe your teeth move more slowly than initially expected, or maybe your teeth just don’t look like the original treatment plan showed. In cases like these, your dentist can issue a refinement, new custom aligners that will fine-tune your smile. If you’re on Invisalign’s full treatment plan, refinements won’t often cost extra, but you should ask your dentist to confirm.
When you’re looking at treatments that can cost a few thousand dollars, payment plans can be comforting. These financing options break down that intimidating price tag into manageable monthly chunks. Invisalign doesn’t have one overarching financing option. Instead, they leave that up to specific dentists and orthodontists. Most dentist offices provide financing options, so it’s just a matter of finding out which ones are available to you. There are also third-party financing options out there, but they can potentially come with higher interest rates.
Some financing options require a credit check to qualify while others don’t. If you’re not confident in your credit score, you’ll want to seek out one that doesn’t require them. And while monthly payments are nice, they also allow interest to accrue, increasing your final cost. For this reason, it’s better to pay up front if you have the financial flexibility.
If your dental insurance includes orthodontic benefits, they’ll likely cover part of your Invisalign treatment. Of course, insurance coverage varies on a case by case basis. Sometimes an insurer will consider clear aligner treatment cosmetic and refuse to cover it. In other words, you shouldn’t assume that Invisalign will be covered just because your dentist recommends it — check with your insurance provider first to make sure.
Alternatively, if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), your dentist’s office may accept payments from either. These tax-free funds – which may receive contributions from your employer – could be more convenient than paying out of pocket.
How Does the Cost Compare to Other Clear Aligners?
As we’ve already mentioned, Invisalign is one of the more expensive options out there, especially when compared to at-home aligner options like SmileDirectClub, which cost between $1,800-$1,900. But there’s a good reason for this. With Invisalign, you’re paying for the personalized care and expertise of your dentist or orthodontist, as well as the ability to treat more severe conditions. When you choose Invisalign, you’re getting guaranteed treatment quality, safety, and effectiveness.
For some people, the peace of mind that they’re getting facetime with a highly-skilled professional is enough to justify the higher prices. We think that it’s well worth the cost if you have a severe condition like a bite misalignment, or prefer traditional one-on-one dental care. But if your condition is minor and you’re looking for the most affordable, convenient option, at-home teeth aligners are worth considering as well.
To compete with these innovative home teeth straightening systems, Invisalign introduced an “Express” option in 2012. The Express plan takes Invisalign’s top-quality system and cuts down the number of aligners, office visits, and treatment time. A full course of Invisalign treatment usually involves 20-30 aligners, while Express uses just five or ten.
As you might expect, Express is only a good option for patients with very minor cases of crowding and spacing in the front six teeth. In fact, it’s mainly used to treat patients whose teeth have begun to shift back years after completing Invisalign or braces treatment. Its timeline is much shorter (only 3-6 months) and it typically costs around $3,000.
All of this comes down to one question: does it work with your budget? Your personal financial circumstances are the most important consideration. But as you measure various options against your finances, it’s important to consider all the factors that can influence costs. Even if a sticker price looks appealing, that might not end up being what you pay.
But don’t focus so much on price that you neglect other aspects of clear aligner treatment, like effectiveness, convenience, appearance, and customer support. While you probably have specific priorities, you don’t want to make a decision on just one thing. Be well-rounded in your research and honest in your priorities and it will empower you to make a confident, well-informed decision.