If you smile in the mirror and aren’t satisfied with what you see, it can affect your entire life. From closed-mouth smiles in photos to keeping quiet in the boardroom, many adults adjust their life to accommodate their smiles. But what if you could change your smile to improve your life?
There are a lot of ways to close gaps, eliminate crowding, and otherwise transform your smile. Two popular but very different options are Invisalign and veneers. Our comparison guide will teach you all there is to know about how they compare.
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Invisalign and Veneers: The Basics
Invisalign and veneers are both well-known treatments that can help to correct or disguise certain dental misalignments. Invisalign has been around since 1998 and veneers since 1928, and both have a strong track record of success across millions of patients.
However, they are also two very different treatments. They are so divergent that for most people, only one option will be able to help them achieve their smile goals.
Invisalign was developed by Zia Chishti as a college student, then refined before Align Technologies officially released it in 1998. It’s an in-office braces alternative, allowing patients to choose more discreet treatment than brackets and wires.
Invisalign uses plastic aligners to put gentle pressure on your teeth. The first aligners that you wear almost perfectly match your teeth, with tiny variations; these variations generate the pressure that causes tooth movement.
Each subsequent aligner builds off the last, moving the teeth more and more until they reach their final positions. At that point, you’ll wear a retainer indefinitely to keep them there.
Californian dentist Charles Pincus made the first veneers in 1928 as part of costuming for Hollywood actors. These veneers were temporary, meant to be popped in and out as needed. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the combination of tooth etching technology and porcelain bonding made long-term veneers possible.
These veneers are thin porcelain or composite shells affixed to the front surfaces of your teeth—typically just the six front teeth of the upper arch. Your dentist will customize their size, shape, and color to your smile. When made correctly, they can cover tooth chips and gaps, even hiding problems with tooth profile.
Most veneers require your dentist to “prep” your teeth—shave down the enamel so that the veneers don’t protrude out too far. This is an irreversible process, so you’ll need to have veneers for life.
Veneers are fairly limited because they don’t actually change your dental alignment. Instead, your dentist will make them slightly larger than the natural tooth, allowing them to hide gaps.
In contrast, Invisalign can treat even severe misalignments. In recent years, Invisalign has started incorporating attachments that allow for even more significant tooth movement and jaw positioning. While Invisalign can turn twisted teeth, fix crowding, and close large gaps, veneers can only conceal gaps in the front teeth that are 3 millimeters or less. Anything larger than that and they might help narrow the gap but cannot close it.
The only time the two treatments truly go head-to-head is when treating gaps in the upper front teeth that are no larger than 3 millimeters. For all other alignment concerns, veneers are not an option. However, they do offer more cosmetic benefits than Invisalign, which could be ideal for some.
- Can correct most dental misalignments.
- Made from clear, medical-grade plastic.
- Aligners are changed every 1-2 weeks and are highly durable.
- Can hide small gaps in the front upper teeth.
- Available in porcelain and composite materials.
- Veneers often last between 7 and 14 years.
What They Treat
The shape of Invisalign’s aligners directs force against specific teeth. While gentle, this force is enough to move teeth and address a wide variety of orthodontic concerns, including:
- Gaps between teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Open bite
Veneers don’t move teeth at all. However, they can hide certain cosmetic irregularities in the top front teeth. These include:
- Gaps of 3 millimeters or less
- Undersized teeth
Keep in mind that gaps in the front teeth often cause crowding in the back teeth. So, even if veneers can close the gap, you should find out if you have crowding as well.
Invisalign’s aligners are made from multilayer aromatic thermoplastic polyurethane/copolyester—in other words: strong, medical-grade plastic. It does not contain BPA, BPS, latex, or gluten, making it safe for nearly all prospective patients. The plastic is slightly frosted and textured, which mimics the surfaces of your natural teeth.
Veneers come in a few different materials, so you can choose the option that best meets your aesthetic goals and personal budget.
- Porcelain: The most durable and natural-looking material, but also the most expensive. These veneers are biocompatible, meaning they are less likely than others to cause gum damage, which can lead to periodontal disease.
- Composite: This is a resin composed of organic and inorganic materials. Compared to porcelain veneers, they are much cheaper, but they do not look as natural. They are also more prone to staining.
- Porcelain Laminate: Porcelain laminate veneers combine the best features of porcelain and composite veneers, offering greater durability than basic composite while still reducing the cost. The main benefit, though, is that they do not require as much tooth preparation.
Invisalign and veneers are both durable, just in different ways. Aligners are not meant for long-term wear, and you are not supposed to eat with them in, so they aren’t designed to withstand significant pressure. However, they are made from a strong plastic that can hold up easily with proper wear. The biggest danger to these aligners is heat, so keep them away from heat sources and out of the sun.
Veneers are quite strong and designed to last for years. However, they can chip, crack, or even pop off completely if you don’t treat them well. To protect them, avoid biting into hard foods, biting your nails, and chewing on hard objects like pencils.
Improving your smile can be life-changing, but it can also be expensive. For many people, cost is the most significant obstacle to getting a brand new smile. So, which is more affordable: Invisalign or veneers?
- Invisalign’s cost varies based on your provider and the severity of your condition.
- Insurance generally covers Invisalign.
- You can get financing through your provider or third-party companies.
- The cost of veneers is based on the type of veneer and how many teeth are treated.
- Insurance policies typically do not cover veneers.
- You can get financing through your provider or third-party companies.
Overall, the cost of Invisalign is pretty similar to the cost of braces: Often between $3,000 and $7,000. This price depends on whether the treatment includes one or both arches, the severity of your condition, and the number of aligners you need.
With dental veneers, you’ll pay by the tooth. The price fluctuates based on the veneer material and whether the dentist manufactures them or outsources the work to a lab. Composite veneers can cost as little as $400 per tooth, while porcelain veneers can run as much as $2,500 per tooth.
However, you’ll have to replace them roughly once per decade, so even if they are cheaper upfront, you might end up paying more in the long run. And you must replace them, because your dentist will have shaved down your enamel to prep your teeth beforehand.
Below is a chart comparing the price of Invisalign with different types of veneers.
|Porcelain Veneers||$925-$2500 per tooth|
|Composite Veneers||$400-$1,500 per tooth|
|Porcelain Laminate||$800-$2,000 per tooth|
|Removable Veneers||$470-$600 per tooth|
Will Insurance Cover It?
This isn’t as simple as “yes” or “no.” If you have dental insurance, your provider may or may cover Invisalign or veneers. Some will cover anything considered medically necessary, but not treatments they deem cosmetic. Others will extend partial coverage to specific cosmetic treatments. Others still will limit their orthodontic coverage based on age.
To check on your coverage, contact your insurance provider.
In general, dental insurance with orthodontic coverage will pay for at least part of your Invisalign treatment, especially if it is making medically necessary corrections. Veneers are almost always considered cosmetic, which means most dental insurance policies that exclude them. Still, you should check with your provider, as some will pay for as much as 50% of your overall cost.
Is Financing Available?
Invisalign does not offer its own financing. However, they suggest working with CareCredit to make treatment more affordable. CareCredit, a third-party financing company, also provides financing for veneers. Your dentist or orthodontist might be able to suggest payment plans and financing options as well. Or, you can inquire at your bank or credit union about a personal loan.
Correcting tooth alignment often means making major lifestyle changes to accommodate your treatment. However, both Invisalign and veneers are highly convenient options, requiring very little from you.
- Most patients are in treatment for 6-18 months, though it can last up to 2 years.
- You do not need to brush or floss differently.
- Invisalign requires retainers to maintain results.
- Treatment often only takes one office visit, or two spaced a week apart.
- You brush and floss teeth with veneers just like other teeth.
- Veneers maintain their results until it is time to replace them.
Invisalign treatment lasts at least 6 months, but for most patients, it takes somewhere between 12 and 18 months. It is possible to speed up treatment with the use of devices like AcceleDent Aura.
Veneers have minimal treatment time. In fact, when you have them, you aren’t even considered to be “in treatment.” Some veneers, such as composite ones that are created directly on the teeth, take just one office visit that lasts about 1-2 hours. Those that are made in a lab typically take two separate visits—one to prep your teeth and take impressions and one to place and refine the veneers.
Comfort and Cleaning
Both Invisalign and veneers can make your teeth feel a bit different. The smooth aligners tend not to cause irritation, but they can make your teeth feel thicker and textured differently. However, most patients adjust pretty quickly.
Veneers can also make your teeth feel thicker and can have a slightly different texture than your natural tooth surfaces. While this might feel strange for up to a few days, your brain will quickly start perceiving them as identical to your natural teeth.
Veneers and Invisalign don’t require any special oral hygiene practices or products. To brush and floss with Invisalign, you simply remove the aligners. The only additional step is cleaning the aligners each time you clean your teeth.
And you can treat veneers the same as your natural teeth. There are no special steps or considerations to keep in mind.
After Invisalign treatment, you will need to go into the retention phase, which involves wearing retainers according to the directions of your dentist or orthodontist. For some, this means continuing to wear retainers for life.
Veneers require nothing extraordinary to maintain results. All you need to do is avoid damaging them. Just remember: they might last for years, but they aren’t meant to last forever. As such, Invisalign offers more enduring results.
The driving force behind your decision to pursue treatment likely involves appearance. You want to smile with confidence wherever you go.
Both Invisalign and veneers make this easy. Clear aligners blend in with your natural teeth, making them more or less invisible. Unless you want to tell people about your treatment, no one really needs to know.
Veneers are highly visible, but they aren’t noticeable at all. This is because they fully cover the outer surfaces of the teeth and blend in with those around them. While people are looking at them, they just think they are seeing your natural teeth.
Patient Experience Comparison
When you choose Invisalign, you partner with your dentist or orthodontist for the duration of treatment. You see them fairly often, and these office visits play an important role in your treatment’s success.
Veneers aren’t as involved. You see the doctor to prep your teeth, get the veneers placed, and replace them when needed. However, the patient experience still makes a difference.
Ease of Process
Invisalign treatment is generally considered easier than braces because it requires fewer lifestyle changes. However, a lot rests on the patient’s shoulders. They are responsible for wearing the aligners correctly and not losing them after taking them out to eat, drink, brush, and floss.
Veneers don’t rely on patient compliance since they are affixed to the teeth (unless you choose removable veneers, but these are not very common). This means that, for many people, they are the easier option.
Invisalign and veneers are not at-home treatments, which means they’re administered in a dentist or orthodontist’s office and under the supervision of medical professionals. The only exception is removable veneers that can be ordered online. These snap-on veneers are crafted based on a mold you take of your teeth, but are not a permanent or lasting solution.
Refinements and Adjustments
Neither treatment inherently needs adjustments. With Invisalign, you essentially make the adjustments yourself by swapping out aligners every 1-2 weeks, moving to the next step in your treatment. With veneers, there are no adjustments.
Sometimes, veneers might require your dentist to shave down the tooth enamel a bit more or perfect the shape of the veneer itself. However, this is just done once, at the time that the veneer is placed.
Which Should You Choose?
Both Invisalign and veneers are excellent treatments. Braces are more effective for treating severe misalignments, but neither is inherently better when you’re looking to close small gaps in the front teeth. Since both are effective and safe, your decision comes down to personal preference.
Choose Invisalign if…
Your goal is to make significant alterations to tooth alignment or you aren’t interested in removing tooth enamel to accommodate veneers.
Choose veneers if…
You want to hide a small gap in your front teeth and also want to correct issues like tooth color, cracks, and chips.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the key differences between Invisalign and veneers?
- Invisalign can correct multiple alignment issues of varying severity. Veneers can only conceal small gaps in the front upper teeth.
- Veneers only require a couple of office visits that last 1-2 hours each. Invisalign can take 10 or more spread out over years.
- The total cost of your first set of veneers can be similar to the cost of Invisalign. However, you will need to replace them once per decade, increasing their cost throughout your lifetime.
- Results from veneers are nearly instant, while Invisalign requires months in treatment to achieve your final results.
Which conditions can Invisalign and veneers both treat?
The only condition treatable by both treatments is a small gap located in the upper front teeth. Invisalign closes the gap by moving the teeth together while veneers fill it in.
Are there at-home versions of these treatments?
Yes, there are at-home clear aligners like SmileDirectClub and byte. However, these cannot treat as many conditions as Invisalign. There are also mail-order veneers, but these are clip-ons, making them very different from what your dentist offers.
Can I expect both treatments to last a lifetime?
If you use your retainers after Invisalign, you’ll enjoy a straighter smile for the rest of your life. With veneers, expect to replace them every 7-14 years.
How are veneers and crowns different?
Crowns are meant to restore a tooth that has been severely damaged, while veneers only make cosmetic treatments. Additionally, crowns fit over the tooth like a cap, while veneers are thin shells affixed to the front surfaces of your teeth.
What is the single greatest disadvantage of choosing veneers?
The biggest downside of veneers is tooth preparation—shaving down the enamel. This is an irreversible process, so you will need to have veneers for life.
What is the single greatest disadvantage of choosing Invisalign?
Patient compliance is the most difficult aspect of Invisalign treatment. You must wear your aligners for 22 hours per day, removing them to eat, drink, brush, and floss. This makes it easy to forget to put the aligners back in.
What if I am unhappy with my results?
Invisalign states that it will not guarantee a specific treatment outcome. However, your provider might. The same is true with veneers. Ask your dentist or orthodontist whether your treatment comes with any guarantees before you start.
Can I use insurance, HSA, or FSA funds to cover treatment?
Invisalign is eligible for insurance, HSA, and FSA coverage if it is deemed medically necessary, not cosmetic. Veneers might be covered by insurance, but you cannot use your HSA or FSA funds for them.
Which option is best for straightening teeth?
Invisalign is the better choice because they actually change tooth alignment. Veneers just conceal the underlying issues.