Invisalign Review: Cost, Benefits And Results


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Jessica is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience in both lifestyle and clinical health topics.
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Our Verdict

If you have cosmetic or structural concerns with your smile that can be successfully treated with Invisalign, based on an evaluation from your dentist or orthodontist, the results tend to be worth the investment.

Key Features

  • Treatment plans created and regularly supervised by dental professionals
  • Most treatment plans last between six and 12 months
  • Price usually covers initial mouth scans, treatment aligner trays and in-person check-up appointments (permanent retailers typically available for additional fee)

In 1997, two MBA students at Stanford University and three others founded Align Technology, the company that patented Invisalign. Today, Invisalign is like the Kleenex of clear teeth aligners —it’s used by the general public (and some dentists) to denote any type of clear aligner orthodontics, says Teresa Yang, D.D.S., a California-based dentist and Forbes Health Advisory Board member.

Compared to traditional metal braces, Invisalign provides a more comfortable and discreet orthodontic treatment experience, using a customized series of clear, removable aligner trays to improve the position of a person’s teeth and jaw gradually and safely. The aligners are made from a durable thermoplastic called SmartTrack, which is free of gluten, latex and BPA and is deemed safe for people with allergies, as well as pregnant people.

As Invisalign’s patents began expiring in 2017, competitors like Smile Direct Club and Byte jumped on the clear teeth aligner trend, offering similar products at lower prices, although with less in-person professional dental supervision throughout the course of treatment than Invisalign, explains Dr. Yang.

Level of detail involved in initial consultation and bite scans Clear “buttons” often attached to teeth to anchor aligners are not subtle
Quality of care provided by a dentist throughout treatment High-maintenance hygiene regimen required
Pace of treatment makes results consistently noticeable without rushing movement of teeth Retainer use required indefinitely following treatment

Invisalign at a Glance

  • Cost of aligners: The average person in the U.S. can expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for Invisalign treatment.
  • Length of treatment: The time required for a patient’s treatment plan is highly dependent on the initial state of their teeth alignment and how well they adhere to treatment guidelines. A treatment plan typically takes six to 12 months, but more extensive plans can take longer.
  • Results: When using the aligners correctly and attending regular progress appointments as recommended by the dentist providing treatment, teeth are aligned in a way that’s both aesthetically pleasing and safe for one’s overall oral health.

How Does Invisalign Work?

During a consultation with your dentist or orthodontist, they review your dental history, complete an oral exam, take a series of oral X-rays and take a 3D digital scan of your teeth with the iTero Element scanner (technology also owned by Align Technology) to generate a custom teeth-aligning plan. They show you how your teeth will move from their current alignment to ideal alignment with digital imagining, as well as disclose how many sets of aligner trays (and weeks of wear) will be needed for the course of your treatment plan.

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During this consultation, the dental professional will also inform you whether your treatment plan should include the attachment of clear “buttons” on the front of certain teeth to help anchor and pivot your aligners over time to achieve optimal results.

Depending on the professional providing treatment, Invisalign can help correct:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Overlapping teeth
  • Crowding
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Misaligned and malpositioned jaws

After you agree to your treatment plan, the dentist or orthodontist orders a series of computer-generated rigid plastic aligner trays that gradually move the teeth based on your digital scans. With the exception of eating, the trays are meant to be worn 24/7, says Dr. Yang.

While it may be tempting to remove them for a work meeting or social function, sporadic wearing of the trays can prolong treatment time or even disrupt treatment, she adds. It’s recommended that patients brush and/or rinse both their mouth and aligners after every meal (or beverage that isn’t water.)

Once your sets of trays arrive at your dental office, your dental professional examines your smile again with the first set of trays in place, ensuring a proper fit. Then, every few weeks, you meet with your dentist again for a check-up appointment regarding your progress. During these sessions, they tell you when you can move on to the next set of trays in your treatment plan and provide your next batch of aligners.

Depending on the complexity of your case, your treatment plan could last as little as six months, according to Invisalign. With that said, most patients start noticing results within a matter of weeks. For an accurate estimate of your specific completion time, request a consultation with your dentist or orthodontist.

Once your treatment plan is complete, you can either continue wearing your final set of aligner trays as retainers or purchase a set of Vivera retainers, which are sturdier than the aligner trays. All orthodontic treatment requires the wearing of retainers to keep the teeth straight and stable, especially adult orthodontics, says Dr. Yang. Plan on wearing your retainers indefinitely once you’re done, even if it’s just a couple of times a week after the initial retention period of one to two years.

How Much Does Invisalign Cost?

The price of an Invisalign treatment plan ultimately depends on the dental professional providing the quote for their service, as well as how minimal or aggressive the suggested treatment plan needs to be. With that said, the average national cost of Invisalign ranges from $3,000 to $5,000, according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry.

To learn more about how much Invisalign might cost for you, reach out to your dental care provider for more information. They may also have promotional prices or financing options available.

Does Dental Insurance Cover the Costs of Invisalign?

If your dental insurance plan includes orthodontic coverage, reach out to your provider to see whether that coverage includes Invisalign. If your plan doesn’t include orthodontic coverage, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to cover some of the costs of Invisalign with insurance.

What Experts Say

“For the patient who wants to improve their crooked teeth without unsightly metal showing, Invisalign, or clear aligner orthodontics, is a great option,” says Dr. Yang.

“Case selection is key to Invisalign therapy, however, as it’s meant for mild to moderate tooth movement,” she adds. “For example, if you have a severe underbite where the lower teeth stick out past the upper teeth, the problem may be related to the size of your jaw. No amount of Invisalign can correct that.”

To determine if you’re a candidate for Invisalign, seek the opinion of a qualified orthodontist or general dentist—someone who has undergone training and has experience with Invisalign treatments.

Dentists love Invisalign because it provides safe, effective and efficient tooth movement, according to Holli Careswell, D.D.S., a Missouri-based dentist and Forbes Health Advisory Board member. Both orthodontists and general dentists use Invisalign predictably for simple and complicated cases involving crowding and even extraction.

“Patients are always excited to see their digital mock-up before and after, which Invisalign uses to plan tooth movement for the perfect smile,” says Dr. Careswell. “New clear aligner tray technology provides faster tooth movement with less refinements, resulting in quicker case completion. Invisalign even provides colored indicator buttons that show dentists if the patients have been wearing their trays as directed, which has improved compliance—we call them the tattletale buttons.”

With that said, wear time remains the primary challenge with Invisalign. And since the aligners can be taken out by the patient (unlike traditional brackets), they can be easily lost or forgotten, says Dr. Careswell. Long-interrupted treatment plans due to lost aligners can require an entirely new order of aligner trays, nearly doubling the cost of treatment.

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My Invisalign Experience

While living in New York City, I found a dentist who specialized in Invisalign treatments specifically. I sought treatment for crowding along the front of my bottom jaw, as well as early signs of rotation with one of my top front teeth. During my consultation, the dentist also informed me that my upper and lower teeth did not make contact with each other across the full length of my jaws, which could result in unnecessary wear on some teeth and jaw discomfort over time.

With this evaluation, it was clear Invisalign could not only address my cosmetic interests, but also my structural concerns.

Thanks to the dentist’s extensive experience with Invisalign and the number of cases his office handled, he provided a significant discount on the price of my treatment—around $3,000 for the initial X-rays and consultation, the manufacturing of all 20 sets of treatment trays and every follow-up appointment required over the course of six months. He offered two sets of permanent retainers at the end of the treatment for an additional $1,000, which I paid out of pocket. My dental insurance did not help cover any of the costs associated with Invisalign.

Due to the nature of my alignment issues, the dentist needed to place a handful of small clear “buttons” on the front of several teeth. These buttons served as pivot points and anchors for my aligner trays, allowing for more precise teeth movement and, ultimately, a more effective treatment. However, I didn’t anticipate this step at all and felt very frustrated that my treatment plan required them. They were sharp and painful when I wasn’t wearing my aligners, and they made little bubbles in my aligner trays that made them more visible than they would have been otherwise.

Buttons aside, my Invisalign experience was a successful one. I wore them as recommended by my dentist consistently and attended a check-up appointment every two weeks to monitor tooth movement. I was even able to move through my tray sets quicker than initially expected due to how well my alignment was progressing.

I was consistently in pain or sore throughout the course of treatment, especially as I transitioned from one tray set to another. I often took over-the-counter pain relievers in the early days with new treatment trays, and the pain occasionally disrupted my sleep when I unconsciously clenched my jaw. Otherwise the discomfort was manageable—a nuisance more than anything else. But I was very happy with the end result, the professional guidance I received throughout the treatment and the fact that I was able to complete it within six months, which matched my original treatment plan timeline. During my final appointment, my dentist removed the clear buttons from my teeth and fitted me for my permanent retainers, which I picked up a couple of weeks later.

Years after treatment, I still wear my retainers a couple of times a week to prevent too much shifting in my teeth alignment—no matter your age, your teeth continue to move slightly, so retainer use is critical for maintaining results of Invisalign (and most any other comparable orthodontic treatments).

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