Dental work can be expensive, so it’s no surprise that questions about cost come up when dental patients consider straightening their teeth. Invisalign and braces are both effective ways of fixing teeth that are crooked, crowded, or irregularly spaced.
Cost shouldn’t be the only consideration, though. Every patient’s case is different, so they need to decide what will work best for them. Examining needs, goals, and lifestyle, can help determine which method will provide the best value, and is, therefore, a better investment.
One Goal, Two Different Methods
The goal of both Invisalign and braces is simple: To straighten teeth. Both gradually push teeth into their desired position. But differences in how the two methods accomplish this are significant.
Braces consist of brackets attached directly to the teeth, connected together with wire. An orthodontist adjusts and tightens the wires every few weeks to gradually move the teeth into alignment.
Traditional braces have metal brackets and wires. Another option is clear braces, which use transparent brackets or ceramic ones that match the color of the teeth. These are less noticeable than regular braces, but they still use metal wire. There are also lingual braces, which are attached to the inside of the teeth. These are barely visible, but are more expensive and can be uncomfortable.
Invisalign consists of a series of clear plastic molds of the teeth called aligner trays. They are worn over the teeth for 20-22 hours each day. They aren’t attached like braces but they may require small “buttons” affixed to teeth so they can snap on. Patients wear each set of trays for two weeks, then move on to the next set. Like braces, they gradually nudge the teeth into place.
Comparing Costs of Invisalign vs. Braces
The average cost of braces is $2,000 to $6,000. Invisalign runs about $2,500 to $7,000. The price for both methods will vary depending upon how crooked the patient’s teeth are, how long straightening takes. Prices will also differ depending on the region and the individual dentist.
Some dentists and orthodontists may charge extra for initial exams, x-rays, and impressions, or for retainers once the straightening is done. It is best to discuss what is included in the cost before starting any treatment. Another thing to discuss with the dentist or orthodontist is a payment plan. Many practices offer installment payment options.
Dental insurance may cover a portion of teeth straightening treatment. This may be more likely if fixing the problem is considered necessary for dental health, instead of purely cosmetic. Even then, some policies may cover part of the cost.
As the estimate above indicates, Invisalign and braces are about the same cost. This is why understanding what it’s like to wear them is important. It will help determine which is the best value and which is right for the individual.
Aesthetics and Comfort
People looking for a discreet way to straighten their teeth often choose Invisalign. Adults sometimes see braces as something meant for kids. They also value the ability to take Invisalign out in professional settings like interviews or meetings.
Another factor in Invisalign’s favor is comfort. Wearers might feel some pressure and soreness as teeth are gradually moved. Braces have the same discomfort, with the addition of sharp brackets and wires that can poke into lips and gums.
For these reasons, people in certain professions, or anyone who simply doesn’t like the look or feel of braces may see Invisalign as a better investment.
The convenience of removing Invisalign in special situations or to eat, drink, and clean the teeth is a big plus for many people. Others may see it differently. With braces, there is nothing to keep track of or remember to wear. They are put on the teeth and that’s that. Other than regular visits to the orthodontist, there is little for the patient to worry about while their teeth are straightened.
Depending on the patient, braces might actually be more convenient. For example, parents might find braces for their kids to be a better investment than Invisalign. It will save them the trouble of making sure their kids are wearing them and don’t lose or break them.
One thing that is more convenient about Invisalign is that there is no need to see an orthodontist. Braces have to be fitted by an orthodontist, but many dentists provide Invisalign. Many like the ease and familiarity of seeing their regular dentist for teeth straightening. Our online search tool can help in the search for dentists who offer Invisalign.
The Need for Discipline
Braces are sometimes put on as early as age 8. Invisalign is meant for adults and teens and not recommended for children under 12. These age restrictions are partly due to how much growing a child still has to do, but also their level of maturity and responsibility. Invisalign and braces require some discipline from wearers, no matter if they are children or adults.
Invisalign’s convenience means that it also requires more discipline than braces. In order to get the maximum benefit, patients must be vigilant about wearing them for the proper number of hours a day.
Since they are removable, they can also be misplaced or left behind when they’re taken out. If they’re not treated with care, they might crack or break, too. Replacing lost or broken trays can be costly. Luckily, since each tray is only worn for two weeks, it is sometimes possible to move ahead to the next set if something happens to the current one.
Braces also come with some rules and even some lifestyle changes. Invisalign users can eat whatever they want because they can remove the trays. People with braces do not have that luxury. As a result, they need to stay away from gum and chewy, sticky, or hard foods for the entire time the braces are on their teeth.
Braces provide all types of nooks and crannies for food to stick and hide. Extra effort needs to be put into dental hygiene while braces are on the teeth. Without good brushing and flossing habits, patients run the risk of cavities in their newly straightened teeth.
People need to make an honest assessment of how much self-discipline they will have with Invisalign or braces. Neither one works all by itself. Both methods require a level of commitment and responsibility from the wearer in order to get the best results.
How Bad Are Your Teeth?
In some cases, the nature of the problem points directly to which solution is the best investment. Invisalign is best for mild cases of crowding, crookedness, or gaps. Braces will work for all of these, but also more seriously crooked teeth and malocclusions (overbite, underbite, and crossbite).
Braces are the best choice for fixing severe alignment issues. They can move teeth further distances in less time. They are a better value and investment for these cases.
Investing in the Best Solution for You
Both braces and Invisalign are effective ways to realign crooked teeth. Deciding which is the best option is a personal choice that will be different for everyone. Instead of just comparing cost, patients should weigh the value with the responsibilities of each method.
To review, these are the factors to consider when weighing Invisalign vs. braces:
- Condition of the teeth
Each person places a different value on these factors. Figuring out what is most important will help determine whether Invisalign or braces are the better investment.