What are Invisible Braces?

Invisible braces are a newer, more discreet system of straightening your teeth than traditional metal or ceramic braces. The braces themselves are "trays" made from medical grade plastic (polyurethane from methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and 1.6-hexanediol) that are created from a 3D digitized scan of your teeth. This scan can either be taken by a professional or created from a putty mold you administer yourself. You then receive a series of aligner trays that generally must be changed every two weeks. The aligners are custom-designed to your mouth and slowly readjust your teeth positioning over time, usually 6-18 months.

Although there are several manufacturers of invisible braces, many people use "Invisalign" to reference all invisible braces because they were the first.  Invisible braces are, on the whole, more expensive than traditional braces, but usually are worn for a shorter period of time. Invisible braces must also be removed when eating and drinking anything except water. Unlike traditional braces, users of invisible ones must have the self-discipline to keep them in 22-24 hours a day. 

What Advantages Do Invisible Braces Have over Traditional Braces?

Although traditional braces are more effective for complex issues, the majority of alignment problems can be addressed by invisible braces, which have considerable advantages compared to metal braces. 

  • Eating - There are no issues with food getting caught, since patients must remove their invisible braces when they eat
  • Comfort - There are no wires or rubber bands to cause discomfort or difficulty when eating
  • Safety - There is no danger in injuring your mouth when participating in activities such as contact sports
  • Convenience - Invisible braces don’t require as many follow-up visits

Many of our top providers offer products that can be bought entirely online and delivered through the mail without the patient ever having to see an orthodontist or dentist. Though the product itself can be more expensive than traditional braces, you will save a lot in paying for office visits with this option.

How Much Do Invisible Braces Cost?

The cost of invisible braces is mainly dependent on how much adjustment your teeth need. Patients who require more time for alignment will require more plastic trays and will consequently be paying more. These days, most dental plans will at least partially cover invisible braces according to their own benefit schedules and lifetime payouts. Some plans have separate lifetime payouts for orthodontics and dental procedures in general that can be used in tandem. Some have lifetime caps for all procedures, period. Contact your provider to see what they have on offer for you.

Without insurance, invisible braces can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $8,500 depending on the severity of the case. See below for a ballpark idea of what some of the major dental plans may cover. Keep in mind that some providers may offer a financing option if you so choose.

  • CIGNA - Cigna's PPO will pay for your invisible braces treatment on a monthly basis as you go for up to a lifetime limit of $1,000. Generally the company will divide the total cost by the months of treatment and pay 50% of the monthly cost until the $1,000 limit is met. So if the total treatment cost is $2,200 over 18 months, Cigna will approximately pay $60 a month for the first 16 months. 
  • AETNA - According to our research, Aetna's PPO covers 50% of invisible braces cost up to $2,500, so we're talking a $1,250 lifetime maximum. However, make sure you check because there are Aetna plans that do not cover orthodontia at all.
  • MetLife - MetLife will generally cover $500 to $1,500 for invisible braces, depending on the plan you have. 

Types of Invisible Braces

There are four main types of invisible brace alignment trays. Full mouth is the most common, consisting of trays that affix to both upper and lower teeth. These are usually worn for the longest duration and are the most expensive. Short term (sometimes called "lite") are for less complex issues that can take up to 7 months. Partial aligners target a specific area of your mouth and are used to fix just a couple crooked teeth, or correct previous orthodontic work. This is the quickest alignment lasting up to 3 months. Finally some companies offer a Teen option. These are aligners that have special indicators so parents can verify if their child has been keeping the trays in for the required 22-24 hours a day. 

Where Can I Get Invisible Braces?

You can get invisible braces through your own dentist or order them online. With online purchase, there are two options. You can either book an office dental scan through the online provider's network, or skip the middleman entirely by choosing a company that will send you an easy-to-use impression kit that you can administer yourself. With this option, you send the kit back to the provider, which has in-house orthodontists prepare the digital scan from your impression mold. They make a determination about whether you are a good candidate for invisible braces. After this, they send you the alignment trays with specific instructions on how to use and when to change them. 


Top 5 Companies

#1
10 / 10
  • 60% less expensive than all other options
  • Monthly financing or single one-time payment
  • Features at-home impression kit
  • Visit SmileShop for professional scan
  • FREE online assessment
  • BPA-free invisible aligners
#2
9.2 / 10
  • Invisible, removable, made in America
  • Search large network of ClearCorrect providers
  • Covered by dental insurance
  • A discreet way to achieve straight teeth
  • Lower pricing than competitors
#3
9.1 / 10
  • First invisible braces provider in the world
  • Patented 3D imaging system makes precise scans of your teeth
  • Weekly aligner changes reduces treatment time by 50%
  • Find an Invisalign-certified orthodontist in your area
#4
8.6 / 10
  • Clearer aligners than other options
  • $1849 for the full treatment
  • Two financing options available
  • Free whitening refills for life
#5
8.4 / 10
  • $1900 or $88/month for 24 months
  • Treatment lasts between 3 to 10 months
  • $95 modeling kit, full refund if you're not eligible
  • Licensed orthodontists in your state review your case
  • Free retainer and free whitening kit included
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How We Compare Invisible Braces

Product Specs

40%

The original--and, to this day, dominant--manufacturer of invisible braces is Align Technology, who markets the Invisalign brand. The company's main competitor is Texas-based ClearCorrect, LLC. In addition to these two big players, several providers manufacture and sell their own proprietary designs. Though each will obviously make claims as to the superiority or clearness of their individual designs, we've found that in general there is very little difference between the aligner trays a customer gets. Invisalign and ClearCorrect products are available directly from the companies, but are also offered though other reseller providers on our list. As such, the main differentiators in the invisible braces products themselves becomes service options, types of trays/aligners offered by a given company, and additional features. 

Service Options

Service options refers to how customers get fitted for and receive their invisible braces. The companies on our list offer two methods. To get fitted at a dentist's or orthodontist's office, customers can have a digital scan of their mouth. Participating dental clinics and networks of providers can be found online. Customers can then visit the office of their choice and have a digital scan, which the practitioner then forwards to the company. Customers receive their alignment trays in the mail complete with detailed instructions. The other option is to do the whole process completely independent of an office visit. This is especially advantageous for those who don't live near a participating dental clinic and for those who simply want the convenience of staying home. Companies that offer this feature will send you an impression kit. Following the instructions, customers make molds of their mouth, take photos of their teeth and gums, and mail the photos and molds to the company or clinic. A dentist or orthodontist reviews the molds and photos. If he or she determines you are a candidate for invisible braces, an in-house expert creates a digital scan from the mold. The alignment trays are created and mailed to the customer.

Types of Alignment Trays

There are four main types of alignment trays. Not every provider offers them all, so be sure to pay attention to this detail. Full mouth aligners are the most common, encompassing both upper and lower teeth. Short term aligners are meant for less severe issues, such as minor crowding and spacing, and can be worn for 5-7 months. Partial aligners are for even less severe issues still that can be addressed in less than 3 months with 7 or fewer stages. Finally, the "teen" product features compliance indicators and free replacement trays.

Additional Features

Not all providers throw in additional features, but those who do often include items like cleaning systems, free teeth whitening and gel refills, free appointments for initial evaluations, progress tracking tools, and appointment planning.


Pricing

30%

Pricing for invisible braces has gotten extremely competitive in recent years. With proprietary designs from independent providers continually challenging Invisalign and ClearCorrect, prices can fluctuate wildly. While most providers will still charge on a sliding scale depending on the severity of a given customer's alignment issues, there are some new players that charge a flat rate regardless of the complexity of the alignment. Invisible braces traditionally cost $3,500 - $8,000. But some of these online providers are undercutting this and offering the entire treatment process for less than $2,000. For companies offering this we recommend you check with customer review websites like the BBB to see if the service and accuracy of treatment is up to scratch. 

Some other considerations when evaluating a given company's pricing include: Like any removable personal accessory (eyeglasses, jewelry, etc.), invisible braces are subject to loss or theft. Does the company offer free replacements? If not, what is the cost of replacing lost or stolen trays? If a retainer is required post-treatment, does the company offer this for free or for an extra charge? Do they have a satisfaction or money back guarantee? Lastly, as invisible braces are expensive, do they have a financing option?


Customer Experience

30%

Many invisible braces providers have customer service hours on nights and weekends. The companies that stand out allow contact through chat and social media, in addition to the usual phone and email communication. Not all invisible braces companies operate nationally. Some only have a regional presence. This is important, because the dentist or orthodontist who reviews your case must be licensed by the state where you live.  So make sure to check our detailed review in order to verify whether an organization is licensed to provide their product in your area. Years of operation is also a good indicator of a company's customer service package. 

BBB Rating

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nonprofit organization promoting ethical business behavior and monitoring compliance by their 400,000 Accredited Businesses. Consumers wanting to make better-informed decisions and identify trustworthy businesses can find over 4 million unbiased customer reviews and complaints on BBB.org


Customer Questions & Answers

Do I need to see a dentist or orthodontist to get invisible braces?

Many people can get invisible braces without actually seeing a dentist or orthodontist. It's possible to order a kit that will allow you to make impressions of your teeth and show you how to photograph your mouth. The molds and photos are mailed to a consulting orthodontist for evaluation. If invisible braces are an appropriate treatment for you, they will be prescribed and ordered without you ever setting foot in a dental office.

Do I need to visit a dentist for adjustments?

Invisible braces that are provided by mail don't generally require patients to return to a dental office for adjustments. Instead, patients receive an entire series of progressively more corrective braces in the mail. They wear each configuration for about two weeks and then move on to the next, and then the next, and so on. In effect, each time they graduate to a new configuration, they are adjusting their braces themselves. However, patients who obtain their invisible braces through an in-person visit to a dentist or orthodontist usually have to return for regular appointments to receive the full series of braces. This is so a dental professional can monitor their progress and address any complications that arise mid-treatment.

How do invisible braces work?

Invisible braces work the same way that conventional metal braces do: by putting pressure on your teeth to force them into their proper or desired locations. But while metal braces are glued and wired into your mouth, invisible braces are removable at will. Although they must remain in your mouth for between 22 and 24 hours a day, you can—and should—take them out when you eat or drink.

Who is—and isn't—a candidate for invisible braces?

People whose teeth are irregularly aligned, who have healthy gums, and who have had their wisdom teeth out are generally good candidates for braces of any kind. But invisible braces are especially appealing to people who lead active, athletic lives because they don't cut up people's mouths when they get hit in the face. Invisible braces may be inappropriate for people who have severe orthodontic problems and for those who don't have the discipline to wear them most of the day.