A woman is holding an Invisalign tooth brace

Are Clear Aligners Worth the Cost?

If you're thinking about straightening your teeth, you may want to consider getting clear aligners instead of traditional braces. There are many benefits to these transparent plastic corrective devices, but they can also be more expensive than the metal wires, brackets, and rubber bands that are the most common alternative. So is the added cost that comes with modernization in tooth alignment worth it? We'll compare your options to help you decide if clear aligners will align clearly with your budget.

What Are Clear Aligners?

Clear aligners are an inconspicuous, removable alternative to traditional metal braces. When you get these custom-made, clear plastic aligners, you'll receive several months' worth in advance, and you'll change them out at regular intervals (usually about every two weeks) to help shift your teeth into proper position. The entire series of aligners could take up to nine months or longer, depending on the amount of alignment needed. If you're hesitant to wear traditional wire-and-bracket orthodontic hardware but still want to straighten your teeth, clear aligners could be the right solution for you.

The American Dental Association discourages getting clear aligners directly from manufacturers in what's being called Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Orthodontics. Moving teeth is a medical procedure that should be done with the supervision of a licensed professional.

What Are the Benefits of Clear Aligners?

Before we get into a comparison between clear aligners and traditional braces, let's align on the most significant shared benefit between the two – straighter teeth. When your teeth are straight, you'll likely feel a lot better about your smile, and your mouth will be healthier, too.

When your teeth are aligned, they tend to harbor fewer bacteria because they're easier for you to clean. Better oral hygiene will decrease your risk of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and your gums may support your teeth better when they aren't overlapping, too. You could also have a decreased risk of chipping, breaking, or wearing away your teeth when they fit together correctly. Clear aligners and braces could even relieve abnormal stress put on your jaw from misaligned teeth.

What Are the Benefits of Clear Aligners Over Traditional Braces?

There are numerous benefits to wearing clear aligners for you to consider, like:

  • Aesthetics
    One of the biggest reasons you may prefer clear aligners is that you don't want the appearance of metal in your mouth. A lot of adults out there seem to feel the same way. These nearly invisible aligners could very well be the reason the American Association of Orthodontists is reporting a record number of patients over the age of 18 seeking orthodontic treatment.
  • Removable
    You can remove clear aligners at any time, enabling you to eat the foods you love, to practice good oral hygiene, and to feel a bit more comfortable while something is changing the alignment of your teeth.
  • Comfort
    Clear aligners feel more like the texture of your actual teeth than metal brackets and wires do. Traditional braces can rub on your cheeks, causing them to feel raw. Many people prefer the at-home biweekly change in clear aligners to the sometimes painful tightening of wires by orthodontists.
  • Fewer Orthodontic Visits
    Traditional braces require you to get your wires tightened about every six weeks. That's a lot of appointments. And if you don't have dental insurance to cover any or all of these visits, they can get expensive.
  • No Repairs Required
    Sometimes a bracket or wire may become loose with traditional braces, which means yet another orthodontist visit. With clear aligners, if there's any damage, you can switch to the next aligner in your series.
  • Easier Teeth Cleaning
    When wearing traditional braces, removing food and plaque from around the brackets and at the gumline can be a lot of work. Alternatively, when you have clear aligners, you can simply remove them and practice good oral hygiene the way you always do. Good oral hygiene is vital to the success of your treatment.

How Much Do Clear Aligners Cost Compared to Traditional Braces?

Clear aligners tend to cost a bit more than traditional braces, but there's no way to provide exact numbers without knowing the specific needs of your teeth. The best thing to do is speak with your dentist or orthodontist to get a reasonable estimate of the price.

For a ballpark figure, you can expect clear aligners to range anywhere between $3,500 and $8,000 compared to traditional braces, which can range from $2,500 to $6,000. The clear aligner price will depend on the amount of re-alignment your teeth require and how many aligners you need throughout the treatment. The cost also varies on a case-by-case basis for traditional braces, depending on your individual needs and the treatment length.

Most dental insurance plans cover clear aligners just as they would cover regular braces, but check with your insurance company and ask them about the extent of their coverage.

It's always a good idea to consult your orthodontist before deciding what treatment option is right for you. They know your specific needs and will be able to provide the best recommendations for care. They will be able to give you a better estimate of the price. And in the end, if your decision comes down to cost, the only person who can make that decision is you. If finances are a big concern for you, but you would prefer to have clear aligners over braces, you can ask your dentist about payment options. Many providers offer flexible monthly payment plans to spread the cost out over an extended time. And regardless of the treatment option you choose, we hope it makes you smile.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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