The True Costs of Invisalign

Rather than the traditional look of metal brackets and wires that come with standard ugly braces, Invisalign offers a clear, "see through", uncluttered Dental alternative that makes them practically un-noticeable.

It is basically a modern yet practical (& slightly cosmetic) twist on a old standing dental practice -- so as with all things modern, it is bound to be expensive right? Well in comparison to your traditional brace set... I was and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. But how much is Invisalign, really?

Well let’s explore the specifics first and take everything into account (from treatment time, payment plans,  to the amount of trays you are going have to have fitted etc.) so you can get a clear idea and whole cost breakdown as to what you can expect to shell out for each aspect and in turn the complete tooth-straightening routine from start to finish with Invisalign.

Then we can start to finish up with a careful and calculated strategy on how you can make Invisalign a whole lot more affordable.

What is Invisalign?

First, let’s be clear about what Invisalign really is [1]. It is simply an alternative (and arguably much better) way to fix the most common issues that make metal braces necessary, such as overcrowded teeth, excessive gaps between teeth, overbite, underbite, or even crossbite issues.

Instead of affixing brackets on each tooth and then stretching metal wire between them as is done with traditional braces, Invisalign is built like a plastic retainer that fits over the teeth to gently but consistently move them in the desired direction for proper alignment.

The main difference during treatment is that an orthodontist will adjust the wires or add rubber bands to traditional braces to alter tooth movement, but an orthodontist or dentist working with Invisalign will use tailor produced medical grade molds and order a series of plastic adjusters that -- then when used in the proper succession, will keep moving teeth as needed until the job is complete.

The entire Invisalign treatment process is typically broken down into six stages [2] with the patient:

  • "Diagnosis & Treatment Plan" carried out during the Invisalign Consultation
  • "PVS Implementation & Bite registration" with a recording of submission
  • "3-D Modelling via Computer and Software" which details with high degrees of accuracy the shape of your mouth and teeth.
  • "Clin-Check Review" by the Doctor (which has five steps in itself: Final Positions, IPR, Staging, Attachments & Pontics and overcorrection)
  • "Manufacturing Aligners & Delivery"
  • "Mid Course Correction Treatment and Retention & Refinements"

But Does Invisalign 'Actually' Work?

As Thomas P Connelly, D.D.S (acting as an objective & impartial NYC cosmetic dentist) states through the Huffington Post -

"Invisalign does seem to be a viable alternative to 'regular' braces".

It is only in the case of severe crooked teeth where Orthodontists and Dentists are more inclined to opt with a traditional metal brace as well as premolars being a slight issue for Invisalign to deal with.

It definitely does work but ultimately depends on two vital factors to ensure a quality outcome:

1. Experience of the Invisalign Providers - like with anything in this world, the more experience an individual has had at a particular task, the more likely they are better to perform it with someone who has none (in this case junior dentists). Providers who are well adept to treating with Invisalign will know all the ins and outs of every aspect of the treatment Invisalign attachments, the buttons, what teeth movement to expect, the elastics that connect and how to properly use partial braces etc. Getting a doctor who is of sufficient quality to carry out the Invisalign process is unfortunately quite difficult, even out of all the Invisalign providers that are certified.

2. Compliancy of the Patient - the fact the aligners are easily removable serves as both an advantage and disadvantage with Invisalign. Yes, they are great for maintaining a high quality oral clean and allows you to eat food etc. all normally (make sure you clean after you have eaten before putting them back). But, they still need to be placed in your mouth for 22 hours out of the day (exactly as the Dentist has directed) -- this is no easy feat. 

A lot of the Invisalign limitations that get addressed are usually down to either of these two issues (or both). You will find that those who are adept to using Inivsalign have managed to correct "severe crowding, spacing, rotations", "class 2 and class 3 malocculsions" and even with "jaw surgery" -  Jaskon K. Tam, DDS (Toronto Orthodontist). Make sure you check out before and after Invisalign pictures to get a sound idea as to what kind of results Invisalign can produce.

So to get Invisalign to 'work' for you, make sure you carry out the research, ask the questions to ensure you are getting a Dentist or Orthodontist (usually the latter as they specialize in this field) that has plenty years of experience (this however ends up coming at a greater expense) and that you yourself are disciplined enough and are prepared to take on the treatment. As it isn't 'light' by any means and will impact your lifestyle.

The Complete Invisalign Cost Breakdown

According to the Invisalign website [4], the average dental customer can expect to pay a final total fee in the range of $3,500 to $8,000 . This price is the complete cost, which means that the dental visits and ongoing fittings are included in that cost, as well as x-rays. Part of that cost, of course, is based on what your orthodontist will charge for his or her time, so one big variable is the provider you use for treatment.

The Invisalign site notes that a typical patient will spend around $5,000 for the procedure, which can last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years depending on the complexity of the situation being treated. This complexity is also a primary factor on cost, since a longer treatment period will require more molds and aligners, increasing the cost. It should be noted, however, that in these more complicated cases the cost of traditional braces will go up as well.

  • X Ray Scans, Photos, Head Scans, 3D modelling etc. - around $500, this is everything that is required to be sent of to Invisalign to make the appropriate and accurate calculations to correct your teeth and get your clincheck (that arrives in approximately two weeks). This is often non negotiable and non refundable, this being said this is often what they promote as well and have specials on.
  • The Amount of Trays (average $50 to $100 per tray) and Aligners, this is what typically places the significant hike up in price. Average is 24 trays, so that's $2400 please.
  • Office Visits and Check Cups and with this potentially refinements. Here, we are basically on your dentist's watch and so you are paying him or her for all the time you take up. The more experienced he or she is, the more expensive they will be typically. If we check the Bureau of Labor Statistics for Orthondists they have a median hourly wage of close to the $100 mark ($94.31) as of May 2013 [7].

Note: that the patient fee for the case for the dentist is always standard and Align Technology Inc quoted that price back in 2010 to be on average of $1,550 (expect it to be higher now in 2014). Hence, all the additional costs (e.g. labor from the dentist, X rays, scans etc.) are flexible and reflected as according to the practice you go to.

Tip: when negotiating over your payment plan, see if the practice is willing to throw in any freebies such as a free teeth whitening session (it definitely has been known) -- besides it is also worth a shot.

Costs Compared to Metal Braces

How does this $3,500 to $8,000 range compare to the cost of metal braces? The answer is that they are very comparable. In fact, this is the amount you can expect the typical final price of metal fittings to be. Especially for the average dental patient that needs routine adjustments, the cost of either option can easily fall in the middle of this cost range.

Invisalign CostCredit: Credit: Wikimedia Commons | Author: Smikey Io

For mild cases that will not last a year or more, you can expect to hold costs down to the lower end of the price range, while significantly longer treatments creep up to the top of the scale. This longer timespan is where the cost of traditional braces may become more attractive. There are also some particularly complex dental issues, where extreme movement is required, for which metal braces may be the only choice.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons | Author: Smikey Lo (CC 3.0)

There are many testimonials for Invisalign and metal braces published online, and past patients routinely report a total cost in the range that supports the quotes on the Invisalign site for both methods.

For Top Teeth Only & For Bottom Teeth Only

There are a lot of questions that float around online that ask for cost estimates on just top teeth or just bottom only, as detailed above (and detailed below) it is obviously very difficult to give you an accurate price estimate (and in that case you will be dissappointed). Where there are just so many factors that have to be taken into account when pricing up Invisalign, but typically speaking there isn't all that much difference between the two (they cost pretty much the same as if you were treating one compared to two).

It depends mostly on 'how much adjustment is needed' for either the bottom or top teeth and from that how many trays need to be manufactured (they take typically 10 working days for Invisalign to ship back to the dental practice) and from there how long the treatment process takes. This being said, all else equal, there is absolutely no cost benefit to just doping one arch over the other (whether it be bottom or top) and not fully.


Although, the above is the general consensus from Dental practices within the United sates, I have seen Clear Braces based in Ireland sell something called Invisalign Lite (one arch treatments) at €3,450 and the full treatment for €3,850. So this could be something to quote when you go into your clinic the difference of 400 euro roughly translates into $550.

How Much is Invisalign Near You?

City/State Cost Estimate City/State  Cost Estimate
Miami, FL $6300 Bloomfield Hills, MI $6700
Dickinson, TX $6500 Bolingbrook, IL $5000
Phoenix, AZ $6000 Cambridge, MA $5000
La Mesa, CA $3300 White Plains, MD $5900
Lithonia, GA $3000 Washington DC $6180
Fontana, CA $4000 Orange, CT $6000
Belmont, CA $6000 South Hadley, MA $6950
Tracy, CA $3500 Hinesville, GA $5400
Sacaramento, CA $6800 Atlanta, GA $3000
Klamath Falls, OR $3500 Memphis, TN $3500
Puyallup, WA $6000 Huntsville, AL $3400
Seattle, WA $4500 Greenville, SC $3700
Kirkland, WA $3000 Greenville, NC $5100
Cambridge, MN $5200 Virginia Beach, VA  $3500

*Note: all cost estimates are sourced as exactly that 'estimates', all prices are case by case and geographical location is a small (yet significant) factor in how much your potential treatment will be. The sole purpose was to demonstrate that costs vary from state to state, place to place. Sourced: realself[8]. All data was gathered through their collection of Invisalign reviews.

How Much is Invisalign Around the World?

Country Invisalign Cost Estimate
United States $5000
UK £4200
Australia AUD $7000 [5]
New Zealand NZD $9000 [6]


So Why is Invisalign So Expensive?

Well as stated above, they aren't actually that much more expensive than your typical set of braces that will essentially do the same job (although in a much longer period of time) and of course we have factored in the orthodontists procedure treatment, but still $5000 for a bit of plastic? I hear what you are saying.

However, that 'piece of (medical grade) plastic' is tailor made for you, whereby a sophisticated program and software has scanned your teeth and oral structure and designed a special set of Invisalign trays 'just for you'. From there, Invisalign now have a 3D structure of your teeth and from there need to figure out how to gradually and prominently move and straighten your teeth. As you can imagine, a lot of time and care goes into every patient's case and isn't generic. 

Provider Costs

Remember that a big factor in the total cost may be based on the provider you choose. Invisalign may be administered by either a dentist or orthodontist, and which is right for you is a personal choice, but expect an orthodontist to command a higher fee than a family dentist.

The experience level of your dentist is also a factor. A dentist that is in demand or who also performs other higher paying procedures may charge a premium for his or her time, where a less experienced dentist or a practitioner in a new dental office may be seeking more patients and offer a great deal on treatment.

Geographic location can be another huge factor in cost. If you live in a large city, you may find the cost is higher than it would be in a smaller town simply because the cost of having an office in a prime real estate market is higher. You might be surprised at the savings possible by heading to the outskirts of town for care.

Even insurance coverage will make a difference when it comes to choosing a provider. If keeping costs down is your goal, check with your insurance company to get a good idea of what they will cover based on whether your plan is accepted at the dental office, or whether that provider is in or out of the preferred network.

Paying for Invisalign

As noted before, the first place to start in paying for the aligners is your dental insurance plan. Most of the dental plans out there will cover the cost of Invisalign in the same way they will cover metal braces, so this can help to defray some of the cost.

Beyond insurance, you can take advantage of tax-advantaged plans that may be available to you to save up and pay a lower real cost by using either a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA). Both will let you pay in before-tax dollars, which is like getting a nice discount equal to your tax rate right off the top.

With an FSA you can save through your workplace into a savings account that can then be used to pay your orthodontic bill tax-free. The only thing about this is that you must pay for the cost in the year that it was incurred, so a bit of pre-planning is required. Check your FSA plan options and the rules that apply to see if this is a fit for you.

With an HSA, you also can save money tax-free, but the rules on using the money are more lenient. While it still must be a valid medical reason, the year of treatment does not have to be the same year that you pay. To have an HSA you must have a high deductible health plan as defined by the rules, so check your current plan to see if this is an option. If so, this makes a great way to pay for Invisalign as well as saving some extra cash for any other future medical expense or even retirement.

How Much is Invisalign? $62/month for Two Years

Invisalign Promotion

You don’t often see a sale on dentistry, but you may find a sale on Invisalign. Because this is a product offered by a company that is separate from your dentist office, they actually do run promos from time to time. Promotions may be found online or even at a site like Groupon.

On top of company promos, dentists and orthodontists may also offer promotions on Invisalign from time to time, especially for new providers or for dentists looking for more new patients. This can be another way to save hundreds of dollars on the total cost of the procedure.

Financing for Alignment of Teeth

Once you have applied all other forms of payment to the total cost, there may still be one more way to defer the cost of the complete Invisalign process into the future, and that is with dentist financing. If you don’t have the cash and want to keep the final cost off of credit cards, many dentist offices will finance the procedure themselves over an extended period of 1-2 years or more, depending on their rules.

While this is very unlikely to be interest-free financing, the rate may be favorable and can easily make the cost more affordable so that you can begin the process of improving your smile now instead of waiting.

Why Invisalign?

How Much is InvisalignCredit: morguefile.comAs you can see, there are many ways to cut the total cost down, but why do people like the Invisalign option better than braces anyway? Well, there are several advantages that make them popular.

The most obvious reason is that they are see-through, and casual observers are unlikely to even take notice of them. This plastic shell improves the comfort level for many users too, which is another advantage. Where metal braces can make for a sore mouth or even cut a person if their cheek presses against something, that is not an issue with Invisalign.

When it comes to oral hygiene, the advantage is clear. Because it is simple to remove and replace the aligners, they can be taken out to brush and floss teeth, which makes that process much easier than it is with braces in the way. This also make it easier to keep them clean by brushing the aligners themselves, though some patients do not enjoy this task.

The aligners may also be taken out when eating, which means that eating steak or candy is as easy as it was before, where braces can make eating certain foods difficult or even forbidden. There are however a whole range of benefits  (e.g. the pain inflicted and "decrease in the quality of life" is less so with Invisalign compared to fixed appliances, hence less pain medication is typically needed in comparison [3]) as well as drawbacks to consider with Invisalign.

Achieving a great smile in comfort and without a face full of metal is possible with Invisalign, and the total cost is on par with that of metal braces for most people. By picking the right provider and applying a promo or using a tax-advantaged payment method, you can reduce the cost even further. If you are looking for a cost-effective alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign is worth a look.

10 Factors That Impact the Cost of Invisalign List

  1. Location, Location, Location - where your dental practice is set up will have an obvious influence over the cost of your Invisalign treatment for a few reasons: there might be a naturally higher rate of pay in your area (e.g. London), another maybe that there aren't a lot of dental practices around that offer Invisalign -- hence less competition -- higher a price (a simple case of supply and demand economics).
  2. How Long Your Overall Treatment Will Take - although it typically takes 2 weeks per tray, there are again a whole range of implications that can arise to delay the completion of the treatment e.g. are you abiding by the 22 hours per day rule, missing appointments (therefore re-scheduling them), adjustments and refinements needed -- all this can add to the amount of time you see the Dentist or Orthodontist and hence the bill. But, for instance the case of 6 months is around $3000.
  3. Dentist Quality and Experience - again obviously expect to pay more for a better dentist who has had more time dealing with Invisalign than that of a junior dentist. They will obviously just have that edge in knowing what is what and how it all pans out, given they have dealt with numerous cases.
  4. What the Invisalign Needs to Do? - different procedures require a different set of aligners and trays so asking "how much is Invisalign for top teeth?" will have slightly different cost to asking "how much is Invisalign for bottom teeth?" (given all else equal). The same goes for comparing an adult who wants Invisalign to that of a teen, no set of teeth are exactly the same (different shapes and sizes which will move and straighten at different rates).
  5. How Good is Your Dental Invisalign Insurance Coverage? - if you have been given the typical $5,000 cost price for the Invisalign treatment but your Dental insurance program is willing to pay part of the bill (usually around a quarter) you might have just knocked off $1250 to make the bill $3,750. Yet again, you might be without dental insurance.
  6. Local Invisalign Coupons or Specials - believe it or not, dental practices actually offer discount vouchers or Invisalign treatment, just head over to Groupon and you will see exactly what I mean. For instance Invisalign in Chicago (date: 20/04/2014) through Groupon they are offering a deal of $2899 at Dental magic that costs $5000 typically in value. So this is something you should definitely consider to try and get Invisalign cheap.
  7. Use Your Health Savings Account (HSA) - this is a tax advantaged option whereby if you have filled up in the past, this is a prime time to use it. If you don't have one, you can get one if you have a high deductible health care plan, make sure to see their rules for details.
  8. Use Your Flexible Savings Account (FSA) - another tax advantaged option where you can get up to $2500 of the cost covered through taking a proportion of your income every month (before it gets taxed). An account that basically operates under the same guidelines as a business does for their taxing -- so this is a great plan of action to get involved in, where you will ultimately save yourself money from the tax side of things.
  9. Negotiating Your Monthly Payment Plan - after the multiple deductions from the cost of your Invisalign treatment, you may have about a $1000 or so to deal with. You will find the dental practice will be very open with you in offering a fixed monthly payment plan. Usually they will offer either a low interest rate or actually interest free (especially if you make a downpayment there and then), if you can get to this stage with a 0% interest make sure you max the term usually up to 24 months. This is because you will be saving 'real money' due to inflation -- whereby $50 will be worth more now in 2014 Summer than 2016 Summer.
  10. Listen to the Orthondist/Dentist - usually they want what is best for you. So if you come right out and say it "how do I make Invisalign less expensive or as cheap as possible?" they will give you the terms out right, there and then to make the Invisalign as affordable and cheap as possible. E.. they might say if you pay all at once, they might offer you a discount of 10% or so, if not, you might be better off looking elsewhere.