Invisible Braces Buying Guide

Last Updated April 2024

In pursuit of a straighter smile, people have endured all kinds of pain and discomfort from a mouthful of metal, including pokey wires and those dreaded rubber bands. Fortunately, metal braces aren’t the only option these days. Now you can straighten your teeth in less than half the amount of time as metal braces, for a fraction of the cost with comfortable, clear aligners.

That’s great news since a nice smile can make us feel more confident and comfortable in our own skin. It can also improve how others perceive us: In a study, 73 percent of participants said they’re more likely to trust someone with a nice smile than someone with a good job, outfit or car.

So if you’ve been curious about invisible braces, this guide is for you. We’ll cover invisible braces cost and treatment time, what to expect during the process and how to find the best invisible braces online. We’ve also included a complete buyer’s checklist to help you shop with confidence.

Invisible Braces

What Exactly Are Invisible Braces?

Invisible braces are the clear choice for anyone who wants a less conspicuous option for straightening their teeth. Invisible braces can refer to clear aligners, ceramic (or clear) braces or lingual braces, which are metal braces that are affixed to the back of the teeth instead of the front.

In this guide, we’ll focus mainly on clear aligners. Clear aligners are a step-by-step system of thin, clear, plastic trays that are molded to your precise bite and gradually move your teeth over time until they’re straight. Customers love clear aligners because they’re the least noticeable option and tend to be a lot more comfortable than other types of braces.

Do Invisible Braces Really Work?

The short answer is: Yes, they absolutely work. Clear aligners have been around for over 20 years now and have a successful track record. You can browse before and after photos on many of the brand’s websites to see just how well they work for their customers.

However, for the best results, you’ll need to precisely follow your treatment plan, consistently wear your aligners every day and be diligent about wearing your retainers as prescribed in order to keep your teeth from shifting after the treatment is over.

Clear Aligners vs. Braces

People mostly choose clear aligners due to their convenience and inconspicuousness, but there are other factors you’ll want to think about, too. Here are some of the most common considerations for choosing the best type of braces:

CLEAR ALIGNERS TRADITIONAL METAL BRACES CERAMIC BRACES LINGUAL BRACES
Inconspicuousness Least noticeable Most noticeable Less noticeable Less noticeable
Food Considerations Can eat anything when aligners are out; avoid gum and colored beverages while wearing aligners Avoid hard, sticky, crunchy foods (popcorn, gum, sticky/hard candy, pretzels, corn chips, corn on the cob, beef jerky, whole apples, raw carrots, nuts) Avoid the same foods as metal braces, plus anything that can stain or discolor the brackets (tomatoes, wine, coffee, tea, soda, ketchup, mustard) Avoid hard, sticky, crunchy foods (popcorn, gum, sticky/hard candy, pretzels, corn chips, corn on the cob, beef jerky, whole apples, raw carrots, nuts)
Dental Hygiene Requirements Recommended to brush & floss after eating & before putting aligners back in Recommended to brush & floss after eating (must use threader for flossing and special tool for cleaning between brackets) Recommended to brush & floss after eating (must use threader for flossing and special tool for cleaning between brackets) Recommended to brush & floss after eating (must use threader for flossing and special tool for cleaning between brackets)
Comfort Can be tender for a couple of days at the start of a new aligner step Can be tender for up to a week after wire is tightened, or while wearing rubber bands; brackets can also cause cuts inside the mouth Can be tender for up to a week after wire is tightened, or while wearing rubber bands; brackets can also cause cuts inside the mouth Can be tender for up to a week after wire is tightened, or while wearing rubber bands; brackets can also cause cuts inside the mouth
Cost $1,145 to $7,000 $3,000 to $7,000 $4,000 to $8,000 $8,000 to $10,000
Average Treatment Time 4 to 18 months 1 to 3 years 1.5 to 3.5 years 1 to 3 years
Treatable Bite Issues Minor to moderate alignment issues (crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, crossbite, some gaps, open bite, some crowding) Mild to severe alignments issues (crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, crossbite, gaps, open bite, crowding) Mild to severe alignments issues (crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, crossbite, gaps, open bite, crowding) Can treat the same issues as traditional metal braces with a few limitations (for example, deep overbites)

Pros and Cons of Invisible Braces

While invisible braces are a game-changer for some people, they’re not right for everyone. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider when deciding whether invisible braces are right for you.

PROS CONS
Can be more affordable than metal braces Must be diligent about wearing aligners for the full amount of time
Much less noticeable than other types of braces Must be removed to eat & must brush teeth before re-inserting
Removable and easy to clean—brushing & flossing is much easier Can be lost or broken
More comfortable than metal braces Only treats minor to moderate alignment issues
Convenient—can complete treatment without ever going to the dentist

How Much Are Invisible Braces?

The cost of invisible braces can vary based on the severity of alignment issues, how many aligners you’ll need over the course of your treatment and which brand you go with. On average, invisible braces cost can cost anywhere between $1,200 and $7,000. If you choose to purchase invisible braces online, you could save a lot of money, especially if you pay for the whole amount up front rather than through financing.

Good to know: Some companies charge an extra fee for their in-home impression kit, which is used to create your treatment plan and aligners, while others include it in the total treatment price. When exploring your options, you should take note of what’s included in the plan price, as well as any extras that you may be responsible for purchasing separately throughout the course of your treatment.

Most companies offer different financing options that allow you to make manageable monthly payments instead of paying in full up front. And good news if you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA): Most invisible braces companies accept both as a full or partial payment toward your new smile.

And while some providers do not work with insurance, others offer a service that assists you with navigating your insurance policy and determining whether you qualify for a reimbursement, so if you do have dental insurance, be sure to look for a company that will help you through this process.

How Do Invisible Braces Work?

The process is pretty straightforward. First, you’ll visit a dentist or orthodontist to get a 3D scan of your teeth, or take molds of your teeth using an at-home impression kit provided by the aligner company. The scans or molds are used to create a treatment plan and projection of your results.

Once you OK the treatment plan, your aligners are manufactured. It can take several weeks for them to be completed. You’ll typically receive all of your aligners at once, each set corresponding to a step in your treatment plan. From here, you’ll wear your aligners according to your plan and switch them out as prescribed until you reach the end.

A very important part of the process occurs after your teeth are already straight. That’s right: Retainers. Retainers will keep your teeth from reverting back to their old position. You’ll need to wear retainers indefinitely to keep your new smile in place.

How Long Does it Take for Invisible Braces to Work?

Your treatment time will depend on which invisible aligner provider you choose, as well as the severity of your alignment issues. However, most companies say that customers can expect to see results anywhere from three months to 18 months after starting treatment.

Do Invisible Braces Hurt?

You may feel a slight discomfort at the start of a new stage, as your teeth begin to shift. Most people describe the feeling as a dull ache rather than an acute pain. However, unlike metal braces, invisible aligners won’t cut up the inside of your mouth and aren’t as likely to irritate your gums.

Can Invisible Braces Fix Overbite?

Invisible braces work for those with mild to moderate alignment issues, including crooked teeth, crowded teeth, gaps in between teeth, overbites, underbites, crossbites or open bites.

Invisible braces aren’t for those with complex orthodontic issues or TMJ problems.

How to Choose the Best Invisible Braces?

When comparing invisible braces, you’ll find that most companies offer a similar product with similar results—a set of clear aligners that gradually move your teeth into their newly straightened position.

That’s why it’s important to consider the differences when choosing the best invisible braces for you. The main differences are aligner material, included accessories, treatment process, treatment duration, price, financing and payment options, expert involvement and satisfaction guarantees.

The best invisible braces are ones that are made by a reputable company, include treatment plans designed by experts, have proven results, provide ample support and offer a satisfaction guarantee to ensure you end your treatment with a smile on your face.

Determining the Right Invisible Braces for You

So how do you find the best clear aligner brand to get started with your treatment? Here are the key things to look out for:

Fitting Procedure

Are you comfortable with taking a mold of your teeth at home, or would you prefer the ease of going to your dentist or a scanning center for a 3D scan? How you’re fitted for your clear aligners is a key differentiator between some of the most popular brands, and it can help narrow down your search quickly.

Cost

In-office treatments tend to be more expensive than online-only brands, so if budget is a main driver for your decision, considering the cost can help you figure out which brand is best. Online providers like ALIGNERCO and NewSmile start at around $1,145 to $1,195, while in-person treatments like Invisalign can range from $3,400 to $7,000.

Treatment Process

The treatment process is fairly similar between clear aligner brands. With online companies, you’ll receive all of your aligners at once, at the start of your treatment, and your whole treatment will be completed at home. With an in-person treatment plan, you’ll visit the dentist every few weeks for a check-up and to receive your next set of aligners. The main considerations here are time commitment and comfort level—do you have time for periodic in-person appointments? Are you comfortable with completing your treatment at-home versus in-office?

Age

Clear aligners are a no-brainer for many adults—a barely-there option that allows you to go about your regular life without too many disruptions—but what about kids and teens? Clear aligners don’t require as much extensive dental hygiene maintenance as traditional braces do, but since they’re taken out while eating or drinking anything other than water, there’s a chance they could get lost or broken if not handled with care. Your teen will also need to be dedicated to wearing them for the full 22 hours per day. If your child isn’t the most diligent or frequently forgets to put their aligners back in after eating, it will slow down the treatment process. However, clear aligners are a better option for anyone who plays a sport that requires a mouthguard, as mouthguards generally fit better over an aligner than braces.

Reputation

When choosing an aligner provider, be sure to check out their credentials. How long have they been around? Are they FDA-approved? How are their online reviews? Is your treatment handled by a dentist or orthodontist, or is your plan overseen by a more general dental professional? Getting the answers to these key questions can help you find a reputable company for your clear aligner treatment.

Value

Does the company provide a good value for the money you’ll spend on treatment? While one-on-one dentist supervision accounts for the cost difference between in-person and at-home treatments, there are some perks and extras to look out for that add even more value to the bottom line, like free teeth whitening kits, free retainers, 24/7 support, insurance that covers lost or broken aligners and a money-back or satisfaction guarantee.

Customer Support

Support is an important part of the clear aligner process. You’re sure to have questions about your treatment or issues that come up, and you’ll want to have access to a support team to get them resolved quickly and keep your treatment on track. Be sure to check out what support options are available to you as you do your research.

Speed

Treatment time varies between clear aligner brands, though it depends on the severity of your alignment issue. So if a speedy smile is super important to you, you’ll want to take this into consideration as you make your decision. 

The steps before your treatment begins can vary in time from brand to brand, too, so if you’re eager to get started sooner, be sure to look into how long it takes to receive your aligners from the time that your scans or molds are completed.

Invisible Braces Reviews

With so many invisible braces brands to choose from, it’s important to do your research and find a company that’s right for you. A great place to start is by checking out our list of the best invisible braces to see our experts’ reviews and rankings of some of the most popular brands on the market.

Where Can I Get Invisible Braces?

Invisible braces used to only be available through your dentist or orthodontist. However, there are plenty of online aligner brands available now that allow you to complete the whole process from the comfort of your home. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option so you can figure out which is best for you:

Online (At-Home Treatment)

Ordering your aligners online means you don’t have to spend the extra time visiting the dentist to get a mold made or going in for frequent office visits and adjustments. This makes it a convenient option for people with busy schedules. Plus they start at a lower price point—some treatment plans start at just $1,145.

In-Office (Office-Based Treatment)

In-office clear aligner plans are administered by a dentist. You’ll go in for face-to-face check-ups every couple of weeks to check your progress and pick up your next batch of aligners. This option is great for anyone who is more comfortable with having a one-on-one interaction for the duration of their care, and has the ability to work regular office visits into their schedule. Although some online plans do work with insurance, it’s more likely for an in-office plan to be covered by your dental insurance.

Are Invisible Braces Right for Me?

While invisible braces work for a number of alignment issues, like underbites, overbites, crossbites, open bites, crowded teeth and minor gaps, they aren’t right for everyone. 

If you have more complex alignment issues, such as a larger space between teeth, your orthodontist may recommend traditional braces. Other cases where invisible braces might not be a good fit for you include intrusion, extrusion, tooth rotation, midline movement and misshapen teeth. Invisible braces companies use your molds or 3D scans to assess your alignment issues and determine whether clear aligners will work for you.

You should also visit your dentist to check out the health of your teeth and gums before getting invisible braces. Complete any necessary dental work before starting the invisible braces process. Even a minor filling could change the fit of your teeth aligners and require a treatment adjustment.

Let’s Do This: Your Invisible Braces Checklist

So now that you have a pretty good idea of whether invisible braces will work for your lifestyle and budget, you might be ready to start shopping around.

To help you navigate the invisible braces market, we compiled this checklist of questions to ask to ensure you find the best invisible braces for you:

  • Do you have to go in for a molding, in-person scan, send in an impression kit or submit photos?
    • Are there any other requirements to getting started?
  • How does the treatment plan work?
    • Is it an in-person or at-home treatment plan?
    • If in-person, are the offices conveniently located?
  • Is your treatment plan designed by a doctor, dentist, orthodontist or other dental professional?
  • What is the estimated treatment time?
  • What is the cost of treatment?
    • Are there any extra expenses (home impression kit, retainers, etc.)?
  • What payment options are available?
    • Do they work with your insurance?
    • Do they accept FSA/HSA payments?
    • Do they offer financing options?
    • Do they offer a discount for in-full payments?
  • Does the company offer nighttime-only aligners?
  • Is there a warranty or satisfaction guarantee?
  • What is their customer service like?
    • Do you have access to your dentist or orthodontist directly?
    • If not, what days and hours is the customer support team available?
  • What is the company’s reputation?
    • Do they have proven results?
    • What certifications do they have?
    • What do customers say about the company in reviews?

We hope this guide has armed you with the info you need to navigate the world of clear aligners and shop with confidence. Here’s to finding the right invisible braces for you and getting the smile of your dreams!