Can I Afford Clear Aligners As A Teeth Straightening Alternative To Traditional Braces?
Dr. Robert Gire maintains three private offices in Southern California, Gire Orthodontics of La Habra, Chino Hills, and Ladera Orthodontics in Ladera Ranch. He’s an associate professor at the University of Southern California, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry in the pre-clinical orthodontic department. He’s a board-certified diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO).
How Much Do Aligners Cost?
If you are considering clear aligners as an alternative to traditional metal braces for you or a family member’s orthodontic needs, at some point during your research, you are going to ask, “how much are clear aligners?”’ or “are clear aligners expensive?” For years there was an urban myth that aligners were significantly more expensive than conventional braces. But, with more accessibility and innovative technology, you might see aligners cost as little as $80 per month!
As an orthodontist in practice for more than 12 years, I get these kinds of questions every day. And like many other things in life, the answer depends on what you’re buying. In this brief article, I hope to demystify the cost of teeth aligners and give you information that will be helpful during your orthodontic consultation so that you can make the right treatment decision for your needs at a price that works within your budget.
The Benefits of Clear Aligner Therapy
Let’s begin with a brief background on clear aligner treatment. Aligners, which have been around for about 20 years, are nearly invisible custom-manufactured, removable pieces of plastic that patients wear to move teeth incrementally and consistently. They apply gentle forces to move the teeth from their original position to a more optimal, esthetic, and functional position. Aligners are very popular because they are a discreet way to align teeth, and they can treat a wide variety of bite issues. Some of these issues include crowding, spacing, overbites, underbites, open bites, crossbites, and more.
Aligners may not be the right choice for treating severe orthodontic issues, but they can be highly effective for many patients. They are usually worn for 22 hours a day, all day and all night, except when a patient is eating, drinking something other than water, or brushing their teeth.
Some offices advocate eating while wearing aligners to help seat the aligners better. At Gire Orthodontics, we recommend removing them while eating to ensure they don’t cause additional issues such as distortion or damage to the plastic. Orthodontics customize treatment plans for each patient, so overall treatment duration and aligner cost do vary. Most patients, however, are usually treated in 10-20 months, depending upon the severity of the case.
Know Your Clear Aligner Options
It’s important to note that there are different aligner systems available today. Several main brands you have likely heard about can be purchased directly from the manufacturer and do not involve doctor visits because aligner costs are slightly lower. However, the science behind moving teeth into a more desirable position means you are moving bone and root structures, not just the teeth, so I always recommend aligners with orthodontic supervision.
The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) also believes aligner therapy must have a guided treatment plan with a qualified orthodontist. Unfortunately, my colleagues and I have treated too many patients who did not get the smiles they expected with mail-order products.
In addition to the many manufacturers who sell direct-to-consumer aligners, there are different aligner manufacturers that sell only to orthodontists. Some doctors do not provide aligner treatment. Others offer this treatment exclusively. Some favor one manufacturer’s product over another’s. For years, Invisalign was the only product available, but now there are other options with some significant advantages that you should understand. Find an orthodontist near you who works with clear aligners to discover which brand could be right for you.
Why I Prefer Spark
I prefer the Spark Clear Aligner System. Spark has been on the global market for several years, and the system produces truly beautiful smiles while offering patients a more discreet option with the clearest material available. The plastic is also resistant to staining, maintaining the clarity that keeps the aligner clear and virtually invisible. My patients also find Spark to be more comfortable than the leading aligner treatment because it’s made with a softer material and comes with polished, scalloped edges for more comfortable wear day and night.
Breaking Down the Cost of Aligners vs. Braces
Aligner cost is one of the biggest concerns patients have, and rightfully so. What makes things confusing is that each doctor sets their own price based on many factors, including location, years of experience, and the type of practice. Unlike a traditional consumer product, like a new computer or video game console, braces or aligner treatment under a doctor’s care don’t have a fixed price for all patients.
Treatment severity, methodology, and materials also impact aligner cost. Because aligner cost depends on your specific situation, you’ll need to ask your provider during a consultation how much clear aligners are for you.
The average teeth aligner cost falls into a similar range as the average cost for braces: $3,500 - $8,000. Thus, the median cost for aligner treatment through a doctor is similar to or slightly higher than metal braces.
Why DIY Aligners Cost Less
If you base your decision on cost alone, you will certainly find a cheaper alternative with a direct purchase from a manufacturer that eliminates the treatment supervision of a skilled orthodontist. This choice also eliminates the use of attachments (little tooth-colored bumps that help guide the teeth correctly) or interproximal reduction (IPR), ensuring optimum esthetics and predictability of the overall case, as direct to consumer products are unable to offer these auxiliaries.
Mail-order aligners also preclude monthly check-ins that allow your orthodontist to track progress and make changes based on your results. These direct purchases are often advertised at a low cost because they have less orthodontic supervision.
Making Aligners More Affordable
While it may be a little more expensive to choose an aligner brand that requires doctor supervision, you can receive affordable care with the help of your dental coverage. Your insurance may not cover the total cost of treatment, but it could be enough to ease your financial burdens significantly. Check how much clear aligners are through your insurance and discuss your options with your orthodontist.
Your orthodontist’s office can explain pricing after out-of-pocket costs, insurance benefits, and your recommended treatment plan. Whether you prefer braces or aligners, most offices will work with you to set up a convenient monthly payment plan spread out over the course of your treatment to make paying for your treatment easier.
I believe that everyone deserves a beautiful smile, and getting that smile can be more achievable than you think with insurance and a comfortable, customized payment plan. Discover how much clear aligners are for you when you speak to a Spark Provider today!
*The opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr. Robert Gire. Ormco is a medical device manufacturer and does not dispense medical advice. Clinicians should use their own professional judgment in treating their patients.