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Important Things to Know About Invisible Braces

McCall Martin
McCall Martin | Senior Editor

Crooked, crowded, or gapped teeth are all reasons people hide their smiles. A recent study revealed that 57 percent to be exact of Americans cover their mouths when smiling, due to feelings of insecurity about how their teeth look and 62 percent of young adults cover their mouth when laughing. While the thought of conventional braces may give us nightmares about algebra tests and middle school dances, the industry has made a few upgrades. Nowadays there are plenty of alternatives to metal braces including ceramic braces, lingual braces, and, more recently, the invisible aligner “braces” that are helping people get a healthy, beautiful smile.

Types of braces

Braces and invisible aligners are both designed to straighten your teeth over time. Traditional braces have been around since the early 1800s; the term “braces” wasn’t coined until the early 1900s, whereas invisible braces have only been around for the past 20 or so years.

Traditional metal braces are comprised of two basic components. A metal bracket is applied to the teeth and a bendable metal wire is then threaded through the brackets to apply pressure on the teeth. In the past, metal braces were extremely noticeable and made it difficult to play sports, eat certain foods, and experience your first kiss. New technology has made the metal braces smaller, less noticeable, and can now move your teeth faster and with less pain. This style is often popular among teenagers. However, there is still a slight stigma around metal braces and many adults opt for other options.

Ceramic braces or “clear braces” used to be a popular alternative to conventional braces as they are made from a ceramic material that is the same color and texture as your teeth. Popular among an older generation because of their discreet look, ceramic braces were once in high demand. Presently, ceramic braces are still offered by some orthodontists; however, they generally are more expensive, stain more easily, and are more brittle compared to metal braces.

Lingual braces (also called inside braces) are attached to the back of the teeth allowing them to be less direct than both the metal and ceramic braces. Orthodontists use scanned images of the insides of the teeth to create a unique, computer-generated bracket that is attached to the insides of the upper and lower teeth.

Invisible braces are a more inconspicuous way of straightening your teeth. The braces themselves aren’t exactly braces; instead, they are made from medical grade plastic using a 3D scan of your teeth. Invisible braces are trays that gradually shift your teeth into place. The trays are made from a putty mold — either taken by you or a dental professional. Upon receiving the impressions of your teeth, a licensed dentist or orthodontist will send a series of aligner trays that will be changed every few weeks. The aligners are custom designed to steadily adjust your teeth over a certain amount of time.

Pros and cons of invisible braces

Invisible braces work great for some people, others not so much. Here are the pros and cons to using invisible braces.


  • Extremely discreet — Invisible braces are just as their name suggests: invisible (at least as close as you can get). Many invisible aligner users have even commented on how most people don’t even realize they’re wearing them until they bring it up. Many adults shy away from traditional braces because they feel they look awkward and gawky, however clear aligners are fitted to your teeth, allowing you to smile and laugh without feeling self-conscious.  

  • Removable — Unlike metal, ceramic, and lingual braces, invisible braces are removable. Users can take them out when eating, teeth brushing, and flossing. More traditional braces are notorious for restricting one's diet as those with braces are told to avoid popcorn, gum, pretzels, apples and more. There are no diet restrictions with invisible aligners. 

  • Easy to clean — Invisible aligners aren’t hard to clean like conventional braces; however, this doesn’t mean they can’t be cleaned. Over time, the trays can become clouded or slightly discolored and will need to be cleaned. Luckily for you, it shouldn’t take longer than two minutes. Using a toothbrush, simply clean them with soap and water or baking soda and water. Some companies, like byte, include a free aligner cleaner in their aligner package.

  • Comfortable — One of the biggest complaints with metal braces is how uncomfortable they are. Wires and brackets are known to cause small nicks, and there are many horror stories of playing sports with braces. Wearing aligners is much more comfortable as the clear plastic is smooth with no sharp edges.

  • Can be done from home — An article by Forbes revealed that only 30 percent of millennials visit the dentist each year. Why? Well the ADA discovered that millennials are not getting dental insurance through their employer, as more than 69 percent of health plans don’t include dental insurance, so millennials are opting to not go to the dentist and spend their money elsewhere. Perhaps one of the best things about the invisible aligner industry is the fact that many companies such as byte, Smilelove, and Smile Direct Club give you the option to get straighter teeth while never having to visit the dentist.


  • Requires diligence — Invisible braces require consumers to wear them for a minimum of 22 hours a day. However, as you’re supposed to remove them for eating and brushing your teeth, you’ll have to remember to take them out for every meal and put them back in when you’re done. This can get annoying, especially when you’re at a restaurant and have to take your aligners out. Additionally, you’re supposed to brush your teeth after each meal, before putting them back in your mouth — meaning you’ll have to brush your teeth several times a day.

  • Expect some discomfort — Some consumers have mentioned sore mouths and occasional aches and pains. That being said, straightening your teeth requires the readjustment of your teeth, and a little discomfort is normal. You can use a pain reliever to help minimize the pain while your teeth adjust to your aligners.

  • Only treats minor to moderate alignment issues — Unfortunately, invisible braces aren’t for everyone, and some orthodontic issues will require metal or ceramic braces. For example, if you have a large gap in your teeth, invisible braces can’t always close the gap. According to The Orthodontists, invisible braces can only reliably close up to 6mm of space per arch (top and bottom teeth).

However, as the industry advances, new technologies are emerging to reduce the current limitations of invisible braces. If you’re curious to see if invisible aligners will work for you, we suggest you read consumer reviews to see if someone else has a similar orthodontic issue, or you can just order an impression kit and get the opinion of a licensed dentist and orthodontist.

Cost of invisible braces

The cost of your invisible braces largely depends on the extent of alignment your teeth need and how many aligners you’ll need throughout the treatment. The average price for invisible braces is between $3,500 and $8,000. However, you’ll need to talk with your dentist or orthodontist to get a better estimate of the final price.

If you choose to purchase invisible aligners online, you could be paying a lot less — especially if you pay the entire amount upfront.

This price doesn’t include the cost of the impression kit, which will vary depending on which company you choose, but when compared to other invisible aligner companies, this is a decent price reduction.

Many invisible aligner companies offer flexible monthly payment plans, which is helpful to consumers who don’t want to pay all at once. While you might pay a bit more by choosing the monthly payment plans, it isn’t a huge price difference.

Customers should also be aware that they can use their dental insurance, as well as their HSA or FSA debit card, to pay for the treatment. Many dental plans will cover your treatments the same way they would cover braces. It’s important to talk to your insurance provider before signing up for an invisible braces treatment plan to see if they can help reduce the overall cost.

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Invisible Braces Frequently Asked Questions

Are invisible braces better than metal braces?

It depends. If you have a mild to moderate alignment problem, then invisible aligners are a great option. Adults usually tend to lean toward this option as they are inconspicuous and draw less attention. Invisible braces work great if you’re willing to put in the effort and are diligent about taking them out to eat, cleaning them properly, and wearing them for 22+ hours a day.

However, if you have a more complex orthodontic issue, are prone to forgetting things, and don’t want to have to worry about taking your aligners on and off multiple times a day, than traditional braces are going to be a better fit.

Do I need to visit my dentist/orthodontist to get invisible braces?

You can, but you don’t need to. Many people will simply order an impression kit online and take a mold of their teeth. The mold will then be mailed to the companies consulting orthodontic team and they’ll determine whether or not invisible braces are right for you. They’ll then create a treatment plan and send you the aligners to your home — so you never have to set foot in the dentist's office.

How do invisible braces work?

Invisible braces are not that different from traditional braces (except in the way they look). Both invisible braces and metal braces put pressure on your teeth to force them into the proper location.

Do invisible braces hurt?

Most people wouldn’t say invisible braces hurt, so much as they ache. The aligners are using force to move your teeth into a specific position and that is going to be somewhat uncomfortable. However, unlike metal braces, invisible aligners aren’t going to cut up the inside of your mouth and aren’t likely to irritate your gums.

Do invisible braces really work?

If you use them correctly, yes! There are plenty of success stories of people using invisible braces and seeing results. However, you’ll need to follow your treatment plan and consistently wear your aligners. If one of your aligners is damaged or lost, contact the company immediately to order a replacement so you can get back on schedule as soon as possible. You’ll also need to wear the retainer after your treatment program is over to stop your teeth from shifting or moving.

How long do they take?

The average treatment time will vary depending on which invisible aligner company you choose and the severity of your case. However, most companies tell consumers that their smile will be improved anywhere between 3 and 18 months.

Am I a candidate for invisible braces?

Invisible braces are for those with mild to moderate alignment issues. Invisible braces aren’t for people with complex orthodontic or TMJ problems. However, invisible braces can usually help people who have: crooked teeth, an overbite/underbite, crossbite, crowded teeth, gaps in the teeth, and an open bite.

How much do invisible braces cost?

Depending on your provider, the cost will vary. For some companies and clinics, the cost will range anywhere from $3,500 to $8,000. However, ordering online will result in the cost significantly going down. There are several companies with competitive prices and you’ll end up paying less than $2,000. Before settling on one invisible aligner company, be sure to compare prices. Look at additional costs such as replacing lost or damaged trays, retainer costs, money-back guarantees, or available financing options. Look for promotional deals and ask your insurance provider if they will help pay for the cost.

What payment options are available?

Most invisible braces companies have some sort of financing option or consumers can pay the full price upfront. Customers may pay a little more with a financing option, but they’ll be able to spread their payments over an extended period of time.

Both FSAs and HSAs can be used for covering orthodontic treatments.

Where can I get invisible braces?

You can get invisible braces through your dentist or orthodontist or you can easily order them online. Ordering online helps cut out the time and costs of the middleman as you don’t have to visit the dentist to get a mold. Online aligner companies will simply send you an impression kit that you take your own molds and send them back to the company. If you’re a good fit for invisible braces, the company will send your aligners right to your door with instructions on how to use them.

The important thing to remember with invisible braces is there are plenty of companies out there to choose from. Be sure to do your research and find a company that is right for you. Here at BestCompany, we’ve reviewed some of the most popular invisible braces companies and ranked them with our unique algorithm to help you find the best company.

View Our Top-Rated Invisible Braces Companies

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