Braces vs Invisalign: A Cost-Benefit Analysis
If you’re a parent trying to decide between braces and Invisalign for your teen, help is here!
First up, it’s great that you’re considering teeth-straightening options for your child. We’ve discussed the many benefits of straight teeth before — from how it boosts confidence and self-esteem, to how it improves oral health by reducing the risk of premature wear-and-tear, gum disease and cavities. Plus, there’s a better chance of achieving a true fix with orthodontic treatments in younger patients.
The big question now is whether you should opt for traditional braces or Invisalign Teen. In most cases, assuming your child is placed in the capable hands of a qualified dentist, both treatments should be able to deliver the same results. So why have seven million people* opted for the more expensive Invisalign treatment?
* Data from Align Technology dated 24 July 2019
At the end of the day, Invisalign treatment is like any other purchase decision — it’s worthwhile when the benefits outweigh the cost. To illustrate, we’ve done a cost-benefit analysis using industry averages and estimates. These figures may vary by patient and dental clinic.
In terms of treatment cost, Invisalign is more expensive
Like we mentioned, Braces is a cheaper treatment option than Invisalign Teen. This is mainly because of the technology that goes into Invisalign, from its 3D computer simulation of tooth movement to patented aligner material and more. For most Invisalign patients, the real value comes from being able to see their predicted end-result smile even before they start. No rude surprises, and plenty of motivation!
|Treatment Cost||$3,500 - $4,000||$4,500 - $7,000|
Invisalign technology also translates into a host of other benefits, like convenience, that are often discussed qualitatively. We’ve attempted to quantify some of them to help you put things in perspective.
While treatment cost is lower, braces ‘cost’ 4X more in time spent at the dentist
Invisalign’s technology ensures that every tooth movement is pre-planned in advance, so dental visits are less frequent and generally quicker. In contrast, brace-wearers typically need to visit their dentist at least once a month to have their braces tightened. This may not sound like much until you crunch the numbers.
Assuming a two-year treatment duration, dental visits alone could cost your child 4X the amount of time compared to Invisalign. Transport cost and commute time for braces would also be double that of Invisalign due to the frequency of visits.
|Frequency of Visits||Once every 4 weeks||Once every 8 weeks|
|Duration of Visit||30 minutes||15 minutes|
|Time Cost||12 hours||3 hours|
Assuming a two-year treatment duration
Invisalign takes about 3x less time for care and cleaning
With brackets and wires in the way, braces make it much more difficult to brush and floss. With Invisalign, your child just needs to pop the aligners off before meals, brush and floss per normal and put them back on. Assuming your teen diligently cleans their teeth, braces demand almost 3X as much time and care — and that’s not including the cost of interdental brushes that they need to use.
|Brushing & Flossing||8 minutes each time||3 minutes each time|
|Time Cost||11 days||4 days|
Assuming a two-year treatment duration
Metal braces may cut, while Invisalign offers protection
With metal in your child’s mouth, there’s a higher risk of injury during sports. If they fall down, metal brackets and sharp edges can cut, especially on impact unlike Invisalign’s smooth clear aligners that double up as a mouth guard for greater protection.
|Risk of Wear||Metal brackets may nick and cut and may require unscheduled visits to the dentist||Smooth aligners serve as a mouth guard for added protection.|
Both require compliance, in one way or another
In terms of compliance, we’re calling a tie between braces and Invisalign, since they both come with restrictions. On Braces, your child will need to watch their diet because hard, crunchy, and sticky food can damage brackets and wires, and make cleaning even more tedious. With Invisalign, your child needs to wear their aligners for 22 hours a day in order to achieve the agreed results.
|Diet restrictions||Avoid hard, crunchy, sticky food||None|
|Wear-time requirement||Always on teeth||22 hours a day|
|Risk||Damaged brackets and wires, Possible cavities from lack of proper cleaning||Slow or paused treatment|
To sum up, Invisalign involves a higher upfront cost but saves your child significant time and effort on a daily basis. Whether this makes it ‘worth it’ is subjective, as everyone attaches a different value to time and convenience. We recommend finding out more about Invisalign Teen, which is a specific type of Invisalign designed for teenagers, before making a decision. In addition to our cheat sheet for parents, which is a great place to start, consider getting some face time with an accredited Invisalign provider at i.Dental.