Clear BracesThe teeth-straightening procedure of Invisalign is generally not covered under health insurance plans. Health insurance typically does not pay for any dental procedures, which is normally the job for dental insurance plans.

The Affordable Care Act does make oral health risk assessments for children up to age 10 part of the no-cost preventative care available, but it still does not extend to teeth straightening for children or adults. Invisalign would fall under the orthodontic procedure coverage of your dental insurance plan, although the plan may not be enough to cover the full cost of the Invisalign procedure.

What is the Invisalign procedure?

Invisalign is a treatment plan meant to straighten and move teeth into proper alignment. While it provides the same overall goal as traditional braces often do, the Invisalign website notes several differences. For starters, the treatment uses several sets of clear plastic aligners instead of the usual metal braces.

Invisalign aligners are not nearly as noticeable as traditional braces and they are also removable. You typically wear the aligners most of the day, taking them out only to eat and brush your teeth.

You also get a new set of aligners each time your treatment plan moves into the next stage. The process slowly and gradually shifts your teeth to the desired position, so every two weeks or so you get a new set of aligners that have a slightly different configuration than the last set in order to keep shifting your teeth to the desired location.

The length of the overall treatment plan varies, depending on the scope of the change you are trying to make. Most adult treatments last about one year, while teens can pretty much expect to wear Invisalign aligners for the same length of time they would have otherwise worn braces.

Is Invisalign better than braces?

The big selling point for Invisalign is contained in its name: the treatment is supposed to be nearly invisible. This may make the treatment preferable to people who are self-conscious about wearing braces, especially adults.

The plastic used in the Invisalign aligners is BPA-free and can result in less wear and tear in the mouth area than metal braces would produce. The ability to remove the Invisalign also eliminates food and bacteria build-up, which can occur around the fixed-in-place traditional braces.

The downside when compared to braces may be the cost. While dental insurance may cover part of either orthodontic treatment, you may still have to pay a considerable amount out of pocket for Invisalign. While exact costs can vary widely, the Invisalign website offers a cost calculator along with the note that many Invisalign providers offer financing―two key indicators that the treatment plan can be costly.

How can I pay for Invisalign?

Checking out any orthodontic coverage you have under your dental plan is the first step to figuring out how to pay for the overall procedure. Another option that can help pay for the cost is setting up a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Spending Account (HSA).

FSAs and HSAs both allow you to take money directly out of your paycheck so you can put it into an account meant to pay for medical expenses that go above and beyond what your health insurance covers. You can choose any amount of money up to the maximum limit you want to put aside to use for medical costs for that particular year and then have to use it up by the end of the year.

If you set up a budget plan for your Invisalign, you could plan to put money into your FSA or HSA to help pay for the treatment. Neither spending account gives you free money per se, but you do get a break on paying taxes on the money in the account.

As the Invisalign site notes, some treatment providers also offer financing for the plan. The site additionally notes that some of them offer the financing with a 0% interest rate.

Does Invisalign work for everyone?

There may be specific cases where Invisalign may not be the most effective treatment, in which case traditional braces or other orthodontic procedures may be a better option. Invisalign can, however, treat some of the more common teeth issues.

These include gaps between the teeth, spacing issues, and teeth crowding. Overbites and underbites may be helped with Invisalign, as may open bites where the teeth leave a gap in front when the jaw is closed. Crossbites, which is a condition where the upper and lower teeth don’t line up properly when the jaw is closed, may also be corrected with the procedure.

Even though the dental conditions may seem more aesthetic than anything else, misaligned teeth can lead to problems down the road. Those that scrape together can result in irritation and damage, while excess space or crowding can trap food and promote bacterial growth. Pain may also be a side effect from misalignments, as the jaw is constantly forced to move unnaturally.