What’s The Cheapest Way To Straighten Teeth?

Wondering what’s the cheapest way to straighten teeth? Is it clear aligners, lingual braces or veneers?

Everyone wants a beautiful smile, but not everyone can afford to “beautify” their smile. Teeth straightening can be quite expensive. Orthodontics treatments such as traditional braces and Invisalign can range from $4,000 to $10,000 or even more, depending on the treatment plan needed. Fortunately, thanks to the advancement in technology, there are now plenty of low-cost treatment options out there that can straighten your teeth. Read on to learn more about the cheapest way to straighten teeth.

Before you dive in and look for different teeth straightening options, it would be wise to know the insurance and payment options available for you.

What you should know about dental insurance and teeth straightening

The dental insurance coverage for teeth straightening depends on whether the treatment is medically necessary. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) updated its policy in medically necessary care in 2014. What it means is that the malocclusion (including craniofacial abnormalities or anomalies) that compromise the dental health, physical, and emotional health of the patient is covered by dental insurance. However, the treatment to correct the malocclusion should be based on a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis done by a licensed orthodontist.

It is also important to note that, while most private dental insurance policies will cover a percentage of the orthodontic care, each policy has a different definition of what is “medically necessary orthodontic care”. Thus, it is best to do your own research when choosing a dental plan. If you want a plan with more comprehensive orthodontic benefits, then you should check out Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans.

The cheapest way to straighten

So to get straight into it (pun intended), the cheapest way to straighten teeth, by far, is generally with at-home teeth aligners. Depending on the brand, the complexity of the treatment process, the length of treatment, the number of clear aligners you need, etc., the treatment could cost from as cheap as $2,000 to around $5,000. Some options (brand) cost as little as $1,800. With that said, is it the cheapest the best way to straighten teeth?

To best answer this question, it is important to understand what malocclusion is, along with tested-and-proven orthodontic treatments available in the market.

Understanding Malocclusions

Malocclusion (crooked or misaligned teeth) is a common dental condition. It doesn’t only affect your oral and overall health; it can also have a strong negative impact on your self-esteem and self-confidence. Most people don’t have perfectly straight teeth. Some, however, have bad malocclusions that need orthodontic treatment to fix their bite, speech, and their smiles.

Three classes of malocclusion:

Class 1 – Minor front teeth crowding when molars align (most common)

Class 2 – Lower teeth and jaw is overlapped by the upper teeth and jaw

Class 3 – Lower jaw is pushed forward in front of the upper jaw

With these three classes, there are seven types of misalignment:

  • Crowded teeth (Class 1) – Not enough space in the upper and/or lower jaw for the teeth to align properly
  • Diastema (Class 1) – Small gaps between teeth
  • Overbite (Class 2) – The upper teeth and jaw protrude significantly over the lower teeth and jaw
  • Crossbite (Class 2) – Bottom teeth is outside the upper teeth
  • Overjet (Class 2) – Upper front teeth is set outwards and ahead of the lower front teeth
  • Underbite (Class 3) – The lower jaw protrudes forward
  • Open bite (Class 1, 2, and 3) – When the upper and lower teeth cannot make contact when the mouth is closed

Most malocclusion cases are inherited, while some are caused by birth defects, teeth abnormalities, childhood habits, trauma and injuries, and failed dental procedures.

Fortunately, almost all types and cases of teeth misalignment can be corrected. The type and length of treatment, of course, depends on a lot of factors, such as the type of malocclusion, severity, age, health, and overall condition of the patient.

Different ways to straighten teeth

Traditional metal braces: $4,500

Traditional metal braces by far, are the most common solution for teeth alignment or straightening. This technique has been used for decades, and it is the oldest and most trusted method in the book. It involves the use of metal brackets, wires, dental glue, and elastics. While it can look unsightly, unappealing, and uncomfortable, it is the most effective teeth straightening method for years.

People opt for this treatment often has significant dental problems, such as:

  • Densely crowded teeth – The jaws are too small, leaving no room for the teeth to line up properly. As a result, some teeth are pulled, while others are pushed out from their positions.
  • Missing teeth – Gaps left behind by missing teeth are filled by neighboring molars, causing smaller gaps between teeth.
  • Injury – Severe trauma can cause serious injury to the roots of the teeth. Some teeth can become loose due to underlying jaw problems.

The cost for metal braces treatment is around $4,500, depending on the severity of the condition. The treatment plan involves multiple visits to the dentist or orthodontist for checkups and readjustment/or retightening of the braces to ensure it provides constant pressure to the teeth and continuous tooth movement in the right direction.

Ceramic Braces: $6,000

If you don’t like the idea of wearing metal around your teeth, then this is a good alternative for you. Ceramic braces treatment involves the use of white brackets, just like the natural color of real teeth. Like braces, it also uses wires to connect the brackets and pull teeth together to the right directions and spots. It uses pretty much the same mechanism as its traditional counterpart, but it looks different.

Ceramic braces typically cost around $6,000. However, you may have to pay more if your delicate ceramic braces are damaged by food (hard candies, sticky gum), drinks (ice in your drink can bump against the ceramic), and injuries (contact sports, elbow to the mouth, or a ball hitting your fact can damage and break the braces).

Since ceramic is way less durable than metal, you will spend a lot on repairs of your braces.

Lingual braces: $9,000

If you don’t like the idea of having brackets and wires on your teeth, you can choose lingual braces. Lingual braces have some similar components as traditional braces. But rather than being fixed on the front side of the teeth, they are fixed on the backside, side of the teeth, and on the tongue – hence the name ‘lingual’. Since they are behind the teeth, they are not as visible.

Lingual braces take a long time to attach and to readjust. All this hard work adds to the final bill, which is around $9,000 or more.

Invisalign: $5,500

The invisible and seamless plastic aligner of invisible braces like Invisalign is probably the most aesthetically-pleasing way to straighten your teeth. This is why it’s the most popular choice for teeth alignment and straightening among adults who don’t want people to know they are wearing braces. Similarly, kids who worry about bullying in school prefer this teeth-straightening method.

Invisalign is done in the office by a licensed orthodontist accredited by Invisalign. The process starts with the use of an impression kit which takes the impression of your mouth, jaw, and teeth. The impression is then sent to Invisalign manufacturer.

Clear aligners, however, work only with mild to moderate malocclusion. However, for its purpose, it is one of the fastest and most effective teeth straightening methods, especially for straightening front teeth. Invisalign treatment, however, is not cheap, as the price normally starts at around $5,500.

Home straightening kits: up to $1,800 to $3,500

As said earlier, home straightening kits are probably the cheapest way to straighten teeth. They are easy, quick, and promise good results, all without having to visit your dentist’s office every month or two. There are just a couple of caveats; it’s not suitable for everyone and there are no dental professionals who will pay close attention throughout the treatment process.

Some people have good results using at-home teeth-straightening products, but these are usually limited to mild malocclusions. Also, some had a bad experience using DIY solutions like this, as ill-fitting teeth aligners left residual damage to their teeth and jaw.

Impression kits are usually priced at $59 to $95, while the rest of the treatment can cost up to $1,895-$3,500.

Benefits of teeth straightening

So why should you go through all these hassles and expenses to get your teeth straightened?

While you might think that teeth straightening is all about looking good, there are actually many medical reasons why you should fix malocclusions. Crooked and misaligned teeth can cause various oral and physical problems, and depending on the severity of the malocclusions they can cause:

• Difficulty eating

• Speech problems

• Risk of damage to other teeth

• Muscle strains

• Problems maintaining good oral health

Crooked and misaligned teeth are harder to clean. This makes the teeth more vulnerable to plaque buildup, which leads to tooth decay and irreversible damage. On the other side, straighter teeth are easier to brush and floss, significantly reducing your risk of cavities and gum disease.

Aside from the obvious dental and physical problems, the psychological effect of having to live with malocclusion is undeniable. It can easily affect self-confidence and self-esteem.

Other important benefits why you should straighten your teeth include:

• Less wear and tear for your teeth

• Better digestion since you can chew food properly

• Reduced risk of developing jaw issues (temporomandibular joint problem)

• Reduced neck and head pain (chronic headaches can be caused by bite issues)

Should you go for the cheapest way to straighten teeth?

A lot of people have shown keen interest in straightening their teeth without the use of metal brackets and wires. This is why clear aligners like Invisalign became a great option for a lot of people, especially among adults. The next innovation to this kind of orthodontic treatment is the complete elimination of a dental professional’s supervision via at-home teeth straightening kits. But are they really a viable option? Are they effective? More importantly, are they safe for your teeth?

How DIY at-home teeth straightening works

As with in-office or in-clinic clear aligners like Invisalign, the treatment process starts with an impression kit. However, instead of doing it in the dentist’s clinic, you need to make your own impression at home. The brand will send you an impression kit that will allow you to make a 3D mold of your teeth. You will then send your dental impression to the manufacturer so they can make your aligner trays. A series of clear aligners with small increments will be made based on your impression. These aligners are specially made and custom-designed to fit over your teeth.

You will wear one tray for one to two weeks before moving to the next until you finish the last tray. By the time you are done with the last aligner, your teeth will be aligned and straightened.

Some brands screen patients using 3d image scans. They have partner dental clinics where potential patients can get accurate impressions of their mouths. They need to examine your impression before deciding if you are a good candidate for their treatment.

Why are people turning to DIY versions of teeth straightening? The obvious reason is the price. Orthodontic treatments like braces and Invisalign are expensive. While DIY solutions like this claim to offer the same solution for around 60% less the price.

Pros and Cons of At-home Teeth Straightening Solutions


• Affordable

• No in-clinic visits needed before, during, or after treatment

• Faster treatment process

• Discreet and removable aligners

• Easy to clean

• Easy to brush your teeth

• Flexible payment plans


• No professional supervision (though some brands offer remote monitoring)

• Can only correct mild to moderate malocclusions

• Do not require x-rays

• No endorsed by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)

Dangers and risks associated with at-home teeth straightening

Dental professionals have voiced their warnings against DIY straightening kits, saying these products, without the supervision of professionals, can actually cause irreparable damage to the teeth.

No professional supervision

The absence of a dentist or orthodontist in the treatment process can be truly risky. Adjusting teeth in your jaw, as you can probably imagine, doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and the treatment must be adjusted during the process based on the movement of the teeth. At-home straightening doesn’t include monitoring, which is a crucial part of any orthodontic process.

It’s not for everyone

Another risk of at-home teeth straighteners is that it simply doesn’t work for everyone. A dental professional can advise you on all your options and alternative, and work with you to implement a customized tooth straightening plan, considering all the options available to them and your preference. At-home teeth straighteners don’t take these factors into account.

Also, not everyone is eligible for this kind of treatment. If you have severely misaligned teeth, untreated discrepancies in your jaw, untreated cavities, gum disease, or existing dental restorations (bridges, partial dentures, or implants), then at-home teeth straightening is not the best solution for you.

Underlying dental problems may go unnoticed

Additionally, by avoiding the trusted guidance of a dental professional, you could be missing potential and significant issues with your teeth, their roots, and your jaw. Dentists and orthodontists require x-rays and check the overall health of your mouth before suggesting and proceeding with any dental process. Significant complications on the teeth and gums may be present, but not caught before the application of teeth straightening treatments. If gone unchecked, these underlying problems could affect your attempt to correct your teeth and possibly even cause serious harm.

It could cost you more

Considering all the potential problems listed above, you could end up spending more with at-home teeth straightening kits than if you had made an appointment with a licensed orthodontist.

Because of the absence of professional supervision, you may end up with teeth worse than before you started the treatment, requiring you to pay extra money to fix the damage.


The days of metal braces as the only option to straighten your teeth are long gone. Today, there are tons of good options, even affordable options to get straighter teeth and a more beautiful smile. But as with anything else in this world, cheaper isn’t always better.

Traditional braces, whether metal or ceramic, is still the best option, along with clear aligners like Invisalign. At-home teeth straighteners are good if you are looking for an affordable solution for mild or cosmetic straightening. However, you can only be truly safe with them if it uses a program that provides professional supervision.

You can never go wrong with choosing teeth straightening procedures or products that come with the supervision of a licensed dental professional. While professional orthodontic care can be costly, many dental clinics offer flexible and monthly payment plans to help you cover the cost. This is extremely helpful if you don’t have dental insurance included in your health insurance policy. In most cases, the overall cost of your treatment will be spread out over the period of the treatment, often in manageable monthly payments. Thus, it’s good to check it with your dentist first. Better yet, shop around for dental clinics in your area and look for one that offers the most suitable payment terms for you.

You can also choose to use flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HAS) to help pay for your orthodontic treatment. In most cases, teeth straightening is considered and covered as eligible orthodontic care.

If your dentist or orthodontist determines you need extensive work done to correct the alignment and properly straighten your teeth or fix your jaw, then surgery may be the best solution for you. Corrective jaw surgery is only recommended for severe cases of jaw misalignment, it is an extensive process that is typically more expensive than other orthodontic treatments.

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