Invisalign is a popular teeth-straightening system which uses clear plastic aligners to gently move teeth into a new position. It’s an appealing alternative to traditional braces as the aligners are very discreet and inconspicuous and can be removed when eating or drinking – allowing patients to keep on top of their oral hygiene.
Unfortunately, Invisalign aligners are significantly more expensive than metal braces, so people often ask if they are available on the NHS – read on to find out.
Getting Braces through the NHS
UK citizens are rightly proud of their National Health Service, which provides excellent quality healthcare free at the point of delivery. However, NHS funding for dentistry is rather complicated, particularly when it comes to orthodontics (the prevention and correction of misaligned bite patterns, and malpositioned teeth and jaws).
It is possible to have orthodontic treatment carried out by the NHS, but this is focussed on improving the dental health of patients – not for purely aesthetic purposes. So treatment is only available to patients under the age of 18 who meet some fairly strict criteria.
A patient’s eligibility for NHS treatment will be decided by an orthodontist using the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need (IOTN). The IOTN is used to score the patient on their dental health and need for orthodontics, with each patient being assigned a grade between 1 and 5.
A score of 4 or 5 indicates that there are severe dental health problems and significant irregularity of teeth, meaning the patient is eligible for NHS treatment.
If the patient is graded 3, then an orthodontist will assess the appearance of the teeth to determine if the aesthetic problems are significant enough to permit treatment through the NHS.
A score of 1 means the patient’s teeth are almost perfect, while a grade of 2 implies only slightly irregular or protruding teeth – patients who achieve these scores are not eligible for NHS care.
NHS and Invisalign
The NHS does not typically provide funding for the orthodontic treatment of adults, with only severe cases being approved. And even if an orthodontist accepts that you do deserve orthodontic care through the NHS, funding will not be provided for Invisalign or other similar teeth-straightening procedures. Only traditional metal braces will be approved for treatment, as these are a far more cost-effective alternative and still an excellent method of straightening teeth.
Because both Invisalign aligners and metal braces will produce the same fantastic results in the end, the taxpayer-funded NHS is obligated to choose the less expensive option.
Ultimately, this means that the only choice for those wishing to use Invisalign to fix their smile is to seek treatment through a private dental practice. Be sure to shop around though, as prices can vary widely between clinics and some dentists offer monthly payment plans.