A new study has found that, while Invisalign clear plastic aligners cost more in materials than conventional edgewise braces, they require fewer patient visits and a shorter duration of treatment. Thefindings were presented at the recent American Association for Dental Research annual meeting in Tampa, Fla, according to an article on Medscape News Today.

For the study, the researchers evaluated the records of 150 patients with mild to moderate Class I malocclusion. An Invisalign and an edgewise group were matched for the amount of initial malocclusion and the number of rotated teeth. The researchers measured the time taken by appointments for both types of treatment with a stopwatch.

The researchers found that while conventional braces required a median of 13.6 minutes for a routine visit, Invisalign patients required 9.9 minutes. Emergency, initial, and final appointments were all longer than regular visits.

Conventional braces required about 2.6 more visits than Invisalign, 2.4 months longer for treatment, 1.1 more emergency visits, 9.7 minutes more of chairtime, 1.2 minutes more emergency doctor time, and 86.2 minutes more in total chair time. Invisalign, however, cost $500 to $1441 more in materials and required 5.9 minutes more doctor time than conventional braces.

To measure profitability, the researchers looked at fees minus the cost of materials and found that Invisalign was more profitable than conventional braces. This was especially the case for Invisalign providers who are charged $899 in lab costs—a discount that Align, makers of Invisalign, offers to doctors who do more cases.

For these doctors, Invisalign provided about $1000 of profit per hour of chairtime with the first $2,750 in fees to the patient, rising to $3,250 with $6,000 in fees. Doctors who were charged $1,549 in lab costs by Align had a profit of about $500 with the first $2,750 in fees, rising to $3,000 with $6,000 in fees.

Braces were less profitable overall, starting at $750 per hour of chairtime with the first $2,750 in fees, but reaching only $2000 with $6,000 in fees.