A smile is one of the first things that people notice, but if you’re feeling less than confident about the look of your teeth, you might be considering orthodontic treatment. If so, you may have several options, including clear aligners.
Ever since clear aligners exploded onto the market back in 1998, they have grown in popularity. The demand for clear aligners globally was worth (1) $2.41 billion last year. That’s around (2) one-third of the entire orthodontics market.
The reasons for their popularity speak for themselves. Clear aligners provide:
- Discreet treatment – in complete contrast to the visible fixed braces that we all know.
- More comfortable appliances – made from a BPA-free clear polyurethane, they fit gently and precisely over the teeth like an invisible mouthguard.
- The possibility of fewer dental visits – Because a set of aligners are worn and discarded sequentially to tighten teeth, there is no need to visit the dentist to initiate tooth movement.
- The chance to eat what you want during treatment without restriction, and
- Better access to the teeth and gums allows for optimal oral hygiene.
Nowadays, clear aligners are accessible in different designs, sizes, brands, and at various price points and are available either from your local dentist, from an affiliated store, or ordered online and delivered directly to your door.
The rise of direct-to-consumer orthodontics vs. in-office braces
While traditionally, clear aligners have only been available either in-clinic or from an affiliated store (Think Invisalign and Smile Direct), companies like AlignerCo and Byte are changing how we straighten teeth.
Now, people can organize every aspect of their orthodontic treatment without ever leaving their homes. This includes:
- Ascertaining eligibility
- Taking impressions
- treatment planning and even,
- Remote monitoring.
In doing things remotely, at-home clear aligner companies bring convenient and low-cost teeth straightening to the table.
So, while they may not be for everyone – others, for example, prefer the service and stability of in-clinic orthodontic treatment – they have their place.
What to look for when selecting a clear aligner company?
Now you know how they differ from fixed braces; what exactly do you look for when selecting a clear aligner treatment (and company) that works for you?
Here are some pointers:
- Cost –treatment costs differ significantly from company to company. Although not the only factor, the budget may play a big part in your final decision.
- Convenience– Do you prefer the convenience and flexibility of at-home orthodontics, or would you feel more comfortable being under the complete supervision of your local dental office?
- Complexity– How complex is your case? Do you have a slight cosmetic adjustment or something more complex like an open bite, overbite, or underbite? The complexity of your case may affect whether you choose remote aligner treatment or in-clinic services.
- Location– The whereabouts of your nearest dental office may play a part in your decision. So, is your local Invisalign dentist just a few blocks away, or is your location better suited to remote aligner teledentistry?
Once you have an idea of whether you want in-clinic treatment, remote treatment, or a selection of both, let’s look at some of the names in the clear aligners industry and how they differ from each other by comparing their reviews, guarantees, add-ons, and costs.
Popular Aligner Brands – A direct comparison
- Costs $3000 – $8000
- In-clinic treatments with dental professionals
- Better outcomes for more complex cases
Probably one of the most famous clear aligners in the history of orthodontics, Invisalign has become a household name. That may be because it was the (3) first to hit the market back in 1998.
Now, Invisalign has become a prominent solution for those in need of teeth straightening treatments for:
- Diastema, i.e., small gaps in teeth
- Overbites – when upper teeth close in front of the lowers
- Open bites – when the bottom and top teeth don’t align
- Underbites or protruding lower teeth
- Misaligned teeth or
- Crowded teeth
If a DIY orthodontic plan lacks the complexity needed for your case, then Invisalign might be the right choice for you.
- In-person visits allow you to share concerns or ask questions
- Fully customized treatments based on 3D scans of your teeth
- Invisalign aligners are some of the most technologically advanced and are FDA approved
- FSA or HAS may be used to cover costs. Insurance can also be used in some cases to cover part costs.
- The company is backed by years of success and is a leader in this market
- Operating solely as an in-clinic model it isn’t as convenient as other DTC aligner companies
- Treatments costs are considerably higher in most cases
- Because Invisalign can treat more complex issues, treatment times may be longer
Smile Direct Club
- Cost – $1950if paid at once
- Versatile treatment allows patients to visit a smile studio, order online, or partner with an affiliated dentist.
- Dedicated access to dental care team 24/7
One of the most renowned and versatile clear aligners brands, Smile Direct Club, has (4) treated over 1.5 million customers. Patients have flexible treatment options. They can choose to:
- Get their scans done by visiting one of the many Smile Studios scattered throughout the US
- Partner with an affiliated network dentist or,
- Opt for DIY impression taking delivered door to door.
Once impressions or scans are complete, you receive 24 trays of aligners for the month and can access 24/7 support in the form of email, phone, video chat, and text from the supporting dental team. You also have virtual check-ins with a dental professional to assess whether treatment is going as planned.
Smile Direct has one of the fastest treatment times, a total of 4 to 6 months. However, this could be because they mainly treat lesser complex cases.
It’s suggested that most patients see a prominent difference during their third month of treatment (of course, this varies from patient to patient).
They offer both nighttime aligners and daily aligners, the former worn for 10 hours per night, while the latter is worn for 22 hours every day.
As for guarantees, Smile Direct Club offers a 100% payback guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with the treatment within the 1st month. Also, if an aligner needs to be adjusted, it’s carried out free of charge.
1777 reviewers on (5) Consumer Affairs rated Smile Direct Club, which now has an average rating of 3.7 out of 5.
- Flexible service either at home, in-store, or partner with an affiliated network dentist
- Daytime and nighttime aligners are available
- Free 3D scan in-store locations
- Free teeth whitening kit when you purchase aligners
- A lifetime smile guarantee and full refunds are provided for 30 days.
- Treatment is primarily for mild to moderate cases only
- Retainers are not included in the initial price
- Smile Direct Club have mixed reviews – some good and some bad
- Customer service can be challenging to access – say, some reports.
- Cost – $1145if paid at once but regularly run promotional offers
- Custom treatment plans from dental professionals
- One of the cheapest clear aligner companies around
AlignerCo has quickly gained traction and become a favorite amongst orthodontic patients as one of the more affordable clear aligners brands. AlignerCo says that they are orthodontist-led and can help treat the following issues:
- Crowded teeth
- Excessive spacing
They provide DTC services, so no store or shop visits are needed. Instead, patients are sent an impression kit at home when they sign up. Once impressions are taken, dentists will create your personalized clear aligners along with a treatment plan. However, they provide aligners monthly instead of altogether. The treatment, on average, takes 4-6 months.
In addition, AlignerCo provides NightOnly Clear Aligner variants that only need to be worn for 6 to 8 hours every night. The treatment duration for these is typically longer, i.e., 6-8 months.
At the end of the treatment, free retainers are provided to facilitate teeth straightening. In addition, they offer a money-back guarantee for anyone who doesn’t fit the bill for the treatment.
On (6) Trustpilot, AlignerCo has a 4.6 out of 5 rating after measuring reviews from 600 patients.
- Low cost without compromising on quality
- Frequent discounts and promotions are available
- High satisfaction amongst customers
- Flexible financing, including monthly installments
- Provide both day and night aligners for convenience
- Mainly online with one smile Studio in New York only
- They don’t treat complex cases
- A relatively new company, so reviews are yet to be built up
- Cost – Now reduced to $1895(if paid at once)
- Provide at-home and in-studio services
- Advanced technology provides suitability for more complex bite problems
CandidCo is located in 7 US states and offers both in-studio and at-home services. They employ teams of licensed orthodontists who review your impressions and dental records to create a suitable treatment plan. If you physically get scans at their studio, you can get approved for treatment in five days, whereas at-home starter kits can take 4-5 weeks to get approved.
They also offer remote monitoring throughout your treatment. CandidCo also has advanced technology to help dentists diagnose over 150 dental issues and address every aspect of one’s oral health. But know that the aligners are to be worn for 22 hours every day. Treatment usually takes about six months.
When treatment ends, patients receive a package from Candid, including a retainer case, whitening foam, remover tool, bottom and top retainers, and chewies. The retainers need changing every six months. The first retainer set is free, and each additional one is $99.
They do not offer a money-back guarantee; however, if you aren’t satisfied with the outcome, Candid refine the services and retainers till you are happy with the results.
640 reviewers on (7) Consumer Affairs helped Candid achieve a worthy 4.1 out of 5 rating.
- Remote support is available 7 days a week, 9 am -7 pm
- Money-back guarantee on a starter kit
- Remote monitoring by an orthodontist
- Candid Studios are in 7 major cities across the US
- Teen-specific treatments are also available
- You can use FSA or HAS payments to help cover the cost
- Retainers are not included in the price, so expect to pay extra
- The payment plan option does require a credit check
- No moneyback guarantee offered
- Cost – from $1895
- HyperByte therapy to speed up the process
- All-day and nighttime treatments are available
The Byte website says their aligners offer results (when worn for 22 hours daily) in as little as 3-4 months. Again, this may be down to the easiness of the cases that they take on.
However, anyone opting for the At-Night version will need to wear their aligners for ten continuous hours. Treatment time will take an average of 5-6 months.
They also offer HyperByte technology which leverages high-frequency vibration HFV technology to straighten teeth out while maintaining safety. With only 5 minutes of use a day, this formula is thought to deliver stellar results.
Moreover, they have an easy process, where the user can take impressions at home, send them back to Byte and receive their aligners. They also offer remote tracking options to ensure smooth sailing.
They offer a risk-free guarantee, meaning that if you aren’t eligible, you’re fully refunded. Also, you are not obligated to move forward with the treatment after the assessment, even if you are a candidate.
While they don’t offer accessories (such as retainers) for free like other companies. Byte provides a lifetime guarantee that if a patient’s smile ever becomes misaligned post-treatment, Byte will help them fix it for free.
ByteMe has a rating on (8) Consumer Affairs of 4.6 out of 5.
- No requirement for dentist or orthodontist visits
- Discounts available for college students, military personnel, and first responders
- Day time and nighttime treatments are available
- The first aftercare retainer is free of charge
- Lifetime guarantee.
- Upfront payment of $95 for impression kit
- Treatment intended for mild to moderate cases only
- The monthly plan does initiate high financing fees, which increases the overall price significantly.
- Cost – from $1195
- Flexible payment options
- Direct to the consumer only
NewSmileLife may be new in the market, but they appear to be very efficient.
They offer two payment plans, a monthly, and pay once. Whichever is suitable for you, you can choose. They also work on a DTC model, where you receive an impressions kit at home. However, if you seem to be having trouble getting impressions, you can call one of their Impression Specialists for help.
Both are available in day and night variations.
They offer both free teeth whitening and retainers as add-ons to their teeth straightening treatments.
Moreover, NewSmileLife also offers a satisfaction guarantee, so if you aren’t happy with your treatment, they will provide you with a modified version. If that also isn’t satisfactory, then you can get a refund.
Moreover, if they deem you unfit for treatment, you’ll also receive a refund.
Since NewSmile is relatively new, they don’t have many online reviews. However, (9) on their site, they have 1,136 verified reviews, for an average rating of 4.8.
- Low starting price
- Flexible payment plans are available
- Various add-ons include free teeth whitening, free retainers when you purchase a kit
- Day and Night aligners are available
- Company-specific, satisfaction guarantee
- Direct-to-consumer (DTC) only
- Better for mild to moderate cases
- Relative newcomers to the clear aligner market
- Limited reviews
- Cost – $2500 -$5500
- In-clinic model only
- 12 years plus in existence
ClearCorrect is another big player in the clear aligner industry. They run an in-clinic model (similar to Invisalign), and their website suggests that they have helped millions of people over the 12+ years they have been in existence.
ClearCorrect aligners help fix:
- Crooked teeth
- Spaces between teeth
- Crowded teeth
Additionally, you can correspond with your dentist to get scans of your teeth and create customized aligners accordingly, which they will mail to your dentist. You can then pick them up and start your treatment.
Treatment, on average, takes 6-18 months. They offer three payment plans, the flex plan is for six sets of aligners, the limited plan is for 12 sets, and one is unlimited (depends on how long it takes to get your teeth straightened).
The limited and unlimited plans do offer free retainers for aftercare, but the flex plan does not. Unfortunately, ClearCorrect does not provide guarantees.
- Can fix more complex bite problems
- Chairside visits allow patients to ask questions or raise concerns
- Recognized brand with 12+ years of success
- Millions of people treated
- Dentist or orthodontist evaluation and treatment
- No direct-to-consumer treatment is available
- Costs are relatively high
- No moneyback guarantees but free refinements if necessary
On (10) Consumer Affairs, ClearCorrect is rated 4.6 out of 5 from eight reviews.
Which Clear Aligners brand to choose – At a glance
|Average treatment duration
|At home or in-person
|Free retainers and refinements
|Faulty retainers are promptly replaced
|100% satisfaction payback guarantee
|Money-back guarantee for ineligible candidates
|4-6 months (6-8 for night variants)
|The first retainer set is free, and you get a retainer case, whitening foam, remover tool, and chewies
|No money-back guarantee, but free refinements till one is satisfied
|Risk-free and lifetime guarantee
|3-4 months (5-6 for night variants)
|Limited and unlimited plans offer free retainers
|Free teeth whitening and retainers
|Complete satisfaction money-back guarantee
|4-6 months (8-10 for night variants)
How much are clear aligners?
Clear aligner price varies depending on several factors, including the brand, length of treatment, patient requirements, etc. For example, Invisalign’s cost is higher than other brands as it offers in-clinic services.
However, most brands do offer different payment plans to make it easier.
|Avg. Treatment Cost
|Monthly, depending on treatment requirements
|Up to $3,500 covered by insurance
|$3,000 to 8,000
|Depending on treatment plan chosen
|Up to, $3,000 covered by insurance
|$2,500 to $5,500
|$89 per month
|Up to $1,100 covered by insurance
|$1,950 (if paid at once)
|$83 to 99 per month
|Varies according to provider
|$1,895 to 2,295 (if paid at once)
|$65 per month
|Varies according to the provider
|$1,895 (if paid at once)
|$84 to 92 per month
|Varies according to provider
|$1,195 to 1,295 (if paid at once)
|$99 per month
|Varies according to provider
|$1,145 to 1,345 (if paid at once)
Hopefully, we’ve given you some helpful advice on choosing the best clear aligners for you. But while budget consideration is essential, it’s worth considering whether you prefer in-clinic treatment, at-home treatment, or would like to visit a store near you. Either way, we hope you now have the tools you need to make an informed decision and the confidence to go ahead and create that perfect smile.