At-home teeth aligner companies are making it easier and more affordable for people to enjoy straighter teeth than ever before. As a result, the demand for DIY orthodontics is set to soar in the coming years. According to analysis, the global clear aligners market is anticipated to grow from $2.85 billion in 2021 to $10.04 billion by the end of 2028.
The ever-growing popularity and hype surrounding clear aligners is reaching unprecedented levels, but are these DIY teeth straightening kits just too good to be true?
Let’s take a look.
What Are At-Home Clear Aligners?
If you strive for the perfect smile to restore your self-confidence, at-home clear aligners could be the right solution for you. Similar to regular in-clinic clear aligners, they´re a discreet alternative to braces for straightening crooked or misaligned teeth.
Also known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) aligners, they are essentially clear plastic trays made precisely to conform to your teeth which move them a little at a time by applying light pressure.
The transparent removable dental devices are shipped directly to customers without any in-person visits to an orthodontist. Unlike braces, clear aligners are removable, so you can take them out when eating and for brushing and flossing your teeth.
During the treatment period, you´ll need to change your aligners every one to two weeks as the condition of your teeth improves.
At-Home Aligners Versus In-Clinic Aligners
Aligners have been a popular fixture on the dental scene since the late 1990s, when Invisalign clear aligners were first marketed. The ground-breaking innovation changed tooth alignment technology by giving people a comfortable, aesthetic alternative to fixed braces.
For several decades, Invisalign’s network of IP’s prevented other aligner companies from providing a similar service. In 2017, that all changed when 40 of them lapsed. This paved the way for other brands to jump on board, offering cheaper and, in some cases, more convenient teeth straightening.
Nowadays, many direct-to-consumer aligner companies let you straighten your teeth at home without having to see a dentist or orthodontist face to face.
The principal differences between in-clinic treatments such as Invisalign and at-home aligners are outlined below:
- Invisalign involves scheduled appointments through your dentist or orthodontist, who will oversee every treatment step from start to finish. With at-home aligners, an orthodontist or dentist may be available to offer advice and help at the beginning of treatment, but they don’t oversee your entire journey.
- Unlike Invisalign, where in-office consultation is a crucial component of treatment, at-home aligners don´t require any scheduled appointments. However, office visits may be necessary in complex cases.
- Most at-home aligner companies utilize DIY impression kits instead of having customers visit a clinic for a scan.
- At-home aligners provide convenient teeth straightening opportunities delivered door to door – whereas in-clinic orthodontics will need to be planned involving multiple visits over many months.
How Does Straightening Your Teeth At Home Work?
- Go online and order an impression kit or visit a store for a scan
- When they arrive, take your impressions
- Return them by post
- Receive your aligners
- Follow the plan
- Retain your smile
At-home clear aligners are used to resolve dental issues such as closing gaps and fixing minor overcrowding. Let’s take a look at the steps below.
Get your impression kit or scan
To get started, choose a provider and order a home impression kit delivered to your door. There are numerous providers out there, so devote some time to researching the one most suitable for your needs. When you select your provider, be prepared to upload a few photos of your teeth and answer questions about what you´d like to improve. This will determine whether you’re a suitable candidate for at-home aligners. You might not be approved if you require more complex dental corrections.
Take your impressions/Scans
Your teeth impression kit arrives. Make molds of your teeth using the provided putty and impression trays. Alternatively, with some companies, you may be able to pop to their retail location to have a 3D scan of your teeth.
Return your impressions
Send your teeth impressions by post (usually with a pre-paid return label) and wait for your aligners.
Receive your custom aligners and follow the plan
Once you receive your aligners, wear them as per instructions. Remember, they’re custom molded to fit your teeth, so they need to be worn sequentially.
Wear them for the duration
The time it takes to achieve straighter teeth with at-home clear aligners varies according to individual treatment plans. In many cases, the process can take between three and six months.
Retain your new smile
To hold your teeth in their new straight position following treatment, you can expect to wear retainers. Teeth can and will try to shift back to their original places after treatment until the jaw stabilizes. Retainers are needed to maintain your smile.
What Results Can You Expect With DIY Clear Aligners?
At-home clear aligners are advanced treatments that apply pressure to your teeth to move them into their correct position. Most brands report their customers achieving straighter teeth within six months of starting their treatment. The results partly depend on how much adjustment teeth need and whether you stick to the prescribed treatment plan.
However, some customers find that their teeth have not moved as much as envisioned. On these rare occasions, most direct-to-consumer aligner companies offer a refinement process. It involves taking new teeth impressions which are reviewed by the brand´s dental team. If approved for refinements, customers will be sent new trays free of charge to complete the job.
Top Providers of At-Home Clear Aligners and their fees
There are many brands to choose from when looking for DIY teeth straightening kits. Here are some of the most popular companies and their current prices:
Check out this quick table below:
|$1895 – day aligners
$2295 night aligners
|$249 down payment
$83 per month for 29 months or
$449 down payment and $99 per month for nighttime aligners
|$65 per month for 36 months with $199 down payment
|$895 plus free teeth whitening
|$81 over 12 months or $95 per month over 11 months with a $275 down payment
|$1295 fast track aligners
$2295 night aligners
|$77 per month for 18 months
|Smile Direct Club
|$1950 one-time payment
|$89 per month over 24 months with a $250 down payment
***NB – all prices are correct at time of writing but may be subject to change***
Byte provides customers with aligners combined with its proprietary HyperByte technology. This device transmits micro-pulses through tooth roots to the surrounding bone to help aligners move teeth more accurately. The company says that the aligner treatment is faster when used daily, taking three to four months on average.
Costs range from:
- $1895 for day aligners and
- $2,295 for nighttime aligners
Candid is one of America’s more well-known companies. Customers can take an impression of their teeth or visit one of Candid´s 40 + studios located throughout the US. An orthodontist tracks a person´s progress with scans they take from their phone during the treatment. According to Candid´s official website, customers see results in six months on average.
Costs of Candid aligners are:
- $1895 or
- $65 per month.
According to AlignerCo’s website, it offers the cheapest DTC aligners in the US, and when you check out the price, it’s hard to argue with that. The company provides its customers with both day and night time clear aligners and claims that results are noticeable after four to six months.
Costs of invisible aligners:
- $895 plus free teeth whitening or
- $81 per month over 12 installments or
- $95 plus $275 down payment over 11 installments
NewSmile is a direct-to-consumer aligner company in the true sense of the word. They operate from their website only and don’t have any physical locations at the time of writing. NewSmile provides clear aligners for both day and night. Customers can book a video call with a NewSmile impression specialist to help with their dental impressions if they run into difficulties. NewSmile says that they are a dentist and orthodontist led company and have garnered many good reviews despite not having any physical stores.
Costs for NewSmile Aligners:
- $1295 for their Fast track aligners
- $2295 for their night aligners or
- $77 per month for 18 months
Smile Direct is the largest and most well-known Direct-to-consumer clear aligner company with hundreds of smile shops globally. Founded in 2014, they claim to have ‘helped more than 1.5 million smiles and counting. They offer a dentist-managed treatment where patients can have regular virtual smile check-ins.
Costs of Smile Direct Club aligners:
- One time payment of $1950 or
- $89 per month over 24 months with a $250 deposit.
At-home aligner companies provide convenience by eliminating the need to make regular visits to the dentist, freeing up your schedule. Treatments are typically completed in six months or less, significantly less than in-person aligner treatments that can take one to two years.
However, despite the upsides, DIY teeth straightening kits may not be for everyone. Home aligners are meant for mild to moderate spacing and crowding issues. Some severe cases are best served by in-clinic orthodontic treatments.
If you´re interested in straightening your teeth but don´t want to commit to in-clinic treatments, here are answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions about at-home aligners.
Are at-home clear aligners safe to use?
Clear aligners combined with remote treatment overseen by licensed dentists and orthodontists are safe to use. As with any in-home medical device, do your research to make an informed choice about potential providers.
What dental conditions do at-home clear aligners treat?
DIY clear aligners are designed to treat mild to moderate crowding and spacing issues and minor bite problems.
Should I still visit a dentist when undergoing at-home aligners?
Yes, you should still make your regular, twice-yearly visits to your dentists, although your at-home treatment may be completed before your next scheduled appointment/visit.
Are nighttime aligners as good as daytime systems?
Yes. Nighttime aligners are just as good and effective as daytime systems. The principal difference is that with standard treatment, you´ll wear daytime aligners for 22 hours per day for one week before moving on to the next set. Meanwhile, nighttime aligners are worn for ten hours a night for two weeks.
Do at-home aligners hurt?
No, although some customers experience mild discomfort during the first few days of treatment as they adjust to the way the plastic trays feel in the mouth.
Does insurance cover at-home aligners?
Health insurance provides coverage of orthodontic treatments such as braces, retainers, and other jaw alignment correction procedures. If your medical insurance policy includes orthodontic care, you might be covered. It´s a good idea to ask your insurer specifically if you are covered for at-home aligners before you commit.
Can I correct alignment in just one arch?
Typically, companies send two trays, one for the top teeth and the other for the bottom. Even if you only want to correct one arch, you may not be charged less. Check with your provider before making a purchase
Can I get at-home aligners if I have missing teeth?
In general, the answer is no. Aligning teeth when some are missing can be a complex task that requires additional appliances such as anchorage devices. However, to be sure, check with your provider.
How should I clean my DIY aligners?
To clean aligners, take them out of your mouth and wash them with warm water and antibacterial soap. You can also clean them with a manual toothbrush and toothpaste.