Everyone knows 3M — you probably have a few of their products at home right now. But the company you associate with Post-Its and no-nail wall hooks offers much more than adhesives. Case in point: their Clarity Aligners.
Yes, 3M is in orthodontics, too, making everything from digital scanners to nearly invisible braces, and Clarity Aligners are their showstopper. Are they right for you? By the end of this review, you’ll have your answer!
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How Do Clarity Aligners Work?
3M’s Clarity Aligners have had a couple of iterations. The most recent, which launched in 2021, features some important changes. Only board-certified orthodontists can administer Clarity Aligners, so to kick things off you have to find an orthodontist near you who offers them.
Go to Clarity’s Find an Orthodontist page and enter your zip code for a list of providers near you. Scroll that list and look at the specific products each doctor offers — 3M also makes Clarity Clear Braces, and not all providers work with the aligners. Determine which orthodontist is a good fit for you and schedule a consultation.
Your initial appointment will consist of a physical exam, a discussion of your goals, and, if you are a good fit for Clarity Aligners, the diagnostic images necessary to plan your treatment. The essential images come from a digital scanner — usually, the 3M True Definition Intraoral Scanner or the Midmark True Definition Scanner — but your doctor might also want X-rays and other diagnostics. You’ll also get the chance to “try on” all 3M orthodontics appliances your doctor offers using the 3M Tx Selector app, just in case you aren’t set on their clear aligners.
After your consultation, let your orthodontist know if you’re ready to move forward, and they’ll begin planning treatment using the 3M software algorithm. The AI analyzes the data in your scans and creates a rough draft of your treatment plan, which your doctor will fine-tune to deliver your perfect smile. They can alter everything from how many millimeters of plastic overlap your gums to the type of plastic in your aligners — even alternating plastics throughout treatment.
You’ll receive a preview of your new smile, and if it matches your expectations, your orthodontist will order your aligners. Once they arrive, you’ll have a second appointment to try on the first set and learn how to use them. Your orthodontist may also add attachments to your teeth and the aligners if necessary, and if you are doing a combination of aligners and braces, fit you with your Clarity Clear Braces as well.
Your orthodontist will provide a wear schedule that outlines how long you should wear each aligner. It’s typically one or two weeks per aligner, but your doctor might vary the wear time between steps depending on the specific shifts each aligner needs to facilitate. You’ll need to keep your aligners in for 22 hours a day.
Your treatment will last anywhere from six to 24 months, based on the severity of your misalignments. In most cases, you’ll see your orthodontist every few weeks so they can evaluate your progress.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 3M partnered with a company called Grin to provide orthodontists with remote monitoring equipment and software, so their patients could replace office visits with virtual check-ins.
These patients would use the Grin Scope smartphone attachment to take detailed photos of their teeth every few weeks and submit them to the orthodontist’s office via the Grin app. After reviewing the photos, the orthodontist could alter patients’ wear schedules, change the aligner plan, or request additional office visits.
While some orthodontists still offer Grin remote monitoring as an alternative to in-person office visits, not all do, and we’re unsure how much longer 3M’s partnership with Grin will last.
Are Clarity Aligners a Good Option? Our Perspective.
There are dozens of aligner providers on the market, including at-home options — but despite all that competition, Clarity Aligners still stand out as one of the best. They’re versatile, take a unique approach to treatment planning, and deliver amazing results.
We dug deep to evaluate them on effectiveness, affordability, convenience, appearance, and customer support. You’ll find all the details below, but to kick things off, here are the biggest benefits and drawbacks.
- Most companies use a single type of plastic in their aligners; Clarity Aligners have two, each with their own unique strengths and applications. Your orthodontist can select one or the other, or alternate between plastics for different stages of treatment.
- Clarity Aligners aren’t the only ones that use attachments, but they use them uniquely. Sometimes, orthodontists will place them behind your teeth rather than in front, helping to keep your treatment discreet. They can also accommodate multiple engagers per tooth, facilitating more complex movements.
- Both the aligners and their attachments are thinner and low-profile than many competitors. This helps prevent irritation of your soft oral tissues and reduces visibility.
- The Clarity Aligners app helps you track your progress and follow your treatment plan perfectly.
- Clarity Aligners and Clarity Clear Braces use the same treatment planning software, so your orthodontist can combine them for better results. This might mean wearing braces to complete complex movements, then switching to aligners, or having aligners on one arch and braces on the other.
- Most Invisalign competitors aim to attract customers with lower prices. Clarity Aligners, however, are usually identical to Invisalign in cost. While we think you get more for the money, sometimes you just need a lower price point.
- Clarity Aligners are more limited in who they can treat than some of their competitors. They require all patients to be 13 or older and not have any remaining baby teeth.
- Their newest plastic, 3M Clarity Aligners Flex, hasn’t been in use for very long, so there isn’t a lot of data on it.
Who Is a Good Match for Clarity Aligners?
If you are looking for a clear aligner treatment that matches or exceeds Invisalign in effectiveness, crafts more discreet aligners, and offers seamless integration with braces, Clarity Aligners could be an excellent fit for you.
Orthodontic treatment is a major investment in your smile, your health, and your confidence. But before you sign up to spend thousands of dollars, you should be sure that your aligners can do the job. If they can’t, look elsewhere. Luckily, Clarity Aligners are one of the most effective treatments out there, with the potential to surpass even Invisalign.
Clarity Aligners can treat all classes of malocclusions thanks to their attachments and seamless integration with braces.
It isn’t just the fact that they use attachments — pretty much all in-office aligners do — it’s how they use them. Specifically, they can apply multiple attachments (raised bumps added to the enamel) per tooth.
Sometimes called “engagers,” they act as grips for the aligners, letting them direct more force with greater precision. Because Clarity Aligners can use multiple engagers per tooth, they can make more complex tooth shifts than even Invisalign, including raising or lowering the teeth and correcting severely twisted teeth.
Plus, they integrate perfectly with Clarity Clear Braces, allowing your orthodontist to further tailor your treatment to your unique smile. Technically, orthodontists can incorporate braces with any aligners by using products from two different companies and carefully aligning plans made with two different software programs. Clarity allows orthodontists to create both plans together using strictly Clarity products.
You can only receive Clarity Aligners from an orthodontist. Other in-office aligners go through general dentists as well.
This can make it slightly harder to find a provider, but it also means you’re getting hands-on care from a highly experienced, specialized professional. Orthodontists have six years of post-graduate training in the art and science of crafting smiles. General dentists are totally qualified to administer Invisalign and other clear aligners, but they won’t give you the same level of expertise.
Using two different plastics gives your doctor more control over treatment planning.
Clarity Aligners can use two different plastics: Flex and Force. Flex is a newer material, made up of five different layers that give it extra flexibility and comfort. Force is their original plastic, a single-layer material that is very rigid. Each has its ideal applications:
- Flex is better at rotating teeth and correcting teeth that are angled forward.
- Force is better at expansion, torque, or raising and lowering teeth.
Your orthodontist can switch between plastics for different steps of your treatment. For example, if aligners 1–3 focus on expansion and aligners 4–6 address tooth rotation, they could use Flex early on and later switch to Force. Your orthodontist can also set different wear schedules for different aligners. So they might tell you to wear aligners 1–3 for two weeks each and aligners 4–6 for just one each.
Regular office visits help keep your treatment on track.
In-person check-ins take place every 4–6 weeks, although sometimes they will space them up to 12 weeks apart. Based on what they see, your orthodontist can add attachments, alter existing ones, and even change your aligner design. This regular oversight allows your orthodontist to catch small issues before they become big ones and make sure your teeth continue shifting as expected.
Although Clarity Aligners are highly effective, they’re not ideal for every case.
3M states that Clarity Aligners are only for patients 13 years of age or older. They cannot have any remaining baby teeth and their second molars must have fully erupted. Patients also need healthy gums and bones, and no cavities or excessive missing teeth. Certain cosmetic or restorative dentistry might also preclude certain patients from treatment.
Clarity Aligners give you a treatment that’s truly tailored to your needs, delivering results that match or exceed those of their competitors.
Like most orthodontic treatments, Clarity Aligners come with a hefty price tag. Even on the more affordable end, expect to spend thousands on treatment. Clarity doesn’t have a set price, and even though you get premium products and superior effectiveness, it’s one of the more expensive options out there.
Costing an average of $5,000, Clarity Aligners cost about the same as Invisalign.
All in-office treatments typically cost slightly more than remote clear aligners like Byte. However, Clarity Aligners fall at the top end of the price range. Most orthodontists will charge at least $3,000, though the price can reach $8,000 for aligner-only treatment. And if you get combination treatment with Clarity Clear Braces, it could cost even more.
Numerous factors can influence the cost of Clarity Aligners.
First up, the office visits. The more often you see your orthodontist in person, the higher your price. So, someone with check-ins every four weeks will spend more than someone who has them every 12.
Then there’s the complexity of your case; the more aligners and attachments you need, the more you’ll pay. If you have oral health concerns to address before using aligners, that cost comes into play as well. Finally, there are your orthodontist’s rates, which depend on overhead costs like rent, utilities, staff salaries, etc. — so if you are in a high-cost-of-living area, expect to spend more.
Even on the more affordable end, Clarity Aligners might cost too much to pay out of pocket.
If this is the case, you have a few options to lower the cost of treatment and fit it into your budget. The first is to use your insurance benefits if they cover orthodontic treatments. In most cases, dental policies with orthodontic coverage only pay for a portion of the treatment — usually 50% or less. However, some have lifetime limits instead, which can be as high as $5,000.
Your next option is to apply FSA or HSA funds to your treatment. While some account administrators don’t allow you to apply funds to clear aligners, others will — especially if the treatment is medically necessary, not simply cosmetic.
Finally, you can apply for a payment plan or financing. Most orthodontist offices will offer one or both, though they might require credit checks or down payments. If yours doesn’t have any, you can check out third-party financiers, but these often charge pretty high interest rates.
Clarity Aligners are far from the cheapest option, but you get amazing treatment for the price and there are ways to make it more affordable.
Clear aligners aren’t just less visible than brace, they’re more convenient too. You can eat all the foods you love and you don’t need to learn how to brush and floss around a fixed appliance. But different systems will offer different levels of convenience. Clarity Aligners might not offer the same convenience of a fully remote option like Byte, but they provide ways to make your treatment smoother and easier.
Combination Clarity treatment means dealing with the inconveniences of braces.
If your orthodontist wants to include braces to get the best results, you’ll have to deal with all the complexities they bring — including avoiding sticky or crunchy foods that can damage your wires and brackets and learning new techniques for keeping your teeth clean. As a result, most patients prefer to go with aligners only.
The 3M Treatment Tracking app makes it easy to follow your aligner plan at home and keep your orthodontist updated.
This mobile app allows you to log, track, and review your aligner wear time, so you can be sure you’ve worn them for long enough each day (typically 22+ hours) — and it will chart your stats as you go. You can also use it to take and save photos of your teeth every step of the way. The app gives the option to share your charts, stats, and photos directly with your orthodontist, so they can confirm that you’re following your wear plan and your teeth are moving as expected.
This app makes it easier to follow and track your treatment, but it doesn’t replace your in-person office visits. You’ll still need to schedule appointments with your orthodontist every few weeks.
It can take anywhere from six to 24 months to see your final results.
It all depends on the complexity of your misalignments. Simple cases, such as closing a small gap, can take less than six months to complete. If you need to move molars and change the alignment of your jaw, your timeline might fall at the higher end of that range.
With that said, most patients find their treatment takes around 15 months. This is on par with other in-office aligner companies, like Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and SureSmile.
Clarity Aligners’ startup process is easier than most of their competitors.
Invisalign is the industry giant, and they’ve got an extensive network of providers, so it can be hard to find orthodontists offering alternatives. However, Clarity makes it easy since they have an online directory of providers that you can search by zip code.
Once you’ve got a provider, you simply schedule a consultation, show up, and they’ll take care of all your scans and X-rays, which is far easier than making molds of your teeth like you would with an at-home option.
Plus, Clarity manufactures and ships your aligners to your dentist faster than with other companies. Since they’re a 3M product, Clarity Aligners benefit from large-scale manufacturing capabilities that smaller providers can’t match. And since they aren’t seeing the same demand as Invisalign just yet, they don’t have a huge backlog of orders to fulfill. Patients often receive their aligners within two to three weeks of approving their treatment plans.
Clarity isn’t the most convenient option, but they take measures to streamline your treatment and simplify their procedures.
Most adults think the best-looking aligners are the least visible ones. You might expect all clear aligners to look the same, but there are quite a few slight variations between providers. Overall, Clarity Aligners are quite discreet.
3M designed Clarity Aligners with a low profile in mind — and this translates into more discreet treatment.
Clarity Aligners’ material is thinner than their competitors’ plastics. While Flex is thicker than Force, the difference is minimal, so with either option, your aligners will be practically unnoticeable.
3M also makes their attachments smaller and more discreet than competitors like Invisalign. That allows them to use multiple attachments per tooth, increasing their effectiveness. These engagers are also small enough that your orthodontist can even place them behind your teeth rather than in front, further reducing their visibility.
Both of Clarity Aligners’ plastics are ultra-clear, matte, and smooth.
Ultra-clear aligners ensure that your natural teeth can show through with ease — which helps avoid the “plastic teeth” look that some aligners create — while the matte finish prevents an unnatural level of shine.
Where Clarity Aligners fall short is in their texture. Smooth aligners might intuitively seem like the better option, but your enamel is naturally porous, so textured aligners look more like your real teeth.
Clarity cuts their aligners straight at the gum line, and your orthodontist controls how many millimeters they overlap the gingiva.
Straight cut aligners generate more force than scalloped ones (which are trimmed to follow the gum line), making them more effective. The downside? It also makes them more visible. While this isn’t a problem most of the time, when you are laughing and smiling, anyone up close could realize you are wearing aligners.
Clarity Aligners are attractive and mostly difficult to spot. If they were textured and offered a scalloped option, they’d be perfect.
Your Clarity Aligner experience starts with an initial consultation and ends with a beautiful smile — but what about all the minutiae in between? From modes of communication to what happens when things go wrong, your patient experience colors how you view your treatment, and as an in-office option, Clarity delivers personalized, supportive care from start to finish.
Your Clarity Aligners orthodontist will set the available modes of communication — to a degree.
When you get Clarity Aligners, you have automatic access to their mobile app. This lets you upload photos your orthodontist can view, but it’s primarily designed to help you keep up with your treatment between office visits, and it doesn’t facilitate direct conversations with your doctor.
Most orthodontists’ offices will use phone and email as their primary methods of communication. Many keep typical weekday business hours and have some weekend availability for emergencies. Some may also offer texting and web chat, though it’s rare.
Direct oversight helps provide a personalized and supportive Clarity Aligners experience.
Your orthodontist, their hygienists, and the rest of their office staff will know you personally. They see you in person every few weeks and invest a lot in your smile. Compare this to fully remote options where you are a faceless customer to the people reviewing your scans and photos — possibly one of hundreds they see each day — and the difference is clear.
Regular office visits don’t just give your orthodontist the opportunity to catch problems and make adjustments, they give you the chance to ask questions and share any concerns in person.
3M defers to your orthodontist’s policies for refinements and satisfaction guarantees.
If you reach the end of your aligner set and aren’t fully satisfied, contact your orthodontist so they can come up with a plan to deliver the results you want. Some orthodontists will cover the first set of refinements (extra aligners) if you follow your treatment plan correctly; others will require you at least pay for the aligners, if not the new scan. This is something to clarify before starting treatment.
As for guarantees, most orthodontists will offer some type of guarantee, but be sure to get all the details first. It is rare, if not completely unheard of, for a doctor to guarantee 100% satisfaction with your results and experience, but they’ll typically work with you to make sure you’re happy with your smile.
Best Alternatives to Clarity Aligners
Clarity Aligners are a great choice for anyone looking for an Invisalign alternative that matches or surpasses its effectiveness while making treatment more convenient. But while they are an excellent clear aligner brand, they are far from the only one to consider.
From Invisalign itself to hybrid options to at-home systems, you have a lot of other companies to evaluate before you decide. Here is a quick rundown of three of our favorite Clarity Aligners alternatives.
Byte is a fully remote clear aligner service, but it’s one of the most effective and efficient ones available, delivering final results in an average of four months. It also offers a nighttime-only plan (Byte At-Night), which is a lot more convenient than wearing aligners all day. However, Byte can only treat mild-to-moderate orthodontic conditions, so it might not work for everyone.
Like Byte, Candid cannot match Clarity Aligners’ scope of treatment; it’s primarily for mild-to-moderate orthodontic concerns. But they’ve implemented a unique hybrid treatment model that pairs hands-on care with remote oversight, streamlining the process.
You’ll start treatment by visiting a dentist for an examination, then transition to remote check-ins with their CandidMonitoring service. There is no option for fully in-person treatment though, so it’s not quite as robust as Clarity Aligners.
Interested? Take a look at our in-depth review of Candid.
This is the brand that launched the clear aligner revolution, and it has been the biggest name in aligners ever since. It’s a fully in-office treatment, which means you get direct oversight and personalized attention.
Thanks to their attachments and their proprietary plastic, Invisalign aligners can treat just about any dental or jaw misalignment, just like Clarity Aligners. And Invisalign is more widely available, so you will have more providers to choose from.
Are Clarity Aligners Right for You?
3M’s Clarity Aligners offer a top-notch alternative to Invisalign, but if your budget is tight or you have smaller corrections to make, it might be better to go with a lower-cost alternative.
To get a better idea of which option might be the best fit for you, check out the resources below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Wait, it’s from 3M, like, the tape company?
Yes! 3M is best known for Post-It Notes and other adhesive-centric products, but they’re one of the largest corporations in the world, and they have their hands in a variety of industries. Clarity Aligners aren’t even their first foray into orthodontic treatment; they’ve also made scanners, braces, and more.
Can I get Clarity Aligners from my general dentist?
Unfortunately, no. Clarity Aligners are only offered by orthodontists. Most clear aligner companies also let general dentists design and administer their treatments, but Clarity wants only orthodontic expertise behind their aligners.
How long will I need to wait to get my aligners after I green-light my treatment plan?
In most cases, about three weeks. While this isn’t a guarantee, and plenty of factors can slow things down, it’s the usual timeframe from you approving treatment to getting your aligners.
Why does the use of two different plastics matter?
Because it gives your orthodontist greater control over your treatment. Each of their plastics is better at different things, so your doctor can select one plastic for some aligners and a different one for others, ensuring maximum efficacy without any treatment disruptions.
How does Clarity combine aligners with braces?
Orthodontists can take one of two approaches. They can start with braces on both arches to correct severe alignment concerns, then switch to aligners for the rest of treatment. Or, they can use aligners on one arch (usually the top) and braces on the other.
What’s the better system: Clarity, Invisalign, or SureSmile?
All three providers are pretty equal. Invisalign has the most providers, SureSmile is usually slightly less expensive, and Clarity can be more effective in certain cases, but they can all treat the overwhelming majority of patients and misalignments.
How long does Clarity Aligners treatment last?
This varies between patients. It could take anywhere between six and 24 months, although most people take somewhere around 15 months to reach their final results.
Do I need to wear retainers after finishing with Clarity Aligners?
Yes! After any form of orthodontic treatment, your teeth will want to migrate back to their previous positions. Retainers keep them where they belong. At first, you will wear your retainers full time. Then, you’ll transition to wearing them only at night.