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!
Table of Contents
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 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 — often the Midmark True Definition Scanner — but your doctor will also want X-rays and photos. 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.
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 into their scope of treatment, affordability, convenience, appearance, and customer support, and you’ll find all the details below. But to kick things off, here are the biggest benefits and drawbacks.
- Multiple Proprietary Plastics: 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.
- Low-Profile Attachments: Clarity's attachments are smaller than some others, yet they don't sacrifice power. 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 complex movements.
- Discreet Aligners: Both the aligners and their attachments are thinner and lower-profile than many competitors. This helps prevent irritation of your soft oral tissues and, in our opinion, reduces visibility.
- Convenient Mobile App: The Clarity Aligners app helps you track your progress and follow your treatment plan perfectly.
- Can Pair With Clarity Braces: 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.
- High Average Prices: 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.
- More Restrictions on Treatment: 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.
- Material Isn't Time-Tested: 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 can treat a wide range of misalignments and offers seamless integration with braces, Clarity Aligners could be an excellent fit for you.
Scope of Treatment
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Well, orthodontic treatment does just that. Before you invest thousands into your smile, you need to feel confident that the aligners you choose can correct your specific misalignments. Luckily, 3M Clarity Aligners are one of the most powerful, versatile treatments out there.
3M Clarity is made to address the full scope of misalignments and malocclusions.
While there are some cases beyond its reach, these are exceedingly rare. Bite issues that require significant alteration of jaw position are beyond its scope. It also can only raise and lower the teeth a bit — but that’s more than many other aligner companies can do. And there are some rotations it can’t achieve.
Then there is the fact that Clarity is designed for combination treatment — when the patient uses both aligners and braces (either simultaneously, or braces first, then aligners). While orthodontists can do this with other brands, Clarity’s software is made to accommodate it, simplifying the process and increasing the range of cases it can take on.
According to 3M Clarity and their orthodontic partners, their aligners can treat the following conditions:
- Crowded Teeth: 3M Clarity can address most tooth crowding cases. This depends somewhat on the position of the teeth, since the aligners need to grip them to generate force. However, 3M’s attachments usually make this possible.
- Teeth Gaps: Gaps are one of the easiest issues to address — assuming they’re not accompanied by other orthodontic concerns. 3M Clarity can close most gaps, though if you have a space larger than 6mm, you might need combination treatment.
- Overbite: Overbite describes cases where upper front teeth extend too far beyond the lower ones. 3M Clarity aligners can address any overbite that is strictly dental in nature, as well as some cases that require jaw alterations.
- Underbite: Think of this as the reverse of an overbite, where the bottom front teeth overlap the upper ones. 3M Clarity can address pretty much any dental underbite, as well as many with skeletal components.
- Crossbite: If some, but not all, of the upper teeth sit inside the lower ones, it’s called a crossbite. 3M Clarity can address most crossbites, both simple and mixed.
- Open Bite: When the jaws are closed but the teeth don’t touch, that’s an open bite. 3M Clarity can close class I to class III open bites.
- Snaggletooth: This is when one or more teeth are rotated in place, often because of crowding. Depending on the tooth, Clarity can rotate teeth, but only so far. While it can make larger rotations than some of its competitors, limited studies show it might be less precise. More significant rotations may require braces or combination treatment.
- Midline Misalignment: Midline misalignment is when the middle of the upper front teeth don’t align with the midline of your face as a whole. 3M Clarity can make midline shifts, depending on the cause behind them and their severity.
3M Clarity aligners can move all of the teeth, including the molars. Most in-office systems can do this as well, but it is beyond the scope of most at-home aligners. Like all clear aligners, Clarity is limited in its movements based on its ability to grip the teeth and generate force. Small, overly pointed teeth are harder to move, and whether 3M Clarity can depends on if the orthodontist can place attachments on them.
The way in which Clarity designs and uses their attachments is a big reason for their wide scope of treatment.
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 engagers (raised bumps added to the enamel) per tooth, thanks to their lower profile. They can even place them behind the teeth, expanding the directions in which they can apply force. The larger attachments some competitors use don’t have as much flexibility in their placement.
But can Clarity straighten your smile? To know, you have to see a provider.
This initial exam and consultation should include a visual assessment of your smile, photos, X-rays, and a digital scan.
To find a provider, you can use the Clarity orthodontist locator tool. Just keep in mind that this directory is for all of their partner orthodontists, and not all offer the aligners; some just have their clear braces. Check the treatments listed for each doctor before booking your consultation.
You can only receive Clarity Aligners from an orthodontist. Other in-office aligners work with 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. On top of this, 3M encourages orthodontists to engage in continuing education specifically focused on their products, ensuring they are genuine experts and up to date on new developments.
Regular office visits help keep your treatment on track. In-person check-ins take place every 4–10 weeks. Based on what they see, your orthodontist can add attachments, alter existing ones, and even change your aligner design. This regular oversight allows them to catch small issues before they become big ones and make sure your teeth continue shifting as expected.
3M provides orthodontists with two types of plastic, each with unique benefits and uses.
These plastics are called 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.
According to 3M, each type of plastic is better suited for different 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.
Like most orthodontic treatments, Clarity Aligners come with a hefty price tag. Even on the more affordable end, it can cost thousands. Clarity doesn’t have a set price, and even though we think they deliver premium products, 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 ten.
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, you’ll likely spend more.
Even on the more affordable end, Clarity Aligners might cost too much for most people 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 we think you get amazing treatment for the price and there are ways to make it more affordable.
Clear aligners aren’t just less visible than braces; in our opinion, 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. Although we don’t think Clarity Aligners are as convinient as fully remote options like Byte, they do 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 helps you 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.
We think 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, many patients find their treatment takes around 15 months. This is on par with other in-office aligner companies, like Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and SureSmile.
We think 3M 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, 3M has simplified this process by maintaining 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, photos, and X-rays. In our opinion, this 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 orthodontist faster than 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 might not be the most convenient option, but we think 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, we think Clarity Aligners are quite discreet.
3M designed Clarity Aligners with a low profile in mind.
Some orthodontists say Clarity Aligners’ material is lower profile than their competitors’ plastics. While Flex is thicker than Force, the difference is minimal, so with either option, we think your aligners will be practically unnoticeable.
3M also makes their attachments smaller than some competitors, which allows them to use multiple attachments per tooth. 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 matte and textured.
Since teeth are covered in tiny pores, they aren’t shiny. So in our opinion, a matte finish with some texture matches their surfaces better than a smooth, reflective one — which can look artificially shiny. However, some people like the idea of having a little extra shine in their smile, so which looks better ultimately depends on your personal preferences.
3M lets orthodontists tailor the aligner trim to each patient.
Straight cut aligners generate more force than scalloped ones (which are trimmed to follow the gum line), making them more retentive. The downside? Some customers find 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.
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. Like all in-office options, the level of patient care depends on the specific provider you choose. That said, we think that in-person treatments like Clarity typically offer a high level of personalization and support.
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 can provide a personalized and supportive Clarity Aligners experience, but it varies between practices.
This isn’t unique to 3M, it’s true for all in-person treatments. Regardless, your orthodontist, their hygienists, and the rest of their office staff will know you personally. We think that in most cases, this can lead to highly supportive hands-on care. Compare this to fully remote options, where you never see your doctor or the support representatives in-person, 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
We think Clarity Aligners are a great choice, but they’re far from the only one to consider. From Invisalign 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 our favorite Clarity Aligners alternatives.
Byte’s claim to fame is their HyperByte device, which they include in the cost of their aligner package. This high-frequency vibration device uses gentle micropulses the company says may help reduce discomfort. Plus, according to some preliminary studies, devices like this might encourage faster teeth movements — and Byte claims an average treatment plan length of just 4–5 months.
Byte also offers a Byte-for-Life Guarantee, which protects your smile forever. If your teeth ever shift out of place, Byte will send you new aligners for free to realign them, as long as you’ve been purchasing new retainers once per year and wearing them as directed.
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 hands-on care.
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.
ClearCorrect is one of the biggest Invisalign competitors on the market today. They offer more flexible pricing models and they’re often less expensive than Clarity Aligners. There are certain situations where 3M Clarity is better for severe misalignments, but ClearCorrect can still treat a wide range of conditions.
One of the most affordable in-office clear aligners available, SureSmile typically costs less than 3M Clarity Aligners. Clarity can sometimes treat more severe cases, but SureSmile gives their dentists plenty of ways to customize treatment, and they don’t force doctors to use a specific intraoral scanner, making their treatment more accessible.
Are Clarity Aligners Right for You?
We think 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 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 types of movement, 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.
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.