The days of metal braces as the only avenue to straighter teeth are no more. Thanks to the innovation of clear aligner systems, adults looking to transform their smiles now have more options than ever.
The clear aligner market can be split into two categories: at-home aligners (like SmileDirectClub) and in-office aligners (like Invisalign). Each type is effective, but offers a different set of advantages and drawbacks. There’s simply not one universal “best” — the right treatment for you ultimately depends on your unique circumstances, priorities, and smile goals. Read on as we discuss the 5 best clear aligners on the market, the difference between at-home and in-office clear aligner treatment, and some tips for evaluating your options.
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At-Home vs. In-Office Aligners: What’s the Difference?
Before we dig into the various clear aligner companies and analyze their unique benefits, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two major types. At first glance, at-home and in-office aligner products look the same. Both are clear plastic trays that fit your dental arches snugly, present very little visibility, and use a series of aligners to gradually shift your teeth. However, while their appearance might be similar, their applications are quite different.
In-office aligners, such as the industry giant Invisalign, are directly administered by dentists. This means you’ll schedule monthly office visits so your dentist can monitor progress and make adjustments if necessary. In certain cases, these visits might include employing other dental appliances to induce more intricate tooth movements.
As the name suggests, at-home aligner treatment takes place completely from the comfort of your own home. Your treatment plan is developed by a licensed dentist or orthodontist (depending on which company you choose), then shipped directly to you. Over the course of 3-6 months, you will apply the aligner series on your own. While much more convenient and affordable, at-home treatment doesn’t allow for the use of additional dental appliances (which may be necessary for more complex cases).
Best In-Office Clear Aligners
If your priority is plenty of dentist facetime, then an in-office option like Invisalign might be the way to go. During your monthly office visits, your dentist can implement other appliances (elastics, palatal expanders, etc.) to achieve more complicated teeth and jaw movements. As a result, in-office aligners are often a good option for severe cases of crowding and spacing, as well as bite issues like overbite or underbite.
The downside here is that these office visits are a significant time commitment, which might be tough if your schedule is already packed. Plus, this one-on-one care is more expensive — in-office aligners such as Invisalign often cost twice as much as at-home alternatives (or more).
With all this in mind, let’s look at the two best in-office clear aligner options available.
Known for having pioneered the world’s first clear, removable teeth aligners, Invisalign is the most established and widely-used clear aligner brand in the U.S. For over more than two decades, they’ve helped patients achieve the smiles they’ve always wanted.
- Invisalign treatment achieves the same impressive, powerful results as traditional braces, but without a single metal bracket, and for approximately the same price.
- Invisalign typically works faster than traditional braces.
- Treatment can be administered by a standard dentist (rather than an orthodontist), so there’s a good chance you could get Invisalign at the same place you get your teeth cleaned.
- Dentists can add Invisalign’s proprietary “Smartforce” attachments, elastics, and other dental appliances to your treatment plan to correct more complex conditions (including moderate-to-severe teeth crowding and a variety of bite misalignments).
- Invisalign is significantly more expensive than most at-home aligner brands (often $3,000 – $8,000), which presents a potential obstacle if you’re on a tight budget.
- Treatment with Invisalign requires regular office visits, presenting a more substantial time commitment than at-home treatments.
- Invisalign’s 12-18 month average treatment time may be shorter than braces, but it’s significantly longer than home aligner treatment.
Even though it hasn’t been around as long as Invisalign, ClearCorrect still boasts a strong track record of results. They are the second-largest clear aligner producer in the U.S. (behind Invisalign). Their products are extremely similar in appearance and application to Invisalign and have been FDA-approved since 2009.
- ClearCorrect’s in-office application allows for the addition of “engagers” – tiny, tooth-colored shapes that assist with complex tooth movements, similar to Invisalign’s “Smartforce” attachments. This means that ClearCorrect can treat a whole spectrum of dental and jaw misalignment issues.
- ClearCorrect charges dentists less for their aligners and lab fees than Invisalign, encouraging dentists to pass along these savings to their patients.
- Like Invisalign, ClearCorrect can be administered by a standard dentist (not necessarily an orthodontist), which makes treatment more convenient.
- Treatment with ClearCorrect usually takes at least one year, which is significantly longer than home aligner treatment.
- Even though it could be less expensive than Invisalign, at $3,500 – $5,000 ClearCorrect is significantly pricier than home aligners.
- Like Invisalign, ClearCorrect’s frequent office visits can be time-consuming.
Best At-Home Clear Aligners
Reading this, you might be asking: how am I supposed to fit monthly dental appointments into my full-to-bursting schedule? Or, can I get faster results for my wedding in six months? Or even, is there anything more budget-friendly? In-office treatments provide impressive results, but that doesn’t make them the best option for every situation.
While they’re limited to treating milder cases of crowding and spacing (along with some bite issues) and might not be effective for certain bite issues, at-home aligners offer a more convenient and affordable option. Numerous home aligner brands have hit the market recently, but these companies are far from identical. Each offers its own take on clear aligner products. Because we want the best for you, we’ve researched each one and decided on a few of the top options.
Need a fast solution? byte might be your best bet. They’re a relatively new company, but they utilize innovative technology to offer much quicker results than competitors, and their customer service is unbeatable. byte is still young, so they don’t have a long track record of strong customer reviews, but we’re excited to see how they grow in the future.
- Byte’s 3-month average treatment time is the fastest out there. This is thanks to their HyperByte device, which gently vibrates teeth to produce a better aligner fit and faster dental movement.
- byte’s dental network consists of only orthodontists, guaranteeing expertise in developing every treatment plan.
- byte’s upfront cost of $1,895 is right in-line with other major providers, but they’re one of the only companies whose financing options (starting at $83/mo) do not require a credit check.
- If your teeth shift after you complete your treatment, they will give you new aligners to realign your smile for free, even if your teeth shift years after your original treatment!
- Unsure about wearing your aligners all day? byte also offers a nighttime-only option (called Byte At-Night), which requires 10 hours of daily wear (presumably while you sleep) instead of the typical 22. This treatment costs slightly more: $2,245.
- Every byte customer receives a personal “byte advisor,” a customer support professional dedicated to answering questions and checking in throughout the process.
- As a newer company, byte doesn’t have an extensive portfolio of customer reviews, so it’s hard to speak to overall customer satisfaction right now.
- byte doesn’t offer physical locations for free teeth scans like Candid and SmileDirectClub, so you’ll need to complete and submit an impression kit from home.
What you get with Candid is a dedication to quality. Candid strives to produce a premium product and deliver consistent results from start to finish. They’re a reliable and effective option for anyone interested in home aligner treatment.
- Like byte, every Candid treatment plan is developed and monitored by a licensed orthodontist who is highly specialized in adjusting teeth. So, you can be certain that your treatment plan will be designed by someone who’s dedicated their life to crafting beautiful smiles.
- Candid partners with ClearCorrect (outlined above) and receives aligners made from the same material as the in-office version.
- Candid’s Remote Monitoring service provides equipment that allows you to send routine digital scans of your teeth to your orthodontist. This ensures that your smile stays on track and Candid says it can decrease your treatment time by up to 30%.
- Customer support is a cut above most of the competition. Online reviewers testify that Candid support didn’t leave them hanging when something went wrong or if they simply needed some help getting used to wearing their aligners.
- Candid has physical office locations in several major U.S. cities where you can get your teeth scanned for free.
- Candid’s $2,400 upfront cost is higher than its competitors. However, this cost includes retainers, which cost $90+ with other companies. It also includes the Remote Monitoring equipment and service.
- If you’re considering financing (starting at $99/mo) Candid’s partner (a third-party company called Affirm) requires a credit check, which might present a roadblock if you aren’t confident in your credit score.
When you’re on a tight budget, teeth straightening might seem like a luxury you simply can’t afford, but AlignerCo’s goal is to be the most cost-effective option available. Their standard price is significantly less than the competition, and they still ensure high-quality products and excellent customer service.
- AlignerCo’s $1,145 sticker price is hundreds less than the industry average. No one else comes close.
- To make treatment even more accessible, AlignerCo offers two different financing plans. One requires a soft credit check but no downpayment. The other requires a $275 downpayment but no credit check. Both plans take less than one year to complete.
- Raintree Essix, an established, well-respected dental product manufacturer, produces AlignerCo’s aligners. So, you’ll know that you’re receiving a reliable product.
- As part of AlignerCo’s treatment plan, customers submit photos of their teeth every two weeks, so one of their dentists or orthodontists can make sure your treatment stays on track.
- AlignerCo’s customers frequently praise the company’s customer service and report receiving responsive, personalized support.
- AlignerCo doesn’t have any retail locations, so you’ll need to use an impression kit to get started, which can be a more difficult process.
- AlignerCo’s remote dental team has a mix of orthodontists and dentists, so you’re not guaranteed to have the most specialized professional working on your case.
- There’s no free whitening included with AlignerCo’s aligner treatment (although this is one of the ways they keep costs so low). In general, whitening treatments aren’t compatible with AlignerCo’s aligners since they could affect the fit.
Other Clear Aligners Worth Considering
If you’ve searched for clear aligner companies online, you know that there are plenty more out there. Just because they aren’t in our top five doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider them. The companies above are great options, but other providers offer unique perks that might make an even better match for your specific circumstances. Below are a few more we think are worth eyeing.
SmileDirectClub: They’re the largest and most experienced home aligner brand out there, and since 2014, they’ve transformed over 750,000 smiles. To make their treatment more convenient, SmileDirectClub has established more than 300+ SmileShops where you can receive free teeth scans in lieu of an impression kit. And to make it more accessible, their SmilePay program provides financing to every customer without requiring a credit check.
So, why isn’t this industry powerhouse in our top 3? For one, SmileDirectClub’s network consists of general dentists and orthodontists, so you might not have the most specialized professional overseeing your treatment. And they recently ended their long manufacturing partnership with Align Technology (the makers of Invisalign), so you won’t get Invisalign’s impressive product quality. But it’s still tough to beat their experience and convenience, so we think SmileDirectClub is worth a look.
SnapCorrect: A much smaller company, SnapCorrect also uses pricing to their advantage. Their upfront cost of $1749 is the lowest of all the home aligner companies we’ve reviewed. And Snapcorrect prioritizes appearance as well, offering free whitening gel for life and advertising a clearer, less-visible aligner than their competitors.
SnapCorrect’s small size means that it has a less-established track record than some of its peers. And they don’t offer perks like orthodontist-only networks or 100% financing approval. But once again, if the lack of verifiable reviews doesn’t bother you and you like the price point, it’s worth considering.
Six Month Smiles: If you like at-home aligners’ six-month time frame but prefer one-on-one care from a dentist, take a look at Six Month Smiles. Like Invisalign and ClearCorrect, Six Month Smiles is administered and monitored in-person by a dentist. The average costs are $3,500-5,000 but vary depending on the dentist.
The company offers clear aligners for simpler crowding and spacing cases, and clear braces for cases that require more complex movements. Both the aligners and braces wrap up treatment within six months. Even with their clear braces, treatment isn’t quite as robust as in-office clear aligners like Invisalign.
Invisalign Express: Invisalign offers its own express treatment option. Invisalign Express is typically only used for mild misalignments, often recommended for people who fail to wear their retainers after braces. Treatment typically costs between $1,800 to $3,500 and ranges from 5 to 10 months in duration.
In most cases, Invisalign Express is used for issues confined to the front six teeth (top and bottom), so if your condition extends beyond that, you might want to pursue other options. Even so, it’s frequently a viable treatment option for mild cases of teeth crowding or spacing.
How Should I Evaluate My Options?
Reading through this review, it’s possible that one aspect of clear aligner treatment sticks out to you. Perhaps you like the idea of getting the lowest-possible price point, or maybe you want the fastest treatment available.
Keep in mind that not all clear aligners are equal, so it’s important to consider a number of factors as you make your decision. For example, one company might have great reviews, but does their treatment time frame match your goals? One might offer lower costs, but is it a lot less convenient to get started?
As you evaluate your options, we recommend considering five factors:
- Customer support
Our clear aligner reviews are designed to consider all of the above criteria. However, if one of these factors is more important to you than others, refer to the chart below for a one-by-one breakdown of how they compare.
Of course, we understand that this is a deeply personal decision, and it’s important to keep your unique goals and priorities in mind. You may weigh certain aspects differently based on your particular circumstances. That said, try not to get tunnel vision on a single aspect and block out all the others, or you could be in for some unwelcome surprises come treatment time!
You’re on a journey to reach your smile goals, and this is just the beginning. Having read this guide, you have a great foundation on which to make a well-informed decision.
We encourage you to analyze the pros and cons of all the clear aligner options discussed above, and consult a dentist for a professional option. This way, you can confidently enter treatment knowing that by the end, you’ll get to see and feel the exact results you were hoping for!