Although tried and true treatments like braces have dominated the orthodontic industry for years, the demand for less visible and more affordable options has only continued to grow. In 1997, Invisalign pioneered the first clear aligner, making it possible to correct a vast majority of cosmetic dental issues using discreet, often affordable clear aligners.
Today, the newest innovation in clear aligner treatment allows for faster, cheaper treatment from the comfort of your own home. Home aligner companies like byte and Candid have proven effective at correcting dental concerns like crowding, spacing, and even some mild bite conditions. That said, some clear aligners are better-suited to treat certain conditions than others. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most popular clear aligners available and help you decide whether they’re a good option for your teeth.
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How Do Clear Aligners Work?
Adults seeking teeth straightening treatment often gravitate toward clear aligners because they eliminate the hassle and visibility of braces. Plus, they’re powerful – clear aligners can correct some of the most widespread cosmetic dental issues. Both in-office and at-home clear aligners have been proven to successfully treat mild-to-moderate alignment issues, such as crowding and spacing. This means that the average person with slightly crooked teeth or a small gap between their teeth is a great fit for clear aligner treatment.
In addition to the obvious benefit of being much less detectable, clear aligners also offer a greatly reduced treatment time. For in-office aligners like Invisalign and ClearCorrect, the average treatment time is 12-18 months. For at-home aligners like Candid and SmileDirectClub, treatment time shrinks to 6 months on average. One at-home aligner provider, byte, boasts an average treatment time of only 3 months. This is a huge difference from braces, which often require 24 months to deliver results.
However, in-office options like Invisalign and ClearCorrect are more suited for complex conditions like bite misalignments. This is due to the addition of dental appliances like elastics and SmartForce attachments that must be applied by a dentist to supplement and enhance treatment. At-home clear aligner providers ship out aligners to their patients and eliminate the need for in-person office visits with a dentist or orthodontist. The lack of one-on-one time with a dentist greatly reduces the cost of treatment and provides more convenience overall.
What Clear Aligners Can I Choose From?
When it was first introduced, Invisalign was the only option for people seeking clear aligner treatment for their spacing or crowding issues. Due to its relatively high cost and time-consuming office visits, Invisalign is not the perfect option for everyone. Today, there are options to accommodate a variety of different budgets and lifestyles, making clear aligner treatment more accessible than ever before.
- Mild-to-moderate spacing
- Mild-to-moderate crowding
- Minor bite misalignments
- Moderate-to-severe spacing
- Moderate-to-severe crowding
- Moderate bite misalignments
Invisalign and ClearCorrect are the dominating in-office clear aligners. Invisalign is the original clear aligner treatment and currently leads the industry. In order to receive Invisalign aligners, you’d first need to visit a dentist and have them take impressions of your teeth. Then, your dentist will send the impressions to a dental lab, where they are analyzed to create aligners, perfectly fitted for your teeth. The dentist will make any necessary final adjustments to the design before your aligners are delivered. ClearCorrect’s pre-treatment process is very similar.
Both ClearCorrect and Invisalign aligners must be worn for at least 22 hours per day and should only be removed when eating or drinking anything besides water. Typical treatment time for both providers is about a year. In either case, routine visits with a dentist or orthodontist are required, and patients will wear a set of new aligners about once every 2 weeks. Once treatment is complete, patients receive a set of retainers to preserve their new smile.
In-office aligners stand out due to their ability to treat more complex cases, such as minor bite misalignments and moderate-to-severe crowding or spacing. For anyone seeking more drastic results or anyone who favors one-on-one treatment with a dentist, in-office aligners will likely be a great fit. However, this additional face-time with a dental professional comes at a price. Both ClearCorrect and Invisalign typically cost about $3,000 – $5,000. Also, the treatment time of about one year, on average, is sometimes too long for
Home Teeth Aligners
As people seek cheaper and more convenient treatment options, home teeth aligners have quickly become a booming and rapidly evolving industry. Unlike in-office aligners, home teeth aligners require no office visits and offer a decreased treatment time and decreased cost overall.
The first step in the home teeth alignment process is to take impressions of your teeth. Your provider will send you a kit with instructions for taking impressions, which you’ll complete and send back. Some companies (including Candid and SmileDirectClub) even have physical locations where you can have your teeth scanned by a dental professional instead of completing an impression kit. Either way, if you’re approved for treatment, your aligners will be custom-designed and shipped directly to you. From there, it’s up to you to complete your treatment by wearing the aligners as prescribed.
Each home aligner provider has its own unique advantages. Some companies offer treatment monitored by a certified orthodontist rather than a general dentist. Some offer free retainers for aftercare, and some even offer financing options to accommodate a wide range of budgets. Due to the lack of office visits, all home aligner companies provide a significantly cheaper option than Invisalign or ClearCorrect, with an average treatment cost of about $1,900.
To learn more about the different home teeth aligner providers, check out our comprehensive comparison.
What are My Other Treatment Options?
While clear aligners are a popular choice due to their discreetness and shorter treatment times, they are not the right option for everyone. Depending on your priorities and specific smile concerns, one of the alternative treatments below may be a better fit for you.
Traditional metal braces are the most thorough orthodontic treatment, and they are a classic for a reason. Perfect for complex cases like complicated bite issues or severe crowding and spacing, braces provide orthodontists with the ability to make highly detailed and in-depth changes to your smile. As technology has improved, a variety of styles of braces have become available to the public. More discreet options like clear braces and lingual (behind the teeth) braces have given the industry more variety, although they come at a higher price point.
The major advantages to braces are its ability to treat complex cases and the regular one-on-one time with an orthodontist. On the other hand, braces can be very conspicuous, and treatment typically lasts about 2 years. The cost of braces is also a downside, as the average treatment usually costs about $5,000.
If you’re hoping for a complete smile makeover or a “Hollywood Smile” effect, veneers may be the perfect treatment option. Veneers are thin, custom-made, and tooth-colored shells that are placed over the teeth to improve their appearance. Veneers are typically made of porcelain and can conceal a variety of conditions, including mild to moderate spacing, crowding, discoloration, staining, and even short or chipped teeth.
The treatment process for veneers is nearly instant. However, it is far more invasive than the other options in this guide. First, your teeth will be “prepped” in an irreversible process that involves shaving down a small layer of enamel. Once the teeth are prepped, your dentist will cement the custom-made veneers onto your teeth.
Veneers are a popular option for adults who want immediate gratification and a brand new smile, complete with custom shaping, whitening, and correction of any alignment issues. However, the high, ongoing costs associated with veneers make them a less than ideal option for the average patient. Veneers typically cost around $1,000 per tooth and need to be replaced about once every 10 years.
For minor spacing issues or small chips, dental bonding is a great, quick and affordable option. Dental bonding uses a resin material, similar to that used for filling cavities, to build up the teeth and eliminate spaces or chipping. Bonding can be completed in one dental visit and is usually completely painless, requiring no anesthesia.
The average cost of dental bonding is about $300 – $600 per tooth, making it one of the cheapest options available. However, bonding is only appropriate for minor cases of spacing and minor chips on the teeth. It won’t be a suitable treatment option for most cases of crowding or mild-to-moderate spacing between several teeth.
Clear aligners are no longer the taboo treatment they were in the early 2000s. Today, there are multiple clear aligner options to fit anyone’s expectations, budget and lifestyle. If you’re looking for a less visible and more convenient treatment option, clear aligners may be a great fit for you.
These innovative products have transformed the orthodontic industry and show no signs of slowing in popularity. If clear aligners sound appealing to you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with your dentist to discuss your options, and find out whether clear aligners are the right choice for your teeth.