Home teeth alignment is still a new development in the field of orthodontia. So, it’s no surprise that people still wonder if it’s too good to be true. Home aligners were introduced in 2014 as an alternative to in-office options like Invisalign and ClearCorrect. They’re similar treatments, but the biggest difference is that home aligners don’t require any office visits, making them more convenient and affordable.
By eliminating office visits, home aligner companies can offer affordable treatment plans and financing options. On top of that, the whole process typically only takes 6 months. Still, the main question that most people have is, “does it really work?” In this guide, we’ll discuss the effectiveness of home teeth aligners and help you decide whether they’re a good option for your teeth.
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What Conditions Can Online Aligners Treat?
Home aligners have become a popular teeth-straightening option, especially for busy adults. However, they’re primarily a cosmetic treatment and not meant for more severe cases. The best candidates for home aligner treatment are people with mild-to-moderate cases of crowding or spacing. If your condition is more complicated, you may need a more traditional treatment, like braces or Invisalign.
Complex misalignments often require a more hands-on, comprehensive treatment, and home aligners simply can’t offer that level of customer service. Since home aligners don’t include any in-person office visits, the dentist who monitors your treatment can’t safely make mid-treatment changes that will drastically improve a severe misalignment or bite issue.
One of home aligner treatment’s main draws is the expedited treatment time. More severe issues aren’t resolved quite as fast. Luckily, most people are considered a good fit for home aligners. Home aligner providers typically accept about 70% of the cases they receive, so there’s a good chance that you’ll be approved.
How Does At-Home Treatment Work?
The first step to start home aligner treatment is choosing a provider. There are several options on the market, each with their own unique advantages. Our top picks are byte, Candid, and AlignerCo, but you’ll need to decide which one is best for you. After choosing a provider, you’ll need to go to their website to order an impression kit.
Home aligner companies use the impression kit to determine your candidacy for treatment. The company will send a kit to your home with instructions to take accurate impressions. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to take impressions on your own, so some companies offer free 3D scans instead. Only SmileDirectClub and Candid currently have retail locations where you can schedule a free scan – every other provider requires you to purchase an impression kit.
Once you’ve been approved for treatment, the company will create a customized treatment plan that shows your teeth at every step in the process. If you’re happy with the plan, you’ll approve it and pay for your aligners. Then, the company will manufacture your aligners and ship them directly to your home.
Your home aligner package will also include instructions that you should follow for a successful treatment. Most importantly, every provider recommends that patients wear their aligners for 22 hours per day, only removing them to eat, drink, or brush. You’ll wear your aligners for an average of 6 months before completing treatment. However, byte boasts an average treatment time of just 3 months.
If you choose byte or SmileDirectClub, you’ll have a nighttime-only treatment option as well, which only requires 10 hours of daily wear and have slightly longer overall timelines.
Do Home Teeth Aligners Work as Well as Invisalign?
Although home aligner brands and Invisalign both offer clear aligners, there are some significant differences between the two treatments. Home aligners don’t include any office visits, so they’re limited in the conditions they can treat.
In-office treatments, like Invisalign, give dentists the option of supplementing your treatment with attachments like buttons and elastics, which make them more effective. This is why Invisalign can treat more complex misalignments, while home aligners are best for mild-to-moderate conditions.
Home aligner brands attempt to make up for their lack of attachments by cutting their aligners straight across, as opposed to scalloped along the gum line. The straight cut allows their aligners to apply more force and move teeth more quickly. This gives home aligner brands a more convenient treatment time, about 6 months.
All home aligners are made from transparent, BPA-free plastic, just like Invisalign. But, each brand looks and feels slightly different depending on their manufacturer. Unfortunately, some brands don’t disclose their manufacturer, so there’s no way to tell how the quality compares to Invisalign. Others, like Candid, use a well-known manufacturer to ensure consistent, high-quality products.
Are Online Aligners Safe?
To some, the name “home aligners” might sound a little deceiving. You might assume you need to complete the treatment all on your own, but that’s not entirely true. A dental professional will remotely monitor your treatment every step of the way. And, you’ll have the option to contact the company’s customer service team if you have any questions or concerns.
In fact, our favorite home aligner brands work exclusively with orthodontists- meaning they’re more experienced than a general dentist and more qualified to oversee your treatment.
However, keep in mind that customer service waiting times will vary depending on the brand you choose. So, it could take a few days before you get a response to your question or concern. With in-office aligners, you’ll have the option to schedule an appointment with your dentist at any time.
At the very least, you can contact their office and speak with someone you’ve met personally before. Being able to see your dentist in person has obvious benefits. And, you’ll likely feel more comfortable knowing that you’ve chosen the dentist who will be handling your treatment.
The safety of your aligners is also directly influenced by their quality. As we previously mentioned, all of the aligner brands that we promote are made from transparent, BPA-free plastic. So, they’re all safe to wear. But, if you’d feel more comfortable wearing aligners that are manufactured by a well-known company, we’d recommend Candid.
Is Treatment Permanent?
Unfortunately, no orthodontic treatment is absolutely permanent. Although some treatments do last longer than others, they all require diligent aftercare – specifically, retainers. Once your teeth have moved from their original position, they will always be prone to shifting. So, retainers are necessary to keep your brand new smile in place. Some brands include retainers in their cost of treatment, but others do not. Still, retainers shouldn’t be considered optional. Even if you have to shell out an extra $100 for them after treatment, you’ll find that they’re well worth the investment.
Your aftercare retainers will closely resemble your aligners. They’ll be clear and customized to fit your teeth. But, they aren’t designed to move your teeth any further- only keep them in place. Each brand’s retainers will look and feel slightly different, but they’re all effective.
Most home aligner companies recommend a very similar process for transitioning from your final aligners to aftercare retainers. Once your treatment is complete, you’ll need to wear your new retainers 24/7 for the first few weeks. Then, you’re free to wear them only at night. Dentists typically recommend that you replace your retainers once every 6 months. So, it’s important to be prepared for the financial commitment.
Some companies, like byte, are working to relieve that burden by offering a lifetime guarantee for your new smile. So, if your teeth ever shift, they’ll send new aligners to readjust them, completely free – even if you completed treatment years prior.
Which Home Teeth Aligner Brands Work Best?
All home aligner brands have been proven to be effective at treating most cases of crowding and spacing. But, some companies have gone the extra mile by using newer technologies and providing a more comprehensive treatment. The companies below are our picks for the top 3 most effective home aligner brands.
byte is a newer home aligner company, but they’ve already gained well-deserved popularity by providing more innovative technology than any other brand. Their unique Smile Science software analyzes your entire facial structure to generate a treatment plan that will create the most flattering smile for your face. Not even Invisalign incorporates such a comprehensive system.
HyperByte is the original appliance that makes byte’s 3-month treatment time possible. You use it for 5 minutes a day (or 10 for byte At-Night), and its vibration ensures faster teeth movements and a better aligner fit. Like Candid, byte also works exclusively with orthodontists to create their treatment plans. Unfortunately, byte does not disclose the name of their aligners’ manufacturer. Most reviews of their aligners are positive, but there is no way to tell how their quality compares to others in the industry.
Check out our comprehensive byte review for more info.
Candid has made it part of their brand to prioritize safety. They’re the only home aligner company that provides Remote Monitoring service, which facilitates virtual check-ins with your assigned orthodontist, ensuring your treatment’s safety and effectiveness.
Candid is one of only two home aligner companies that work exclusively with orthodontists, as opposed to general dentists. Plus, Candid currently partners with ClearCorrect, a trusted and experienced manufacturer, to create their aligners. Other companies don’t disclose the name of their manufacturer, making it much more difficult to determine their aligner quality.
At $2,400, Candid should be considered an investment. But, the company does include aftercare retainers in the cost of treatment, which will reduce your ongoing costs.
For more on Candid, see our in-depth review.
SmileDirectClub is the largest and most experienced home aligner brand. They’ve treated more patients than all of the other companies combined, and you can find countless positive testimonials for their aligners online.
SmileDirectClub once partnered with Align Technology (the creators of Invisalign) to create their aligners, but that partnership is no longer. Now, they produce their aligners in-house. Only time will tell if their aligners’ quality will be affected by this change.
The treatment plans created by SmileDirectClub’s network of dentists seem to be very effective. However, unlike Candid and byte, SmileDirectClub does not work exclusively with orthodontists.
Interested in SmileDirectClub? See our full review to learn more.
Home teeth aligners are a safe and effective way to straighten your teeth. But, they’re best suited for people with mild-to-moderate crowding or spacing. If you’ve been considering getting home aligners, it’s important to schedule a consultation with your dentist to evaluate your teeth and discuss your options.
Before you move forward with treatment, be sure to compare each company’s unique perks, and choose the one that best suits your needs. If you’re interested in learning more about our picks for the top home aligner brands, check out our detailed comparison.