At-home clear aligners like Byte and AlignerCo are becoming an increasingly popular option for teens today. They don’t require any trips to the dentist, making them a highly convenient and affordable alternative to braces and Invisalign. However, there’s a flip side: you don’t get the hands-on care of a local dentist or orthodontist.
Remote treatment can be a viable option for some teens, while others need the accountability that comes with traditional in-person care. So, how do you decide which option is best for your teen? This guide covers the pros and cons of at-home clear aligner treatment and outlines which brands are best suited for adolescents to help you determine if an at-home treatment plan is right for your teen.
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What Are At-Home Clear Aligners?
At-home aligner treatment is a relatively new orthodontic option. Like Invisalign, it uses clear plastic trays designed by a dental professional. However, you’ll complete the entire process at home, with occasional remote check-ins. Your teen may have to submit pictures of their teeth or schedule video calls so a dental professional can monitor their progress.
Similar to other popular brands like Invisalign, at-home clear aligner companies manufacture their products from BPA-free, medical-grade plastic. Your teen will wear each set of trays for a couple of weeks at a time before moving to the next set in the series. Each one slowly moves their teeth into a new position. Most at-home brands have a daytime version that requires 22 hours of daily wear and a nighttime version that only needs 8–10.
Any clear aligners can be a great alternative to traditional braces. They’re discreet, make cleaning your mouth easier because they are removable, and won’t irritate the cheeks and gums the way braces can.
Your teen might want to avoid the time commitment of regular office visits, and it’s tough to ignore their relatively low prices. But while affordability and convenience are enticing, you shouldn’t base your decision solely on those two factors. It’s all about picking the best option for your teen’s teeth, and sometimes, you just can’t beat traditional options like braces and Invisalign.
Pros and Cons of At-Home Aligners
While there are many benefits to at-home aligners, there are also some drawbacks you should know. Here’s a brief list of pros and cons to consider when deciding whether at-home clear aligners are right for your teen.
- Treatment Time: Most at-home aligner companies only take on mild and moderate cases, which take less time to correct, so they only need an average of 4–6 months for daytime wear plans and 6–8 months for nighttime wear plans. By comparison, Invisalign averages 12–18 months, and traditional braces take about 12–36 months, depending on the complexity of your case.
- Comfort: Patients often report that clear aligners are more comfortable than traditional braces. Since they are a one-piece removable tray, clear aligners don't have sharp edges or metal wires and brackets that can poke and cut your lips, cheeks, or tongue.
- Easier to Clean: Traditional braces are difficult to clean, and you need to use floss threaders to get underneath the wire. At-home clear aligners are removable, so you can brush and floss like usual, which makes them appealing for teens who already have an inconsistent homecare routine.
- No Choice in Care Provider: Unlike Invisalign or traditional braces, you won't be able to choose the dentist that handles your teen’s treatment.
- Increased Risk of Relapse: Research has shown that short-term orthodontic treatment may be less stable than more conventional options, like braces. In other words, the teeth are more likely to shift back after treatment, especially if your teen doesn’t wear their retainers consistently, so they might need to repeat treatment in the future.
- Higher Chance of Complications: Because at-home aligners don’t require physical check-ins with your dentist, there’s a higher risk of developing gum disease or tooth decay. If you choose an at-home treatment plan for your teen, make sure they don't miss their regular dental cleanings to ensure their smile stays healthy before, during, and after treatment.
Our Take: Consult Your Teen’s Dentist First
Researching clear aligners online is great, but before you settle on a treatment for your teen, visit their dentist. They know your teen’s teeth better than anyone, so they can provide the most well-informed treatment recommendation.
Another good reason for a preliminary dentist’s appointment is that most at-home aligner companies don’t require X-rays, just impressions or scans. So their dental teams won’t know if your teen has any underlying dental or skeletal issues. On the other hand, X-rays are standard for in-office options like Invisalign. Before making a recommendation, your teen’s dentist will probably want to take new X-rays or examine the most recent ones on file.
Orthodontic treatment is often more complex than just delivering a good-looking smile. It’s about holistic dental health, reducing the chances of conditions like gingivitis and temporomandibular disorder, while making oral hygiene easier. The best way to treat your teen’s entire mouth instead of just a few misaligned teeth: visit the dentist and follow their advice.
Which Providers Offer At-Home Treatment for Teens?
If you and your teen’s dentist have decided at-home aligners are a good fit, how do you decide which brand to choose? We’ve compiled a list of some of the top brands of at-home clear aligners and broken down the key features, including cost, length of treatment, treatment options, and age requirements.
Age: 13+. Patients must have all their permanent teeth and an adult must sign for patients under 18.
Candid straddles the line between at-home and in-office treatment. Candid partners with a dentist in your area who evaluates your teen’s mouth and oral health to make sure they’re an ideal candidate. The dentist will take digital scans of your teen’s mouth and forward them to Candid, who produces your aligners.
Over the next 4–12 months, your teen will regularly submit photos of their teeth so that Candid and your dentist can make sure their smile is progressing as planned. If anything seems off, they can request additional office visits.
Byte clear aligners have all-day and at-night versions. Their daytime version requires 22 hours of wear with an average treatment length of four months, while their night version takes about five months with 10+ hours of wear per night.
They back every treatment with their Byte for Life™ guarantee, which keeps your teen’s new smile in place forever. If their teeth ever shift after completing treatment, Byte will create new aligners, as long as you’ve purchased two retainer sets per year and your teen has worn them as directed.
SmileDirectClub helped pioneer remote aligner treatment, and they’ve transformed more smiles than any other at-home clear aligner company. They offer two treatment plans: a 22-hour-per-day option that they claim takes about 4–6 months and a nighttime-only option that averages about 8–10 months.
They also have more than 300 SmileShops across the US where your teen can get a free teeth scan instead of purchasing an impression kit, streamlining the start-up process. Plus, SmileDirectClub provides one free aligner replacement for teens — perfect if your teen is constantly losing things.
NewSmile is another highly affordable brand, and they include their impression kit in the initial cost of treatment. If they determine your teen isn’t a suitable candidate for treatment, they will refund you 100%.
When you receive your teen’s impression kit, you can book a video call to get help in real-time. According to NewSmile, treatment with the daytime plan takes between 4–6 months, while the nighttime option takes 8–10 months.
AlignerCo boasts the lowest sticker price in the clear aligner game, plus they offer frequent discounts and have flexible financing plans. They say their all-day treatment takes 4–6 months and their nighttime version, called NightOnly, takes 6–8 months on average.
AlignerCo doesn’t offer in-person teeth scans, but your teen will email photos of their teeth every two weeks so AlignerCo’s dentists can monitor their progress.
Are At-Home Aligners Right for My Teen?
This is the burning question you’ve had on your mind, and the answer is maybe. It depends on their specific teeth and misalignment. As we’ve mentioned, the most surefire way to know is to ask your teen’s dentist, so do that first. Then, here are some other things to consider.
Unlike traditional braces, at-home aligners are removable so patients can take them out to eat, drink, and brush their teeth. Some teens lose things easily and might misplace their aligners often, especially if they’re rushed during lunch at school.
Replacement aligners may delay treatment and cost you more money. You know your teen best. If keeping track of their aligners might be an issue, traditional braces might be the best way to go.
If your teen’s dentist recommends daytime wear at-home aligners, your teen will need to wear each set for 22 hours a day. But on a nighttime-only plan, they’ll have to wear the aligners for ten continuous hours every night. Will they remember to remove them only for meals, drinking anything other than water, and to brush and floss?
Skipping days or forgetting to wear them can cause a delay in treatment and may cost you time and money. If you worry your teen won’t wear them as much as necessary, clear aligners might not be a good option.
Day and Nighttime Wear Options
Many at-home clear aligner manufacturers offer plans for daytime or nighttime wear. The daytime option requires 22 hours of daily wear—your teen can only take them out to eat, drink anything except water, brush, and floss.
The nighttime only option shortens the wear time to just ten hours per day. It takes a couple of months longer than the daytime-wear option, but if you suspect your teen might be more likely to wear aligners every night or worry they may lose their aligners during the day, this could be an excellent option.
For a checklist of other things to keep in mind, click here.
Will My Teen Need Retainers?
Yes! Every teeth-straightening treatment requires aftercare retainers. Your teen will need to wear them every night, typically for the rest of their life, or their teeth might shift back into their original positions. Every case is different, so ask your teen’s doctor what type of retainer will work best and how often they should wear them.
Of the at-home and hybrid clear aligners we researched, we think Candid is the best option for teens. You’ll have access to a local dentist who takes all the digital scans and can help Candid monitor your teen’s progress throughout treatment.
Your teen will also send photos every 14 days to make sure treatment progresses the way it should, which is twice as often as they would see an in-office dentist with traditional orthodontic treatment. The only downside is that Candid doesn’t yet have a vast network of providers, so you might not have one near you.
That said, in many cases, hands-on care and accountability make traditional in-office treatments the best option for teens. While braces and Invisalign are the most well-known in-person treatments, they’re far from the only ones. Check out our reviews of ClearCorrect, SureSmile, and 3M Clarity Aligners for details on some other effective in-office aligners.
Choosing the right orthodontic solution for your child can be challenging. It’s important to remember that even if your teen has all their adult teeth, their mouths are still growing and shifting. Remember to take all factors into account.
Is your teen responsible enough to wear their aligners consistently? Will they remember to take them out before eating and drinking? Will they frequently misplace them? What does the dentist recommend? These questions are important to keep in mind when considering at-home clear aligner treatment.
Possibly the most important thing to remember is that your teen still needs to have regular exams and cleanings. There are certain dental issues that a dentist can’t detect in photos or a teledentistry visit.
Gum disease and tooth decay are often undetectable unless a dental professional sees your teen for an in-office exam. Maintaining a consistent homecare routine and having regular dental checkups can make at-home aligner treatment a successful and rewarding dental experience for your teen.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do at-home clear aligners cost?
Most brands run between $1,100 and $3,500. However, treatment can occasionally fall outside that range.
How long does treatment take?
Treatment with at-home aligners usually takes 4–6 months for aligners worn for 22 hours during the day and 6–10 months for nighttime only versions.
Do at-home clear aligners work for everyone?
No. Some teens have more complex bites and misalignments than at-home aligners can handle. Severe cases and certain dental conditions require the extra force only traditional metal braces can offer.
Are there any risks with at-home aligners?
Every dental procedure has risks. Sometimes (although rare), a nerve will die from the force of the root moving in the bone. Jaw pain and discomfort are common and usually go away as treatment progresses. At-home aligners also have a higher risk of relapse.
Does my insurance cover at-home clear aligner therapy?
Many insurance plans will cover part of at-home treatment. To be sure, check your plan’s specific coverage and contact the provider directly.
Will my teen need retainers?
Yes. Your teen will need to wear retainers every night to prevent their teeth from shifting back into their original positions.