At-home teeth aligners like SmileDirectClub have completely transformed the orthodontic industry. Clear aligner treatments like Invisalign had already provided a more discreet treatment option than braces. But home aligners exploded onto the market with a treatment that’s even more convenient and accessible.
Introduced just over 5 years ago, home aligners are very similar to Invisalign’s clear aligners. The most significant difference between the two is that home aligners don’t require any office visits, so you can complete treatment entirely from home.
The largest and most experienced home aligner brand is SmileDirectClub. Like all other home aligner companies, SmileDirectClub costs significantly less than braces or Invisalign. And, the average treatment time is only about 6 months. Although SmileDirectClub has quickly gained popularity for its innovative treatment, there are some risks involved. The home aligner industry is still very new, and there are drawbacks to completing orthodontic treatment without one-on-one dentist supervision.
If you’ve been considering SmileDirectClub or another home aligner brand to straighten your teeth, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll discuss how safe these online aligners really are, and help you decide whether or not at-home treatment is the right choice for you.
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How Do Home Teeth Aligners Work?
The treatment process for home aligners starts with making sure you’re a good candidate for treatment. Home aligners are best for mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, and won’t be suitable for severe misalignments or bite issues. But, don’t worry – about 70% of cases are approved for treatment, so there’s a good chance you’ll be accepted.
To determine whether you’re a good fit, you’ll need to order an impression kit through your chosen provider’s website. However, if you choose SmileDirectClub or Candid, you can schedule a 3D scan at one of their retail locations instead. If you’re a suitable candidate for treatment, the company will send you a custom treatment plan and potential “after” photo of your teeth, to review.
Once you approve the plan and pay for treatment, your provider will send your custom aligners directly to your home. You should wear the aligners for at least 22 hours per day, only removing them to eat, drink or brush your teeth. The average treatment time for SmileDirectClub (and most other home aligner brands) is about 6 months, but you’ll likely start seeing changes to your smile after your first month of wear.
Home aligners are able to offer such a short treatment time partially because of the way they’re cut. While in-office aligners are cut in scalloped-fashion to match the gumline, home aligners are typically cut straight across. The straight cut allows home aligners to exert more force on the teeth and move them more quickly. On top of that, home aligner companies treat milder conditions that generally take less time to correct.
Are Home Aligner Products Professionally Approved?
Home aligners are a quick and effective way to straighten teeth. And, most dentists agree that they are a safe alternative to more traditional options. Unfortunately, home aligner treatment hasn’t been around long enough to fairly compare it to in-office options. So, it’s still unclear whether home aligner treatment’s results will affect your teeth differently in the long run.
Since you won’t be seeing a dentist in-person during treatment, you won’t receive the same level of care or patient support that you’d get with in-office aligners. And, if any issues arise during treatment, you won’t have the option of scheduling an appointment with a dentist to express your concerns in person.
Although home aligners can’t provide one-on-one dentist support, your treatment will be monitored remotely by a dental professional. So, you can be confident that a dentist or orthodontist will create your treatment plan and support you during treatment. Home aligners only offer virtual support, but their team of professionals is qualified to straighten your teeth.
Home aligners are sometimes mistakenly compared to DIY orthodontic treatment. However, home aligners and DIY orthodontics are completely different. Both allow you to complete treatment entirely from home, but DIY orthodontic treatment doesn’t include any professional dental supervision. This is extremely dangerous and often results in damage to the teeth and gums or additional post-treatment teeth shifts.
In extreme cases, DIY orthodontics have caused severe damage, requiring more extensive orthodontics in the long run and even tooth loss. For a more detailed explanation of why DIY orthodontic treatment is not safe, check out our in-depth review here.
How Can I Ensure the Safest Treatment Possible?
Before starting any orthodontic treatment, it’s important to schedule a consultation with a dentist for a comprehensive exam. Healthy teeth move the most safely and effectively. So, your dentist will likely check for cavities and gum disease before recommending orthodontic treatment.
Your dentist may also take a 3D scan of your mouth to evaluate the positioning of your wisdom teeth. If they’re in a strange position, it could affect your home aligner treatment. Once they’ve taken x-rays and photos of your teeth, your dentist should be able to tell you whether you’ll be a good candidate for home aligners.
If you’ve already been approved for treatment, you may be wondering what you can do to make the process as straight-forward and safe as possible. For the best and safest results, you should carefully follow the instructions included with your aligners. This means wearing your aligners for the full 22 hours per day and only removing them to eat, drink, or brush your teeth. Clean your aligners regularly, and keep up your normal hygiene routine to ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy.
Like any other dental treatment, you should follow your dentist’s instructions to prevent any issues. So, the better your cooperation, the less stressful your treatment will be.
Which Home Aligner Products are the Safest?
All of the home aligner brands we review on our site are safe as long as you take the appropriate measures to prepare for treatment and follow the provider’s instructions. However, some companies are doing more to ensure a safe, comfortable, and successful treatment.
We think the two safest options for at-home teeth straightening are Candid and byte.
1. Candid: $2,400
Although there are several home aligner brands currently available, Candid stands out from the pack when it comes to safety. Being the “super safe and cautious” home aligner option is a huge part of their brand, and it’s easy to see why. Most importantly, Candid requires their patients to get a comprehensive dental exam before starting treatment. Other companies do encourage visiting a dentist before treatment, but Candid is the only one that makes the exam a requirement.
Candid also only works with orthodontists to create their customized treatment plans. Other brands, like SmileDirectClub, have mixed teams of orthodontists and general dentists, and there’s no way to tell which one you’ll get. Orthodontists undergo years of specialty education to learn how to move teeth safely, so they are more experienced than general dentists.
Unlike other companies, Candid has chosen not to offer a “nighttime-only” plan. This is likely due to the debate around whether nighttime-only treatments are as safe and effective as more traditional plans.
Finally, the way a brand’s aligners are made has a massive impact on how safe the treatment will be. Candid’s aligners are manufactured by ClearCorrect, a popular in-office alternative to Invisalign. So, you can be sure that their aligners are well-made and effective.
2. byte: $1,895
byte is the only other provider on this list that works solely with orthodontists to create their treatment plans. As a result, you can be confident that you’ll have a highly experienced and specialized professional overseeing your case.
One of the ways byte aims to stand out is by offering the industry’s most innovative technology. They introduced their HyperByte device, which gives them the shortest treatment time currently available, just 3 months. The HyperByte is a small appliance that you bite down on for five minutes per day (or 10 for byte-At-Night). It sends gentle vibrations to your teeth, which gives your aligners a better fit and induces more accurate teeth movements.
Because it helps your aligners perform faster and more accurately, HyperByte gives byte an advantage over its competitors. byte has also been endorsed by numerous celebrities and other influential figures in Hollywood. Some people feel safer using a product that is well-known and trusted, and byte definitely delivers in that regard.
byte has also chosen to include aftercare retainers in their treatment price. It’s essential to wear aftercare retainers to maintain your new smile, so they shouldn’t be considered optional. By including retainers in their cost, byte aims to make their treatment results easier to maintain and safe from the possibility of relapse.
Home teeth alignment is a new and still evolving industry, but it’s been proven to be a safe and effective way to straighten your teeth. Like any dental treatment, there are steps you can take to make your experience as safe as possible. Visiting your dentist for a thorough evaluation of your teeth and following your home aligner instructions carefully are both critical to ensuring a safe and effective treatment.
Be sure to read each provider’s website thoroughly, and choose the one that will put you and your safety first. With the right preparation and cooperation during treatment, you’ll be on your way to a new, beautiful smile in no time.