If you’re considering home aligner treatment, you’re no doubt excited to straighten your teeth. However, the home aligner industry is still young, so it’s natural to have questions. Fortunately, home aligners are safe to wear and highly effective. Today, they’re one of the most convenient treatments available, and most people report excellent results.
The way you prepare for home aligners is central to ensuring your treatment’s safety and effectiveness. Although they’re one of the cheapest options in the orthodontic industry, home aligners are still a significant investment. So, taking steps to prepare will help you get the best results for your money.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Get a Dental Exam
Although it’s not a requirement across all home aligner brands, you should receive a comprehensive dental exam before starting any orthodontic treatment. If you are coming up on your twice-yearly dental visit, there is no need to schedule an extra appointment.
One of the biggest advantages of home aligner treatment is the lack of office visits. We understand if you’re not exactly eager to schedule a dental exam before your treatment begins, but it’s the best way to start.
Cavities, impacted wisdom teeth, and gum infections are common conditions, and they can have a significant impact on your treatment’s efficacy and safety.
Having a dentist thoroughly evaluate your teeth and gums will help make sure your treatment is effective and minimize the chances of anything going wrong. During your appointment, you can also schedule a cleaning and an oral cancer screening. Your dentist will probably also take X-rays of your teeth to check for cavities or decay.
It’s worth mentioning that clear aligners can’t move dental implants. If you have an implant, visit a dentist for an exam to make sure aligner treatment will work for you. There may be special alterations that your at-home aligner provider can make to accommodate an implant.
In the same vein, a dental bridge can also affect treatment. If you have an implant or dental bridge or you’re thinking about getting one, it’s best to wait until after you’ve finished treatment with your aligners.
Home aligner treatment doesn’t include any office visits, so you should start in good oral health.
Healthy teeth move more easily and safely than damaged or decaying ones. Cavities or infections could prolong your treatment time or make it less effective. Play it safe and schedule an exam before you start home aligner treatment.
Step 2: Choose a Provider
You may have only heard of one or two at-home aligner brands, but there are several providers to choose from. Each of them has its own unique advantages.
SmileDirectClub is the most famous home aligner company. They were the first to hit the market in 2014, and they’ve transformed 1.8 million smiles so far. With their 100+ SmileShops, their solid refund policies, and their remote oversight, they’re a solid choice—but they’re far from the only one.
Byte, for example, currently offers a compelling treatment that incorporates innovative technology. In every aligner package, they include a device called the HyperByte, which uses high-frequency vibrations intended to reduce discomfort during treatment. Certain studies also suggest devices like this may encourage faster dental shifts for some people. Byte claims an average treatment plan length of just 4–5 months, and they also put a lifetime guarantee on your smile. If your teeth shift through no fault of your own, they’ll send you new aligners to readjust them for free — even if it’s been years since your initial treatment.
Our #1 Recommended Aligner Service
Byte is our #1 ranked at-home aligner company. Their HyperByte, lifetime guarantee, and convenient nighttime treatment make them a fantastic all-around choice.
For a more detailed look at the top home aligner providers, check out our comprehensive comparison below.
Step 3: Decide How to Pay For Treatment
Most home aligner brands have fairly similar price tags. Some companies run frequent promotions or offer perks, like free whitening gel, to sweeten the pot. However, the average price for home aligners is $1,900. Although that is less than half the cost of most in-office treatments, like Invisalign, it’s still a big financial commitment.
Almost every home aligner brand offers some sort of financing or monthly payment plan to break that cost into more manageable chunks. SmileDirectClub and Byte offer similar plans that are available to every customer, regardless of credit score. AlignerCo, the industry’s most affordable brand, offers two different financing plans: one with a credit check and one without.
Insurance doesn’t always cover home aligners. However, more and more providers are partnering with at-home aligners companies, including major insurers like Aetna and Anthem. Be sure to contact the aligner company you are considering, as well as your insurance company, to see how you can utilize your benefits. And don’t forget about using HSAs and FSAs to cover what would otherwise be out-of-pocket expenses.
Step 4: Order an Impression Kit (or Schedule a 3D Scan)
Before ordering your aligners, your chosen provider will need to determine whether or not you’re a good fit for at-home treatment.
The best candidates are people with mild-to-moderate misalignments and no bite issues.
There are two ways to determine if you’re a good candidate for home aligner treatment. The first way is to visit the company’s website and order an impression kit. These kits typically cost $50–$100 and include instructions to take photos and impressions of your teeth. Most kits include enough materials to take two impressions just in case the first one isn’t right. Once you’ve got an accurate impression, send the kit back to the company for their team of dentists to review. Then, after a few days, you’ll find out if you’ve been approved.
Unfortunately, taking a good impression of your teeth can be a challenge. As an alternative, one brand currently has retail locations where you can schedule a 3D scan of your teeth instead. SmileDirectClub opened their first SmileShop in 2016, and now they have over 100 locations nationwide. Getting a 3D scan at a SmileShop is free and only takes about 30 minutes, so it’s often more convenient and less stressful than completing an at-home impression kit.
Step 5: Get to Know Your Treatment Plan
Once your chosen provider decides you’re a good candidate, they will send you the treatment plan for you to approve. Then all you have to do is pay for your treatment and wait for your aligners to show up. You’ll need to wait a few weeks for the company to manufacture and ship them.
They’ll arrive along with detailed instructions, including how many hours you should wear your aligners each day, how to clean them, and how long your treatment will take. You’ll probably be excited to get started, but it’s essential that you review your treatment plan again along with your provider’s instructions before wearing your new aligners.
In most cases, you should wear your aligners for 22 hours per day or 8–10 hours at night, depending on the treatment plan you chose, and only remove them to eat, drink, or brush your teeth.
You should also clean your aligners daily and brush your teeth after meals. These are the most common instructions, but your provider may provide more.
Your package will also include details on how long you should wear each set of aligners before switching to the next. If you don’t wear your aligners for the required amount of time or if you start a new set too soon, you may not achieve your desired results. So, follow your provider’s instructions carefully to prevent any complications. If you ever have any questions, reach out to your assigned dentist or the provider’s customer support team.
Step 6: Ensure You Can Actually Follow Your Treatment Schedule
We briefly mentioned that you’ll need to wear your aligners for a strict 22 hours per day, assuming you are using an all-day treatment system.
Wearing your aligners for less than 22 hours each day will almost definitely prolong the process and make your treatment less effective. This could take some getting used to, but it’s important to adjust your normal routine to accommodate your new aligners.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys snacking throughout the day, you may need to plan your meals more carefully or limit the time you spend eating. You can, however, drink water while wearing your aligners. We recommend cutting down on coffee and soft drinks to reduce the time you have your aligners out and to prevent staining.
Brushing after meals is also important to prevent build-up on your teeth and aligners. Before you start treatment, purchase a travel toothbrush and toothpaste kit to bring with you to work or school. It may also be helpful to plan the time of day you’ll clean your aligners so you won’t forget.
If wearing aligners for 22 hours per day sounds like too big of a commitment, you might be better suited for a more flexible treatment, like SmileDirectClub or Byte’s nighttime-only plans.
On a nighttime-only plan, you wear your aligners for at least ten continuous hours every night instead of 22 hours per day. Of course, this will extend your overall treatment timeline.
Creating a consistent routine for yourself is key to making sure your treatment goes according to plan. Making preparations beforehand will help you feel more confident that you’ve set yourself up for success.
Step 7: Pack a Clear Aligner Survival Kit
During your treatment, you’ll want to pack a small travel kit to keep with you. What you carry in your aligner kit is up to you. Chapstick, floss, and mouthwash are all great ideas to make your kit more useful. Regardless, it’s vital to pack some sort of travel bag before starting home aligner treatment.
You may want to include an over-the-counter pain reliever, because during treatment, you’ll switch to a new set of aligners about once every two weeks. Each new set of aligners will feel tight for the first few days of wear. As a result, your teeth will be slightly sore, but the pain should be bearable.
Take some when you start wearing a new set of aligners to prevent excessive soreness later in the day. And keep the medicine with you just in case any pain returns; the last thing you want is to be in an important meeting or at a party with sore teeth and gums.
Home teeth straightening is still a new concept, so it’s only natural to wonder how the process works. If you’re getting ready to start home aligner treatment, we’re sure you have plenty of questions. However, researching and preparing for your treatment is the best way to feel more comfortable.
If you don’t know where to start, use this checklist as a guide to plan out your treatment. Check out the top brands’ websites for more details about the home teeth straightening process. You can even visit your regular dentist to discuss your options and make sure home aligners are the right choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are clear aligners?
Aligners are plastic trays that are molded to almost perfectly fit against your teeth. We say almost because they need to be slightly different to generate force and move the teeth to their improved locations.
Will aligners work as well as braces?
If your concerns are cosmetic and related to small gaps or simple crowding, yes, they should. However, if your orthodontic problems are complex, braces or in-office aligners would work better.
Am I required to see my dentist during treatment?
While you don’t physically see your prescribing dentist for at-home aligner treatment, it’s still very important to visit your local dentist for twice-yearly cleanings and exams as usual. Your dentist will be able to make sure your treatment is progressing and that there aren’t any cavities or gum problems developing.
Do at-home teeth straightening kits actually work?
Yes! The technology behind them is the same as with in-office aligners. They are only limited in that they cannot use attachments. Otherwise, they do the same things.
Why are at-home systems faster than in-office ones?
This is an interesting question. The truth is that they aren’t always faster. However, at-home kits are limited to patients with mild to moderate cosmetic concerns, which are easier to resolve than complex cases.
Is having a straight smile really important?
Assuming your teeth are not causing you health problems, such as crowding making it difficult to clean your teeth, the only reason to straighten your teeth is because it would make you feel good. This is all about you. Would you smile bigger and brighter with a better-aligned smile? Then consider treatment.
What are aligners made from?
The exact makeup can vary between providers. However, they are all made from some form of medical-grade, BPA-free plastic.
Should I anticipate any hidden costs?
Most at-home aligner companies are pretty transparent about the costs of treatment. The only “hidden” cost in most cases are the aftercare retainers, but these are more standard than hidden.
Where can I find discounts on at-home teeth straightening kits?
We often feature exclusive discounts right here on our site. Additionally, you can check the aligner companies’ sites to see if they have any special offers.