The past few decades have brought us some astounding medical advancements, and teeth straightening treatments are no exception. When Invisalign introduced the first complete clear aligner system in 1997, it was a stunning achievement, providing the same power as braces, but without all the metal. But the evolution didn’t stop there.
As companies have sought ways to improve clear aligner treatment, some, like AlignerCo, have developed a way to complete the process entirely from home. Invisalign and AlignerCo’s aligners might look similar, but their treatment methods are actually quite different. In this review, we’ll dive into the details of how Invisalign and AlignerCo actually compare — including several things your dentist might not have told you.
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Over two decades ago, a dental technology company called Align Technology developed the first clear aligner series, Invisalign, which commanded the market for nearly ten years. They quickly implemented an ambitious marketing campaign, partnered with dentists and orthodontists across the country, and had transformed 175,000 smiles by 2004. Today, Invisalign maintains its position atop the clear aligner industry. They currently partner with 100,000 dentists in 90 countries and have treated over twelve million patients.
If Invisalign is the industry stalwart, AlignerCo is one of the brash young upstarts. They just started selling aligners in 2019, but they’ve already turned plenty of heads with their astonishingly low prices. They’ve made it their goal to deliver quality home aligner treatment for less than anybody else, and so far, they’ve thoroughly succeeded. While all home aligner treatments are more affordable than Invisalign, AlignerCo goes above and beyond.
At-Home vs. In-Office Treatment: The Pros and Cons
As we mentioned above, even though they both produce clear aligners, Invisalign and AlignerCo provide fairly different treatments. Invisalign is administered in-office by a dentist, while AlignerCo’s aligners are developed remotely by a licensed dentist or orthodontist and applied at home.
Which is better? The answer isn’t so straightforward. Each has its own unique advantages and drawbacks.
Pros of In-Office Treatment:
- In-office aligner treatments can incorporate attachments and elastics that allow them to treat more severe tooth and jaw misalignments.
- Regular office visits allow dentists to monitor your progress and adjust or supplement your treatment if necessary.
- In-office treatments provide more personalized customer service, as you can take any questions or concerns directly to your dentist.
Cons of In-Office Treatment:
- Because you’re also paying for your dentist’s time, in-office treatment is often more expensive than at-home treatments.
- Making regular office visits is more time-consuming and less convenient than at-home treatment.
Pros of At-Home Treatment:
- At-home aligners are, on average, much more affordable than in-office treatments.
- Because they don’t require office visits, home aligner treatments tend to be more convenient.
- At-home aligner treatments typically take around six months to achieve the desired results, while in-office treatments often take about twelve.
Cons of At-Home Treatment:
- They’re not able to treat more severe cases of crowding, spacing and bite misalignments like in-office aligners can.
- Depending on the company, customer support isn’t as personalized as you’ll receive with in-office aligners.
The fact is that at-home and in-office aligners are both quality options, but which one you choose largely depends on your unique condition and situation. For example, an in-office brand might be more effective for someone with a severe overbite. However, an at-home brand could be preferable for someone with a mild case of spacing and a tight budget.
Invisalign and AlignerCo each present their own unique treatments with specific nuances and perks. Let’s dig into the details to find out where each company excels.
You don’t want to mess around with your teeth. You want assurance that the treatment you choose will work just like you’re expecting. Not all aligners are equal, and some are more effective than others, depending on their treatment times, manufacturing processes, aligner design, and more.
When evaluating your options, you’ll want to make sure that your aligners are high quality, structurally sound, and capable of efficiently and safely achieving your desired results. AlignerCo can reliably treat mild misalignments, but Invisalign is one of the most effective, powerful clear aligner treatments out there.
- Can treat almost any condition braces can by employing orthodontic attachments.
- Created by Align Technology, the #1 clear aligner producer.
- Trims their aligners in a scalloped fashion to fit the gum line.
- Can treat mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, and some bite issues.
- Uses plastic from Raintree Essix, one of the most experienced dental product manufacturers.
- Trims their aligners in a scalloped fashion to fit the gum line and might be less powerful.
What Can They Treat?
Without regular office visits and dentist oversight, AlignerCo’s aligners are only suitable for treating mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, along with minor bite issues. Consequently, some people might not be good candidates for treatment. You’ll need to purchase and submit an impression kit so AlignerCo’s experts can determine whether your condition is mild enough to treat. If it’s not, an in-office treatment like Invisalign will provide better results.
Invisalign, on the other hand, can correct just about any condition you might have—severe crowding, large tooth gaps, overbites, underbites, crossbites, and more. This is because their aligners are compatible with other orthodontic attachments, which your dentist can apply to enhance treatment. Invisalign even has its own patented additions called Smartforce attachments. These tiny, tooth-colored shapes sit on your teeth and help to catalyze more significant or complex movements.
No matter which company you choose, your aligners will be designed to fit your teeth perfectly and slowly move them to the desired position. Aligners that break or lose their shape are no longer effective, so you want a company whose products are well made, durable, and structurally sound.
Invisalign’s parent company, Align Technology, is the largest and most experienced clear aligner producer in the U.S. They’ve been creating high-quality aligners since the 90s, and they’re always finding ways to improve their products. Currently, Align Technology and Invisalign use a patented material called “SmartTrack,” which Invisalign claims “moves your teeth more precisely and comfortably.”
AlignerCo uses plastics from a dental supply company called Raintree Essix to produce their aligners. Raintree Essix is a well-respected and reputable manufacturer that supplies plastics for several home aligner companies. So, you can be confident that your aligners are crafted from sturdy, reliable materials.
All clear aligner companies cut their products one of two ways: straight across the top or scalloped to match the gum line, and this cut can influence their effectiveness. Both Invisalign and AlignerCo take the scalloped route. Scalloped aligners from home aligner companies aren’t able to move the teeth as quickly as straight-cut aligners, so treatment may take longer.
But Invisalign avoids this drawback by using attachments that anchor the aligners to your teeth. This design will match (and even exceed) the power of straight-cut aligners. AlignerCo, unfortunately, doesn’t have this option, so their scalloped aligners might not be quite as effective as Invisalign or any straight-cut option.
When you go with Invisalign, you’ll receive in-person care from either a dentist or an orthodontist. You might prefer to go with your usual dentist (if they’re a provider) so you can have your teeth straightened at the same office where you get them cleaned. Or, you might decide to get a referral for an orthodontist instead. No matter which route you take, the one-on-one care you’ll receive makes Invisalign’s treatment more thorough and robust.
AlignerCo still assigns a dentist or orthodontist to oversee your treatment, but it’s entirely remote, and you don’t have a choice about who works on your case. You might get an orthodontist or you might get a dentist. What’s the difference? Orthodontists receive four years of postgraduate training specifically on moving teeth, so they’re more specialized than general dentists.
One of the biggest reasons that adults opt for home aligner treatment over Invisalign is the cost. In a large majority of cases, home aligners are significantly cheaper. By eliminating the need for regular office visits, these companies can significantly reduce costs, making clear aligner treatment much more affordable. And among at-home aligner services, AlignerCo stands alone. Invisalign can treat a much wider range of conditions, but AlignerCo will have a much lighter impact on your wallet.
- No set sticker price, the average cost is $3,000–$8,000.
- Aftercare retainers cost anywhere from $100–$300, depending on the dentist.
- Financing varies depending on the dentists, may require a credit check or down payment.
- $895 sticker price.
- Includes the impression kit and one set of aftercare retainers in the cost of treatment.
- Multiple financing options — one requires a soft credit check, the other requires a down payment.
Even compared to home aligner companies, AlignerCo is far and away the most affordable option. You simply won’t find lower prices for teeth straightening treatment. Their sticker price is just $895, and this price includes the cost of your impression kit and the first set of your aftercare retainers. All in all, AlignerCo is several hundred dollars lower than other home aligners and thousands cheaper than Invisalign.
That said, Invisalign doesn’t have a set price. Instead, it changes based on a couple of variables, primarily your dentist and the severity of your condition. Your dentist’s time costs money, as does their office and equipment. Therefore, a severe condition that requires many office visits will end up costing more money. But even at its most affordable, Invisalign is still pricier than home aligners.
The average course of Invisalign treatment costs between $3,000 and $8,000. Unique circumstances might cause the price to fall outside this range, but in general, that’s what you can expect to pay. Plus, you’ll need to pay $100–$300 for retainers after you finish treatment (unless your particular dentist/orthodontist includes them in your upfront cost).
Once you’ve achieved the smile you’ve always wanted, you’ll want to do whatever you can to maintain it. Industry-wide wisdom recommends wearing a nightly retainer indefinitely after completing treatment, so you can keep those pearly whites in place.
AlignerCo generously includes your first set of retainers (upper and lower) in your aligner package. At-home clear aligner companies typically recommend using a new retainer every six months — so it’s an ongoing expense.
That’s why AlignerCo started their Smile Protection plan. For $680 (though often on sale for $499), you will receive eight retainers total, lowering the cost of each retainer to $62.38, much lower than Invisalign’s range of retainer prices. But it isn’t just that you’ll receive discounted retainers, you will also get some peace of mind.
You won’t need to worry about keeping track of the retainers for four years, though. Instead, AlignerCo will mail all your retainers at once, so if you lose one, you won’t have to wait for them to manufacture a new one, potentially allowing your teeth to shift back.
Invisalign doesn’t include any retainers in the cost of your treatment. There is no set cost for their retainers either, since that will be determined by your dentist’s office. But they are typically around $100–$300. You can sometimes buy your retainers in bulk for a discount, which also ensures that you always have a replacement on hand if you lose or break one.
What About Insurance?
The bad news here is that insurance companies often consider clear aligner treatment cosmetic or unnecessary, especially for minor conditions corrected by home aligner companies. This isn’t always the case, though. Insurance companies are more likely to cover in-office treatments than at-home ones, but this doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. AlignerCo accepts payments from FSA and HSA accounts, but you should check with your insurance provider to see if you’ll receive coverage.
Your dentist’s office can accept payments directly from your insurance company. So, with Invisalign, you won’t need to file for reimbursement. Your dental office will handle all the paperwork.
You don’t need to have a couple thousand dollars lying around to pay for your clear aligners upfront. Both Invisalign and AlignerCo offer financing plans to spread out the cost of treatment over multiple months. In fact, AlignerCo has two different financing options. Their SmileFlex plan requires a soft credit check to qualify, but then it’s just twelve monthly payments of $73. SmileFlexEasy is their more accessible plan because it doesn’t need a credit check, but it does require a $495 down payment. After that, it’s six monthly payments of $100.
Invisalign doesn’t have one standard financing plan for their aligner system. Instead, you’ll need to speak with your specific dentist or orthodontist to see what kind of plans their office provides.
Busy is no longer just a word for many adults—it’s a way of life. Our schedules are booked hour-to-hour and it’s often hard to squeeze in relaxation time. Many adults don’t want to spend those hours at the dentist’s office, and home aligner companies like AlignerCo have capitalized on this desire for convenience by eliminating the need for office visits. But this isn’t the only factor at play. Treatment times and startup options are also worth considering when evaluating a company’s convenience.
- An in-person consultation with a dentist is required to get started, including X-rays and photos.
- Requires office visits every 4–6 weeks (on average) to monitor progress and receive new aligner sets.
- Average treatment plan is 12–18 months.
- Doesn’t have physical locations that offer teeth scans, so you’ll have to start treatment by completing an impression kit remotely.
- You’ll complete treatment at home — no office visits required.
- Average treatment plan is 4–6 months.
Before diving into home aligner treatment, you first need to determine whether you’re a good candidate. To do so, you must make molds of your top and bottom dental arches using an impression kit. AlignerCo’s dentists and orthodontists will use these molds to determine if their aligners can address your misalignment and, if so, design your treatment plan.
Unfortunately, this requires a near-perfect impression, not an easy task for anyone who has never used an impression kit before. Some competitors, like SmileDirectClub, provide numerous physical locations where you can receive free teeth scans. But AlignerCo doesn’t have locations that offer teeth scans, so you’ll need to purchase an impression kit. Even though the process can be tricky, AlignerCo will schedule a video call to walk you through it, which is a nice touch.
The benefit of Invisalign’s face-to-face dentist interaction is that your dentist can examine your teeth in person. They are trained on how to take impressions, so you can be sure that they’ll have quality molds to use in preparing your aligners.
The Office Visit Trade-Off
Invisalign’s office visits serve an important purpose. They allow your dentist to oversee and modify your treatment, making it more effective at correcting a wide scope of conditions. But when you finally get some well-earned free time, spending it at the dentist’s office isn’t nearly as exciting or relaxing as the alternatives. That’s why many adults opt for at-home companies instead.
Two weeks after AlignerCo approves you for treatment, they’ll send you a treatment preview, which shows a digital before and after of your teeth. If you want to continue, they’ll get to work producing your actual aligners, which takes around three more weeks. Once you’ve received your aligners, you’ll administer treatment from home. While you won’t be scheduling and attending regular office visits, AlignerCo will require you to submit photos of your teeth every two weeks. This gives their team a chance to provide feedback, adjust your timeline (if necessary), and ensure that your treatment stays on track.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
This question is particularly important if you have a tight timeframe. Say your wedding is in eight months, or you have another important event coming up. It’s good to know how long your treatment will take. Of course, this is largely dependent on your condition’s severity, but it can also vary between companies. At-home treatment times are shorter than in-office ones, usually because at-home aligners treat milder cases. This holds true when we look at AlignerCo and Invisalign’s average time frames.
On average, AlignerCo’s plans are 4–6 months long (or 6–8 for NightOnly treatment) and Invisalign’s are 12–18. Of course, both of these timelines can be shorter or longer depending on the severity of your condition, but these are the most common cases. If you need a more accurate estimate, speak with your dentist about how your particular condition will affect your treatment time.
One of the major goals for clear aligner providers is to provide a less-noticeable teeth straightening option—one that you can wear to dates, job interviews, and in everyday life with no worries about appearance. While all clear aligners are less visible than traditional braces, each company is actively seeking ways to make their products better looking. And each will tell you that they’ve succeeded.
However, “best looking” is a largely subjective term, as it depends on your personal preferences. Invisalign and AlignerCo make very different aligners, so you’ll need to consider your own style and tastes as you compare them.
- Uses a frosted, textured plastic that better matches your tooth surfaces.
- Scallops their aligners to match your gum line.
- Reasonably stain-resistant.
- Supplemental attachments, such as attachments or elastics can make aligners more visible.
- Aligners are smooth and translucent, may look artificially shiny.
- Scallops their aligners to match your gum line.
- Reasonably stain-resistant.
- Cannot incorporate attachments, so their aligners stay clear and less noticeable.
Place Invisalign and AlignerCo aligners side-by-side and you’ll notice a few differences. AlignerCo claims to have made the “world’s clearest aligners,” that are exceptionally smooth and translucent, while Invisalign’s aligners are frosted and textured. These are two very different options, and you’re likely wondering which looks better.
Your teeth are covered in tiny pores, making them appear matte. Therefore, frosted, textured aligners better mimic natural teeth surfaces. Smooth, translucent aligners can be reflective and make your teeth look unnaturally shiny, although some customers actually prefer the way that AlignerCo’s smooth aligners make their teeth “gleam.”
Remember the “Effectiveness” section? There, we discussed how scalloped aligners can be less powerful. But it’s also worth noting that they’re less visible. In close quarters, people might notice the slight space where straight-cut aligners overlap your gums. Invisalign and AlignerCo both make scalloped aligners that match your gum lines, so they don’t have this issue. This might make AlignerCo’s aligners slightly less effective than straight-cut ones. Invisalign uses attachments to anchor their aligners in place, so the scalloped cut doesn’t reduce their effectiveness.
One of Invisalign’s main draws is its ability to incorporate other orthodontic attachments to treat severe cases and jaw misalignments. These attachments are essential for treating a wide scope of conditions, but they also make the aligners more visible. AlignerCo doesn’t have this issue, as they don’t supplement their aligners with any attachments.
Patient Experience Comparison
Undergoing orthodontic treatment can be exciting and worrisome all at once. On one hand, you’re looking forward to your dazzling new smile. On the other, you’ve got nagging questions: what if something goes wrong? What if I have questions? How will I be treated?
If your treatment doesn’t progress like you’re expecting, or if you have a question about your aligners, you want a company that will quickly and effectively address your concerns. Many AlignerCo customers are satisfied with their treatment, but we think that Invisalign’s in-person oversight and hands-on care make for a more fulfilling patient experience.
Invisalign Patient Experience
AlignerCo Patient Experience
- Your dentist’s office functions as your primary customer support contact.
- You have the option of speaking with your dentist in-person.
- Office visits allow your dentist to better keep track of your progress.
- Refinements don’t typically cost extra with Invisalign’s full treatment.
- Customer service is available via phone, email, and webchat (plus video calls for impression kits).
- Limited reviews available, but the ones we found are fairly mixed.
- You’ll regularly send photos of your teeth to check in.
- No refunds after you begin treatment, but you can request a refinement for $200 if you’re dissatisfied with your results.
AlignerCo offers all the typical communication channels: phone, email, and webchat. And if you’re having trouble with your impression kit, you can also schedule a video call for step-by-step assistance. Their typical customer support hours are 9am–6pm ET, seven days a week. With Invisalign, you can take all of your questions and concerns directly to your dentist during their regular business hours. This means you’ll have a dedicated point of contact who knows you and your teeth personally.
In the course of our research, we compiled numerous online reviews to paint a complete picture of the AlignerCo customer experience. They’re so young that it was difficult to find many unsponsored reviews, and many of the reviews we found had praise for the company’s support team. However, some customers have reported delays in treatment and frustration with having to go back and forth with representatives to get helpful answers.
Your dentist or orthodontist’s office will handle all of your Invisalign questions and concerns. You’ll speak to someone who knows the details of your case and can answer highly specific questions as opposed to a remote customer service representative. For more serious issues, you can simply schedule an office visit and your dentist will address your concerns in person while examining your teeth.
You won’t be surprised to hear that a huge part of the patient experience is how your treatment is administered. As we’ve already established, AlignerCo is remote, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely on your own. You’ll regularly send photos of your teeth so that their team can make sure they’re moving as planned. It’s better than nothing, but still presents some problems. For example, if you’re concerned about the way your teeth are moving, you’ll have to reach out to customer service, who will pass along your question to the dentist. And if you need new aligners, you’ll need to complete a new impression kit.
Compare that to an Invisalign office visit, where you can speak with a dentist in person, they can examine your teeth on the spot, and you’ll have a solution before you leave. Attending regular office visits might be inconvenient, but it provides quick problem-solving and peace of mind.
Refund & Warranty Policies
We should preface this section by stating that a large majority of Invisalign and AlignerCo customers get the results they want. Very few encounter issues if they regularly visit your dentist (with Invisalign) or strictly follow your treatment plan (with AlignerCo). That said, if your progress or results aren’t what you expected, what’s next?
If AlignerCo receives your impressions and determines that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, you’ll receive a full refund for anything you already purchased. But once you begin AlignerCo treatment, they won’t provide any refunds. If you reach the end of your treatment and aren’t satisfied with the result, however, you can apply for a refinement, which will provide additional aligners for $200.
Invisalign’s system makes it easy for your dentist to make mid-treatment adjustments. During your regular office visits, your dentist will assess your progress and make modifications if necessary. Making course corrections along the way will help to better ensure your satisfaction and desired results. And if you get to the end of your initial aligner plan but don’t see the smile you were promised, your dentist can get refinements at no extra cost (as long as you’re on the standard Invisalign Full plan).
Which Should You Choose?
Once again, both of these companies offer quality, effective clear aligner treatments. Neither is clearly or inherently better than the other. Rather, each one has its own strengths and each excels in different circumstances. So, your decision should be based on your unique condition, goals, and expectations.
Who Should Choose AlignerCo?
Anyone with a mild or moderate condition who’s searching for the lowest prices available and reliable products, and doesn’t mind working with a newer company.
Who Should Choose Invisalign?
Anyone looking to correct a more severe condition, or who is more comfortable receiving one-on-one care from a dentist/orthodontist, Invisalign is an ideal choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I choose Invisalign or AlignerCo?
It depends on your condition and priorities. If you have a severe case of crowding/spacing or bite misalignment, a more powerful treatment like Invisalign might be necessary.
However, if you have a milder case and your budget tops the priority list, go with AlignerCo. Their prices are significantly cheaper, and their treatment is often more convenient. You can get to know each company a little better in our full Invisalign review and AlignerCo review.
How do I get started with Invisalign or AlignerCo?
For Invisalign, visit your dentist or orthodontist. They’ll evaluate your teeth and consult you on your treatment options. If you choose to move forward, they will also take impressions or 3D scans of your teeth to create your aligners.
Getting started with AlignerCo’s treatment requires an impression kit instead, which you can purchase on their website. You’ll use a putty to create molds of your teeth, then mail them back. AlignerCo will use these molds to determine your candidacy and design your aligners.
How much do Invisalign and AlignerCo cost?
Invisalign’s prices can vary based on numerous factors, like your condition, your location, and your dentist’s rates. But most people end up paying somewhere between $3,000 and $8,000. AlignerCo has a flat rate of $895, which includes your impression kit, full aligner treatment, free whitening foam, and one set of aftercare retainers. Check out our guide on the true cost of Invisalign for a closer look.
Do Invisalign and AlignerCo provide financing?
Most of the time, yes. Invisalign doesn’t have one overarching financing plan, as those details are handled by your specific dentist’s office. However, most dentists have payment plans available, although they might require a credit check to qualify.
AlignerCo provides two different financing plans: SmileFlex and SmileFlex Easy. Regular SmileFlex consists of twelve $73 monthly payments, and it requires a credit check to qualify. SmileFlex Easy doesn’t require a credit check, but you’ll need to make a $495 down payment, then six monthly payments of $100.
What are Invisalign and AlignerCo customers saying?
Since Invisalign treatment can vary based on the dentist or orthodontist who provides it, it’s hard to define an “average” customer experience, although a vast majority of customers are pleased with their results (but not, necessarily, the price).
While some AlignerCo reviewers reported delays in their treatment process and frustrating customer support experiences, most of the company’s reviews are positive.
How long do Invisalign and AlignerCo take?
Your Invisalign or AlignerCo timeline largely depends on the severity of your condition and how consistently you wear your aligners. But on average, Invisalign’s plans are 12–18 months long, while AlignerCo’s are 4–6 months. Often, this treatment is because Invisalign usually handles more severe cases that take longer to correct.
What’s the difference between Invisalign and AlignerCo?
The most noticeable difference is each treatment’s office visit requirements. Invisalign is an in-office treatment, which means that it’s administered by a dentist or orthodontist and requires office visits every 4–6 weeks.
AlignerCo, however, ships you all of your aligners at once so that you can administer treatment entirely at home. They’re still designed by licensed dentists, but you don’t need to make office visits for regular check-ins.
What conditions can Invisalign and AlignerCo treat?
Invisalign can treat almost any dental or jaw misalignment because it can incorporate supplemental attachments for more power and intricacy. Because AlignerCo doesn’t have the same in-person oversight and available attachments, it’s restricted to treating mild and moderate cases of crowding and spacing.
What is the most effective clear aligner company?
In-office aligners like Invisalign, ClearCorrect, SureSmile, and 3M Clarity Aligners are capable of handling the widest range of conditions, making them the most effective treatments. Read through our guide to the most effective clear aligners for other high-quality treatments.
What is the cheapest clear aligner company?
AlignerCo. At just $895, their price beats every competitor by a few hundred dollars, and sometimes they run promotions that drop it even lower. And if you can’t pay that up front, you can jump on a financing plan, regardless of your credit score. You can find other great-value options in our guide to the most affordable home aligners.
What other companies should I consider?
If you like the idea of home aligners, take a look at Byte, NewSmile, and SmileDirectClub. Byte (our #1 pick) has a 4-5 month average treatment plan length, SmileDirectClub is the largest and most experienced home aligner company, and NewSmile is another affordable, reliable option. But if you prefer in-office treatment, you might also like ClearCorrect, who offers similar benefits to Invisalign and often has lower prices.
Does insurance cover clear aligners?
Sometimes. Most insurance providers don’t cover home aligner treatment, although some might if you have orthodontic benefits. They’re more likely to cover an in-office treatment like Invisalign. The only way to find out for sure is to contact your provider and ask.
Are home aligners safe?
Yes! While administering treatment from home might seem daunting, the process is very safe. Home aligner companies use state-licensed dentists and orthodontists to create your treatment plan and design your aligners. Even though you won’t meet with them in-person, each company offers robust customer support services if something doesn’t feel quite right.
Do home aligners hurt?
When you switch to a new aligner set every two weeks, you might experience some discomfort for the first day or two, but after that, you’ll hardly notice them.