Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
Updated on November 23, 2022

Clear Aligners: How They Work, Popular Brands & Costs

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

What are Clear Aligners?

Clear aligners, also called invisible aligners, fix misaligned teeth and bites. They are a virtually invisible and removable alternative to braces designed around convenience and flexibility.

The aligner trays are made of BPA-free plastic and are custom-made for every patient. Each tray discreetly moves the teeth in small increments.

Aligner trays are routinely swapped out every 2 to 3 weeks until the teeth are straight and aligned. How many trays you need depends on the severity of teeth misalignment (also called malocclusion).

Some aligners do not touch your gums at all. They are trimmed to comfortably sit along your gum line in a ‘scalloped fashion.’ This design makes the trays less irritating and even more ‘invisible.’ 

Dental Aligners Group 7

Our Top Recommendations

The Best Invisible Aligners:

Other Brands:

What Bite Issues Can Clear Aligners Fix?

Depending on the brand, clear aligners can fix the following teeth alignment issues:

  • Crowded teeth (overlapping teeth)
  • Overbites (upper front teeth overlap with the lower front teeth)
  • Underbites (lower front teeth overlap with the upper front teeth)
  • Diastema (small or large gaps between the teeth)
  • Open bites (front upper and lower teeth slant outward and do not touch when the mouth is shut; a rare type of malocclusion)
  • Misaligned primary (baby) teeth (phase I orthodontic treatment; children between 6 and 10 years of age are candidates for this treatment)

What's the Difference Between At-Home and In-Office Aligners?

There are two types of clear aligners available:

  1. At-home aligners do not require you to visit a dental professional throughout treatment and have a home impression kit option. These aligners are also less expensive than in-office options, typically costing under $3,000.
  2. In-office aligners like Invisalign require you to visit an orthodontist or dentist throughout treatment. These aligners can cost up to $8,000 due to this higher quality of care.

At-Home Aligners

Teeth straightening kits (home impressions) allow you to begin the orthodontic treatment process from the comfort of home. This is referred to as at-home aligner treatment. These treatments are less expensive, more convenient, and easier to access than traditional aligners like Invisalign.

At-home aligners are also called direct-to-consumer (DTC) aligners. Treatment is monitored remotely, and you won't visit a dentist or an orthodontist for a consultation or routine check-ups. Instead, you'll order a home impression kit, take them yourself, and send them back to determine candidacy.

Some brands like SmileDirectClub also have an in-person scan option.

If you're determined a candidate, you'll have the option to approve or deny treatment after reviewing the 3D model. If you decide not to follow through, you can request a refund for the impression kit. If you approve treatment, the aligners are nonrefundable.

Note: DTC aligners, such as SmileDirectClub and Byte, can only treat minor to moderate cases of teeth misalignment. Some examples include a few crooked teeth or small gaps between the teeth. Braces or Invisalign are better options for more complex issues.

In-Office Aligners

In-office aligners offer comprehensive care at a higher price point. The entire treatment can cost up to $8,000, with the average price at $5,500. You have to visit a licensed dentist to begin treatment and for routine check-ups every 8 weeks (this varies).

Invisalign is the most established and trusted brand of in-office aligners. The company's advanced aligner system can treat most cases of malocclusion (teeth misalignment), including minor to complex bite issues. Other options include ClearCorrect, Six Month Smiles, and SureSmile.

How Do Clear Aligners Work?

Clear aligner treatment involves the following steps:

1. Consultation or home impressions

First, you'll visit an orthodontist for a consultation. During the consultation, a dentist will examine your teeth and take a precise digital scan of your mouth. Then a custom treatment plan is made. You'll receive a digital preview of your new smile before the aligners are created.

Some aligner brands also allow you to mail in molds of your teeth using a “goopy putty” rather than visiting an orthodontist or doctor for a consultation.

Brands that provide mail-in impression kits include SmileDirectClub, ALIGNERCO, NewSmile, and byte®. Invisalign, Candid, and ClearCorrect require in-person consultations.

2. Aligner preparation

After the teeth impressions are made, your custom treatment plan will be created using 3D technology. Once approved, the digital models are transferred to a production facility, and the aligners are made. From here, you'll accept treatment and begin the process.

Note: If you purchased an impression kit and aren't a candidate, you can request a refund for the kit. However, the aligners are nonrefundable if you approve the treatment plan.

3. Aligner treatment schedule

You'll change out the aligner trays every 1 to 3 weeks. For effective teeth straightening, you must wear them for about 20 to 22 hours a day. A single aligner is capable of moving teeth 1 mm or less, so multiple aligners will be necessary. Treatment can take anywhere from 3 to 24 months.

Some companies (Byte, NewSmile, ALIGNERCO, and SmileDirectClub) also offer Nighttime Clear Aligners™ that only have to be worn for 10 hours a day. Read our concerns about night aligners here.

4. Retainers

After treatment is complete, a custom clear retainer is made from a mold of your newly straightened teeth. Retainers should be worn every night while sleeping to ensure malocclusion does not recur. Most aligner companies recommend replacing them every 6 to 12 months.

What are the Best Invisible Aligner Brands?

Here are our top clear aligner recommendations:

Invisalign®

In the 1990s, Align Technology created the first sequence of aligners to correct complex orthodontic issues in adults, teens, and children. Invisalign is now the #1 recommended aligner brand in the industry by dentists and orthodontists alike.

The aligners are made of SmartTrack® material that is specifically engineered for the Invisalign system. The material claims to provide a more accurate, comfortable, and quicker treatment experience than other clear aligners on the market.

Treatment with Invisalign begins with a visit to a licensed Invisalign doctor. You'll undergo scans, and the specialist will create a digital treatment plan if you're a good candidate. Routine visits to the orthodontist are also required every 6 to 8 weeks to track progress and receive your next round of aligners.

Invisalign's treatment time is also up to 50% faster with 75% more teeth-straightening predictability.

Read our review of Invisalign here.

byte®

Convenient treatment
byte

Byte stands out in the at-home aligner industry both for its strong customer support and fast treatment times (4 to 6 months). They use innovative technology that offers quick and effective results at an affordable price.

Byte has two treatment options. The treatment length/price will vary depending on the type of aligner you choose:

  • All-Day Aligners — these aligners are worn for 22+ hours a day. The average treatment length is 4 months. 
  • At-Night Aligners — these aligners straighten your teeth while you sleep, and are worn for 10+ hours a day. The average treatment length is 5 months. 

We do not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof they are safe.

Cyber Monday: $580 worth of savings, $300 off aligners. 

SmileDirectClub

The biggest aligner company
SmileDirectClub

SmileDirectClub (SDC) is a 6-year-old aligner company that offers remote teeth straightening for 60% less than braces. They are the first and most well-known brand of at-home aligners.

The aligners are made of smooth, comfortable, BPA-free plastic. Clear aligner treatment with SDC is prescribed and managed by a state-licensed dentist or orthodontist. You'll also have 24/7 access to support via phone, text, video chat, or email.

SmileDirectClub aligners cost $2,050 (no credit check required). You can get a free 3D scan at a SmileShop or buy an at-home impression kit.

Cyber Monday: $12 impression kit - FREE after return, plus FREE teeth whitening.

NewSmile

Budget option
NewSmile

NewSmile is one of the most affordable at-home aligners, but they are also one of the newest companies.

Unlike most at-home aligner brands, NewSmile aligners do not touch your gums. They are trimmed to comfortably sit along your gum line in a ‘scalloped fashion.’ Not only does this design cause less irritation, but it also makes the trays less visible. 

NewSmile is one of the most affordable at-home aligners, but they are also one of the newest companies.

Unlike most at-home aligner brands, NewSmile aligners do not touch your gums. They are trimmed to comfortably sit along your gum line in a ‘scalloped fashion.’ Not only does this design cause less irritation, but it also makes the trays less visible. 

Once you receive the impression kit, you should get an email to book a time with an Impression Specialist. During this video call, they will walk you through the process to ensure accuracy. You’ll send in progress photos through the NewSmile app to ensure your teeth are moving correctly.

NewSmile’s Fast Track Aligners are worn for 22+ hours a day. They should only be removed to clean, eat, and brush your teeth. Treatment takes between 4 and 6 months and costs $1,495.

NewSmile’s Night Aligners require less daily wear time (10+ hours a day). They cost $1,595.

We do not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof they are safe.

NewSmile aligners are trimmed along your gum line to provide a comfortable and less visible treatment experience.

They also offer live video chats with a specialist to ensure you make accurate impressions.

NewSmile aligners are more affordable than other brands.

Use code NewMouthDeal for $100 off Aligners and code NewMouthKit for $20 off impression kit.

ALIGNERCO

Another budget option
ALIGNERCO

ALIGNERCO offers the cheapest invisible aligners on the market.

Treatment costs $870 to $1,070 (or starting at $79/month for 11 months with the payment plan). Other clear aligner competitors are more expensive ($1,800 to $2,300).

While more affordable, they are also a newer company with fewer reviews than byte and Candid. They also do not work directly with orthodontists and dentists, which can affect the quality of care.

To begin the teeth straightening process, the first step is to order an impression kit online. These kits are just $39.99.

Cyber MondaySave $275 on clear aligners. 

Candid

Comprehensive care
Candid

Candid is an effective tooth straightening option that offers superior care with added convenience. Candid treatment outcomes are similar to Invisalign. However, Candid is often cheaper than Invisalign, making it a safe and affordable option. 

Candid only works with highly qualified orthodontists (teeth-straightening experts). These experts design each treatment plan. Orthodontists have to complete 2 to 3 years of tooth movement residency after dental school. 

Candid treatment is monitored 100% remotely through the CandidApp (available on iOS and Android). You’ll send in progress photos every two weeks using the CandidScan included in your treatment package. The box connects to your phone and is used to take detailed images of tooth movement.

The app will walk you through the entire process during each scan. You can also set up notifications on your phone to make sure you don’t miss a scan date. 

In addition, the same orthodontist who designs your treatment plan will track your teeth straightening progress from start to finish. This ensures your teeth are moving safely and correctly.

To begin treatment, visit a CandidPro location for a digital scan from a qualified CandidPro provider (licensed dental professional in your area).

Read our full review of Candid aligners here.

Candid treatment costs $3,300 (price may change depending on various factors). 

You can begin treatment by visiting a CandidPro location:

Other Clear Aligner Options

Here are four other clear aligner options:

  1. ClearCorrect is an advanced system of clear aligner therapy that uses digital technologies to treat various types of misalignment, ranging from simple to severe.
  2. Six Month Smiles® is an in-office treatment that straightens teeth in as little as 6 months. The company uses Zendura to make the aligners. This is the most effective material for bruxism (teeth grinding) protection.
  3. SureSmile is another brand of in-office aligners that launched in 2007. Thanks to SureSmile's advanced software, fewer in-person appointments are necessary, and refinements are less common.
  4. SnapCorrect™ is a smaller brand of remote (at-home) aligners. SnapCorrect ships all of the aligners at once, including any teeth whitening products and a final retainer. Like other at-home options, we only recommend SnapCorrect if you have minor teeth alignment issues.

How Much are Clear Aligners?

The brand of aligners chosen, the length of treatment required, and how many aligners are needed determine the cost of clear aligner treatment.

Many companies provide a “payment plan” option, which allows you to pay a deposit up-front with smaller monthly payments.

The prices below reflect the costs of popular clear aligners, depending on the length of treatment:

Clear Aligner Brand Cost of Treatment Monthly Payment Plan Insurance Coverage
Invisalign® $3,000-$8,000 Payment plan depends on treatment length Insurance covers up to $3,500
ClearCorrect $2,500–$5,500 Payment plan depends on treatment length Insurance covers up to $3,000
SmileDirectClub $2,050 (if paid in full) $89/month Insurance covers up to $1,100
Candid $3,300 (average) Varies (ask your CandidPro provider) Insurance coverage depends on provider
byte® $1,999-$2,399 (if paid in full) $70/month - $84/month Insurance coverage depends on provider
SnapCorrect $1,749 (if paid in full) $80 / month Insurance covers up to $1,100
ALIGNERCO $870-$1,070 (if paid in full) $79/month - $97/month Insurance coverage depends on the provider
NewSmile $1,495 to $1,595 (if paid in full) $58/month-$61/month Insurance coverage depends on the provider

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the advantages of clear aligners?

The primary advantage of clear aligners is their discreetness. Unlike braces, aligners are nearly invisible while in your mouth. They can also be removed at any time for eating and other activities, making them a very convenient option for teenagers and professionals who don't want clunky metal wires and brackets.

Other advantages of aligners include fewer visits to the dentist and improved dental health (easy to clean).

What are the disadvantages of clear aligners?

While clear aligners have many benefits, they also have some downsides. For example, aligners might not be the best option if you have severe teeth misalignment. Also, you have to wear them for 20 to 22 hours a day. Removing them many times throughout the day can delay treatment.

Are braces or clear aligners better?

It depends on your situation and needs.

Generally, aligners are more comfortable than braces and are also less irritating to the lips, cheeks, and gums.

In most cases, treatment with aligners is often quicker than with braces. This is because aligners typically only treat mild to moderate cases of teeth misalignment. Some aligner brands, like Invisalign, can treat more severe cases. Braces will be recommended if you have severe teeth and jaw misalignment, as the brackets and wires provide more precise tooth movement.

In addition, many aligner brands are cheaper and more convenient than braces (require fewer in-person visits).

Are at-home or in-office aligners better?

At-home aligners are best for minor, and sometimes moderate, cases of teeth misalignment. Most brands don't offer comprehensive remote monitoring.

In-office aligners are best for moderate to severe cases of teeth misalignment. Most brands require an initial consultation and routine check-ups throughout treatment.

How painful are clear aligners?

Aligner treatment shouldn't be painful. However, getting used to the aligner trays takes a few weeks. Sensitivity and discomfort are common during the first few days of starting a new set.

Your bite may feel different as your teeth are moving, but this is normal. Lisps and speech problems can also occur while you have the aligners in your mouth.

How much do clear aligners cost?

Clear aligners can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $9,000, depending on the brand you choose and your bite issues.

How long does clear aligner treatment take?

Treatment length varies depending on individual needs. However, clear aligner treatment typically takes no longer than 24 months.

Are payment plans available for clear aligners?

Most at-home aligner brands offer monthly payment plans. In-office options like Invisalign may provide treatment plans, but this depends entirely on your orthodontist.

How can I begin treatment with clear aligners?

First, you'll visit an orthodontist for a consultation. During the consultation, a dentist will examine your teeth and take a precise digital scan of your mouth. Then a custom treatment plan is made.

You'll receive a digital preview of your new smile before the aligners are created.
Some clear aligner brands also allow patients to mail in molds of their teeth using a goopy putty rather than visiting an orthodontist or doctor for a consultation.

Brands that provide mail-in impression kits include SmileDirectClub, ALIGNERCO, NewSmile, and byte®. Invisalign, Candid, and ClearCorrect require in-person consultations.

Are clear aligners easy to take care of?

Most clear aligners are easy to keep clean. You can brush them lightly once or twice each day with a toothbrush and cool water. Non-abrasive toothpaste can also be used, depending on the brand and aligner material.

Here are some tips for preserving clear aligners:

1. Always rinse them with cold or lukewarm water after removal
2. Do not clean them with hot water because heat can damage and warp the plastic
3. Brush and floss your teeth before wear
4. Soak them in retainer or denture cleaner
5. Remove the aligners before eating
6. Clean the aligners with mild soap daily
7. Never clean them with toothpaste

How do I keep my teeth straight after treatment?

After treatment, you will be provided with a custom-made retainer. The retainer can either be removable or permanent, depending on preference.

What’s Next?

The most popular at-home clear aligner kits can be found right here:

Learn about the different brands and what they offer.

16 Sources Cited
Last updated on November 23, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Blue Ocean Publishing Group. The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. 2018.
  2. Proffit, William R., et al. Contemporary Orthodontics. Elsevier/Mosby, 2019.
  3. What to Expect with Invisalign® Treatment.” Invisalign.
  4. FAQs About Invisible Aligners, byte.
  5. Hyperbyte: The Technology Behind Faster Invisible aligner results, byte.
  6. Insurance Coverage for Our Invisible Aligners, byte.
  7. Ke, Y., Zhu, Y., & Zhu, M. (2019, January 23). A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies.
  8. Candid. “Discover the Candid Difference.” Candid.
  9. Candid. “Candid Clear Aligners.” Candid.
  10. SmileDirectClub. “Insurance.”
  11. SmileDirectClub. “Pricing.”
  12. SmileDirectClub. “How Does Smile Direct Club Work.”
  13. How it works,” SmileDirectClub
  14. Pricing,” NewSmile
  15. Wexler, Anna, et al. “Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics: Surveying the User Experience.” The Journal of the American Dental Association
  16. Verblio, and Alignerco. “Teeth Straightening: Invisible Aligners.” ALIGNERCO.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram