Updated on March 13, 2024
12 min read

Clear Aligner Treatment

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Do I Need Aligners?

You should consider clear aligners like Invisalign if you have crooked teeth and want to have a straight smile. Here are three signs you need clear aligners:

  1. You have spaces or gaps between teeth
  2. Your teeth are too close together that they overlap
  3. You feel pain or discomfort when you clench your teeth

However, clear aligner treatment isn’t for everyone. Most aligners only work on mild to moderate cases.

If you have severe teeth misalignment and bite issues (malocclusions), you may need in-office orthodontic treatments like traditional metal braces to get straight teeth.

What Are Aligners?

Dental Aligners Group 7

Clear aligners are dental trays that help you achieve a straighter smile by gradually shifting crooked teeth (malocclusions) into alignment.

Unlike braces that use metal brackets and wires, aligners are clear plastic. They’re barely visible when worn, allowing you to straighten your teeth discretely.

Aligners are also removable alternatives to braces. While braces remain attached to your teeth during treatment, you can remove clear aligners when eating, flossing, or brushing your teeth.

Other names for clear aligners include invisible aligners, teeth aligners, teeth straighteners, and teeth straightening kits. They’re not the same as clear braces or invisible braces.

What Are Clear Aligners For?

Clear aligners can fix misaligned teeth, including:

  • Crowded teeth ⁠— overlapping teeth
  • Overbite upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth
  • Underbite lower front teeth overlap the upper front teeth
  • Open bite front and lower teeth that don’t touch with a clenched mouth
  • Diastema small or large gaps between teeth

However, this depends on your clear aligner brand. In-office aligners like Invisalign treatment can correct more teeth alignment issues than at-home aligners.

Clear aligner kits like Byte only treat minor to moderate misalignments.

woman smiling with transparent aligners on her hand

How Do Aligners Work?

Clear aligner treatment includes a series of plastic dental trays that are custom-fitted to your teeth. Each aligner is designed to slowly move teeth—about a fraction of a millimeter.1

Generally, you need to wear each tray for one to two weeks before switching to the next aligner. The number of invisible teeth aligners may vary depending on your treatment plan.

In-Office vs. At-Home Clear Aligners

There are two types of aligner treatments: in-office and at-home. Here is a quick comparison:

FeaturesIn-Office AlignersAt-Home Aligners
Average treatment costs$3,000 to $9,500+$1,000 to $2,400
Treatable casesMild to moderate cases and complex teeth misalignments (including bite problems)Mild to moderate cases
Average treatment time6 to 24 months3 to 12 months
Starting treatmentIn-person consultationOnline impression kit or in-person consultation
Daytime alignersYesYes
Nighttime alignersNoDepends on brand
Daily wear time20 to 22 hoursDay aligners: 20 to 22 hours
Night aligners: 8 to 10+ hours
Progress monitoringIn-office visitsVirtual check-ins
Frequency of monitoringEvery 4 to 6 weeksEvery 1 to 2 weeks
Offers financing optionsDepends on your providerYes
Accepts insuranceDepends on your providerYes
Accepts HSA or FSAYesYes

What Are In-Office Clear Aligners?

Companies that offer in-office aligners have dental partners located across the US. You can purchase these aligners through providers who can make sure you’re qualified.

Some of our recommended in-office invisible aligners are:

There are over 60,000+ licensed dental professionals across the US who offer in-office clear aligners like Invisalign treatment and ClearCorrect. 

Invisalign held by doctor

Pros of In-Office Aligners

  • Licensed dental professionals at local clinics supervise treatments. This makes them reasonably accessible and ensures a safe and effective treatment.
  • In-office aligners can treat mild to complex teeth misalignments. It can also correct overbite and other minor bite issues.
  • Brands like ClearCorrect may offer free touch-up aligners and retainers with your treatment, depending on your chosen plan.
  • In-office aligners like Invisalign may be covered by insurance, your HSA, and FSA.

Cons of In-Office Aligners 

  • In-office aligners like Invisalign cost more than at-home clear aligners.
  • You have to visit the dentist’s office regularly, which may be inconvenient for some.
  • The availability of in-office aligners and treatment plans depends on your location. This can limit your access to reliable teeth straightening options.
  • Treatments don’t include free teeth whitening. Brands like Invisalign offer teeth whitening trays for $50 to $75. Others, such as ClearCorrect, don’t have any.
  • Dental providers have different policies on financing options, refunds, and additional refinements if your treatment doesn’t go as planned.
  • While most providers give free consultations to help you start your treatment, some may charge you upwards of $200 for an assessment.
  • While they’ve successfully treated many people, in-office aligners like Invisalign and SureSmile are still not as reliable as traditional braces.

What Are At-Home Clear Aligners?

At-home aligners can be purchased directly from clear aligner brands. Companies that offer them usually follow a qualification process to ensure their treatments work for you.

Our recommended at-home invisible aligners are:

Some of the best at-home clear aligners have physical locations or dental partners across the US. They offer free in-person consultations and digital teeth scans.

Pros of At-Home Aligners

  • They’re cheaper, more convenient, and easier to access. These make them great alternatives to Invisalign and other in-office treatments.
  • At-home aligners don’t require dental visits. Instead, you’ll be sending progress photos via an app so you can be monitored remotely.
  • They also straighten teeth faster. Some brands like Byte have devices like the HyperByte, which can speed up teeth movement and cut your treatment time short.
  • At-home aligner companies often include teeth whitening products, your first set of retainers, and a guarantee with your personalized treatment plan.
  • If you’re unsatisfied with your treatment, several brands like Byte may offer touch-up aligners at no extra cost.
  • You can pay for your treatment upfront or with affordable monthly installments using payment plans, dental insurance coverage, and HSA or FSA.

Cons of At-Home Aligners

  • These aligners only work on mild and moderate teeth alignment issues.
  • You may need some dental work to qualify, which adds to the treatment cost.
  • The lack of direct dental supervision can lead to unpredictable results. Your treatment may last longer than planned, or you may not get the desired results.
  • There aren’t enough studies to prove the safety and effectiveness of night aligners.

How Much Do Aligners Cost?

In-office aligners cost an average of $3,000 to $9,500. Meanwhile, at-home aligners typically cost $1,000 to $2,400.

The cost of clear aligners depends on several factors, including:

  • Your brand of clear aligners
  • Your chosen payment option
  • Your level of teeth misalignment
  • How long your treatment lasts
  • If you need extra dental work
  • Your dental insurance coverage
  • If you have HSA or FSA benefits
  • Cost of dental checkups

After you finish treatment, you can maintain your new smile by wearing retainers and replacing them every 6 to 12 months. Retainers have an additional cost of $200 to $400 every year.

Cost of In-Office Clear Aligners

Below are the estimated costs for Invisalign and other in-office aligners without insurance:

Ask your provider for a quote to get more accurate pricing on your treatment. You should also talk to them about available payment plans and accepted insurance. 

Cost of At-Home Clear Aligners

Here are the costs of the best aligners for at-home teeth straightening without insurance:

At-Home Clear AlignerTreatment CostsDown paymentMonthly InstallmentPayment Terms
Byte$1,999 to $2,399$249 to $299$70 to $84/mo36 months
ALIGNERCO$995 to $1,120$0 to $335$75 to $150/mo6 to 12 months
NewSmile$1,595 to $1,695$0 to $190$58 to $78/mo36 months
Strayt$1,848$199 to $248$87 to $154/mo.12 to 24 months
Smileie$699 to $1,599$0 to $298$63.99 to $94.99/moUp to 12 months

It’s usually cheaper to purchase clear aligners upfront. Monthly plans are still a great option if you want to space out your payments, but they can incur interest and additional fees.

Remember, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get straighter teeth. Here are the cheapest invisible aligners we recommend if you’re on a budget.

Are Clear Aligners Covered By Insurance?

Clear aligners may be covered by insurance with qualifying dental coverage. However, this depends on your insurer, the brand of aligners, and your dental provider.

To confirm your insurance coverage for clear aligners, you’ll need to:

  • Ask your health insurance company
  • Check with a clear aligner brand
  • Talk to your dentist or orthodontist

You won’t need to file for reimbursement if a brand or provider is in-network with your insurer. But sometimes, you may need to pay for your aligners and ask to be reimbursed.

Consider getting dental insurance that covers orthodontic devices like clear aligners. Here’s our guide on the best dental insurance plans.

Can I Use HSA/FSA To Pay For My Aligners?

Your flexible spending account (FSA) and health savings account (HSA) may help cover the cost of your clear aligner treatment.

You can also use your HSA or FSA together with your insurance or in place of it if your chosen brand or provider isn’t covered by your health insurer.

How to Start Your Aligner Treatment

At-home and in-office treatments require you to wear your clear aligners as prescribed over the next few months. However, the process is slightly different for each treatment:

In-Office Aligner Treatments

Step 1: Visit a dental provider in your area

The only way to begin treatment is to book an appointment with a dental provider who offers the in-office aligners of your choice. They can determine if you’re a candidate.

If you qualify, your provider will help you decide which treatment plan is best for your case. This usually depends on your age and the severity of your teeth alignment issues.

They will take digital scans, photos, dental X-rays, and impressions of your teeth and send them to the aligner company to make your invisible aligners.

Step 2: Start wearing your in-office aligners

The aligner trays will be sent to your provider, who will schedule a fitting appointment. From there, you can take the aligners home and continue your treatment.

You’ll be asked to see your dentist or orthodontist every 4 to 6 weeks. During these visits, they’ll assess your progress and make slight adjustments to your treatment if necessary.

At-Home Aligner Treatments

Step 1: Choose how you want to begin treatment

In most cases, you’ll be asked to answer an online quiz that will help determine if you qualify for the treatment. Candidates can then proceed with the next step.

Depending on the brand of clear aligners, this means ordering an at-home impression kit, getting an in-person consultation, or requesting a specialist to visit you for an assessment.

Here’s how you can get started with the top aligner brands:

At-Home Clear AlignerImpression KitIn-Person ConsultationMobile Teeth Scan

If you order an impression kit online, you must take dental impressions and send them back. Instructions will be provided, but some companies have experts who can guide you.

If you book an in-person consultation or mobile teeth scan: They will ask questions, take digital scans of your teeth, and send them to the aligner company for evaluation.

Step 2: Decide on a treatment plan

A dental professional—usually a dentist or orthodontist—will review your case and create your custom treatment plan. You can check your treatment plan and approve it or request changes.

Most companies let you choose from daytime aligners (worn at day for 20 to 22 hours) and nighttime aligners (worn at night for 10+ continuous hours). 

Brands that offer night aligners include:

Step 3: Start wearing your at-home aligners

Once you approve your doctor-directed treatment plan, they will have your new aligners made and ship them out. They should arrive in 4 to 8 weeks with the rest of your kit.

Each patient has to wear aligners for the prescribed number of hours. Every 1 to 2 weeks, you have to send photos of your teeth via an app so your progress can be monitored.

Post-Treatment Retainers

Once you complete treatment, you need to wear retainers that are customized to fit your newly straightened teeth. This prevents teeth from shifting back so you can maintain a great smile.

Most aligner companies recommend replacing your retainers every 6 to 12 months. You also have to keep retainers clean.

Which Clear Aligner Do I Choose?

When choosing the best invisible aligners, you have to consider the following:

  • Your level of teeth misalignment mild, moderate, or severe
  • Accessibility of the treatment — online or in-person
  • Available treatment options — day or night aligners
  • Treatment costs — upfront costs and payment plans
  • Average treatment times — how long before you see results

We also recommend consulting with a licensed dental professional. They can assess your condition and help you explore orthodontic treatments that will work best for your case.  

Clear Aligners Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can anyone wear teeth aligners?

No. At-home clear aligners are only recommended for people with mild to moderate teeth misalignment. In-office clear aligners may be used on more complex cases and bite issues.

For most brands, only adults and teenagers with a full set of adult teeth are eligible. However, some companies like Invisalign offer clear aligners for kids.

It’s best for patients with severe misalignments and bite problems (like deep overbite) not to wear clear aligners unless they’re qualified.

How do I qualify for clear aligner treatment?

Each brand has different qualifications. Sometimes, you may need additional treatments (like dental fillings) from local dentists or orthodontists to become eligible for clear aligners.

Generally, you must have good oral health with no cavities or gum disease. You also shouldn’t have any dental conditions that prevent aligners from gripping your teeth, like microdontia.

Are clear aligners safe and effective?

Clear aligners are generally safe and effective on minor to moderate teeth misalignments. 

Many people who tried them say they straighten teeth with little to no discomfort. Since they’re made of medical-grade plastic, they should be safe to place in your mouth.

Are clear aligners painful?

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 treatment.

What are the side effects of invisible aligners?

It’s perfectly normal for your bite to feel different or for teeth to feel wobbly during treatment. You may also develop lisps and speech problems while wearing aligners.

Some people may experience gum irritation. If you have sensitive gums, consider opting for scallop-shaped clear aligners like NewSmile and Invisalign.

How long do you wear clear aligners?

Clear aligners should be worn throughout your prescribed treatment. You also need to follow the recommended wear time for your clear aligners:

– 20 to 22 hours for daytime aligners
– 8 to 10+ continuous hours for night-only aligners

How long do aligners take to work?

Clear aligners can take 3 to 24 months to straighten teeth, depending on the brand. But as long as you wear your clear aligners as prescribed, you should start seeing results after a few weeks.

How do I take care of my aligners?

Use a toothbrush and cool water to lightly brush your clear aligners once or twice a day. You can also use non-abrasive toothpaste or the aligner cleanser included with your kit (if there is any).

If your kit includes an aligner case, use it to safely store your trays so you’re less likely to break or lose them.

What’s Next?

Discover the best fit for your smile.

Explore top at-home clear aligner brands.

Last updated on March 13, 2024
14 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 13, 2024
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).
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