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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:
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.
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.
Clear aligners can fix misaligned teeth, including:
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 and SmileDirectClub only treat minor to moderate misalignments.
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.
There are two types of aligner treatments: in-office and at-home. Here is a quick comparison:
|Features||In-Office Aligners||At-Home Aligners|
|Average treatment costs||$3,000 to $9,500+||$1,000 to $2,400|
|Treatable cases||Mild to moderate cases and complex teeth misalignments (including bite problems)||Mild to moderate cases|
|Average treatment time||6 to 24 months||3 to 12 months|
|Starting treatment||In-person consultation||Online impression kit or in-person consultation|
|Nighttime aligners||No||Depends on brand|
|Daily wear time||20 to 22 hours||Day aligners: 20 to 22 hours|
Night aligners: 8 to 10+ hours
|Progress monitoring||In-office visits||Virtual check-ins|
|Frequency of monitoring||Every 4 to 6 weeks||Every 1 to 2 weeks|
|Offers financing options||Depends on your provider||Yes|
|Accepts insurance||Depends on your provider||Yes|
|Accepts HSA or FSA||Yes||Yes|
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Here are the costs of the best aligners for at-home teeth straightening without insurance:
|At-Home Clear Aligner||Treatment Costs||Down payment||Monthly Installment||Payment Terms|
|Byte||$1,999-$2,399 (if paid in full)||$249 to $299||$74/month - $88/month||36 months|
|SmileDirectClub||$2,250 (if paid in full)||$250||$89/month||28 months|
|ALIGNERCO||$875-$1,075 (if paid in full)||$0 to $335||$75 to $150/mo||6 to 12 months|
|NewSmile||$1,595 to $1,695||$0 to $190||$58 to $78/mo||36 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/mo||Up 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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 Aligner||Impression Kit||In-Person Consultation||Mobile 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.
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:
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.
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.
When choosing the best invisible aligners, you have to consider the following:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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