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Clear aligners are an excellent way to straighten your teeth if you are looking for a convenient option. They are a discreet and removable alternative to metal braces. The trays are made of BPA-free plastic and are virtually invisible when in your mouth.
There are two types of clear aligners available, including at-home aligners and in-office aligners. In-office aligners, such as Invisalign and Clear Correct, require you to visit your orthodontist or dentist for check-ups.
At-home aligners, also called mail-in aligners or direct-to-consumer aligners, do not require in-office visits with an orthodontist. These types of aligners are more convenient than in-office aligners.
Popular at-home aligner companies include:
The first step of at-home aligner treatment is to take a candidacy quiz online. Then, if you are a candidate, you’ll order a teeth straightening kit. These kits are delivered straight to your door, eliminating the need to visit an orthodontist for an in-person teeth scan.
Once you receive the kit in the mail, you will take impressions of your teeth and send them back. From there, a dental technician will create the aligners based on the impressions you sent. They will also send you a treatment preview of how your teeth will look from start to finish.
After the treatment plan is approved, the aligners will be sent to your home address. You’ll change the trays out every 1 to 2 weeks and wear each new set of aligners for 22 hours every day. The number of aligners you receive depends on how crooked your teeth are and the length of treatment. Virtual appointments with a doctor or orthodontist will also be required to ensure your teeth are moving correctly throughout the treatment process.
Not everyone is a candidate for at-home clear aligners because they can only fix mild teeth misalignment cases, such as:
There are four reasons for ineligibility, including:
Only Invisalign and braces can fix more complex cases of teeth misalignment.
Pros of at-home aligners
Cons of at-home aligners
Before ordering a teeth straightening kit, you can take a free candidacy quiz on candidco.com, byteme.com, or smiledirectclub.com to ensure eligibility. If you order the impression kit and are deemed ineligible for treatment, you will get a full refund for the kit.
Candid Co, Byte, and SmileDirectClub are three of the most popular at-home clear aligner brands. All three companies sell teeth straightening kits online and provide free candidacy quizzes on their websites. Candid and SmileDirect also offer in-office teeth scans, depending on your preference.
Candid Co only works with licensed and qualified orthodontists, rather than general dentists and other dental professionals. This ensures you receive high-quality treatment from a professional with years of experience in the teeth straightening industry.
To begin treatment with Candid, you will order an impression kit online or visit a Candid Studio for a free scan (risk-free). If you are approved for treatment, you’ll receive the aligners within 2 to 3 weeks. The same orthodontist who creates your treatment plan will oversee your treatment from start to finish. On average, Candid aligner treatment takes about six months.
Candid aligners cost $2400 (credit check required). You can get a free dental impression at a Candid Studio or buy a $95 teeth straightening starter kit. With the payment plan, you’ll pay $399 up-front and $99/24 months. After treatment, you’ll buy a custom retainer for $100 to keep your teeth straight.
Byte® is another popular at-home aligner brand. Similar to Candid, they work exclusively with orthodontists. As a Byte customer, you’ll receive a HyperByte® (an FDA-cleared dental movement acceleration device) with your purchase. You only have to wear it for 5 to 10 minutes per day.
With daily HyperByte use, Byte aligners can straighten your teeth in as little as three months, which is faster than any other brand on the market. Byte also provides two clear aligners options, including All-Day Aligners or At-Night Aligners. Byte also claims using the Hyperbyte makes changing your aligners more comfortable as it uses vibration technology to help adjust the roots to their new position.
Byte aligners cost $1895 to $2245 (no credit check required). The teeth straightening kit costs an additional $95. You’ll pay $349 to $419 up-front with the payment plan and $83 to $99/29 months. A first free retainer is included with every purchase.
SmileDirectClub is a 6-year-old company that offers home teeth straightening for 60 percent less than braces. SmileDirect works with licensed doctors, dentists, and orthodontists to ensure each treatment case runs smoothly and effectively. During treatment, you will track your progress remotely with a dentist or orthodontist from the comfort of home.
SmileDirectClub aligners cost $1950 (no credit check required). You can get a free 3D scan at a SmileShop or buy a $59 teeth straightening starter kit. With the payment plan, you’ll pay $250 up-front and $89/24 months. After treatment, you’ll buy a custom retainer for $100 to keep your teeth straight.
Candid and Byte only work with qualified and licensed orthodontists, so your clear aligner treatment will be overseen exclusively by these professionals. SmileDirectClub and other brands do not work solely with orthodontists; they also work with dentists and doctors.
At-home teeth aligners must be worn for at least 22 hours a day. Night aligners only need to be worn for about 10 hours a day. Byte and SmileDirect offer night aligners. Candid only offers traditional aligners.
Home aligner treatment takes about six months (on average). Byte aligners move your teeth the fastest (treatment takes 3 to 6 months). If you don’t wear your aligners as directed, treatment can take longer.
After treatment is complete, you’ll order a custom-made retainer to keep your teeth straight. Byte provides a free retainer with every purchase. SmileDirect and Candid retainers cost an additional $100. Retainers are to be worn for a lifetime. Each company gives instructions on how long to initially wear your retainers so your teeth don’t shift back.
Most clear aligner companies offer payment plans and financing options. You’ll pay a couple of hundred dollars up-front and then make monthly payments for about two years.
Some aligners are partially covered by insurance. You can also use an HSA/FSA to pay for treatment. Check directly with the clear aligner company of your choice to determine the best financing option for your needs.
Blue Ocean Publishing Group. The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. 2018.
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SmileDirectClub. “How Does Smile Direct Club Work.” https://smiledirectclub.com/how_it_works/.
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