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Clear Aligners Overview

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 an 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 aligners are more convenient than in-office options. 

Popular at-home aligner brands include:

What Are Teeth Straightening Kits & How Do They Work?

The first step of at-home aligner treatment is to take a candidacy quiz online.

If you're a candidate, the next step is to order a teeth straightening kit. These kits are delivered straight to your door, eliminating the need to visit an orthodontist for an in-person scan.

Once you receive the kit, you'll take impressions of your teeth and send them back.

From there, an orthodontist will make a digital 3D model of your teeth. This interactive model shows your teeth straightening progress from start to finish.

If you approve the plan, a dental technician will create the aligners based on the 3D model. This is what the model will look like:

full arch

All of the aligners will be sent to your home address at once. You’ll change the trays out every 1 to 2 weeks. The aligners should be worn for 20 to 22 hours a day.

The number of aligners you need depends on how misaligned your teeth are and the length of treatment.

Some brands like Candid also require remote check-ins every two weeks (via an app) to ensure your teeth are moving correctly.

Differences Between Braces & At-Home Clear Aligners

Traditional braces and clear aligners are both effective ways to straighten your teeth.

Here are the main differences:

  1. Aligners are removable and convenient. This means you can eat, drink, brush, and floss more naturally. Although convenient, if removing the aligner trays for eating or drinking anything apart from water seems inconvenient, this treatment may not be for you.
  2. At-home aligners can only treat minor to moderate teeth misalignment cases. Severe cases typically require braces and possibly other orthodontic devices like headgear (for children).
  3. The success of aligners depends almost entirely on the wearer. If you do not wear your aligners for the right amount of time each day, they will not work correctly. Braces eliminate this risk because they are not removable.

Teens and older adults with minor to moderate misalignment are typically the best candidates for aligners. If you're younger than 12 and have severely misaligned teeth, talk with your orthodontist about braces.

Everything We Recommend

The Best At-Home Invisible Aligner:

Other Brands:

How Do I Know if I am Eligible for Online Teeth Aligners?

Not everyone is a candidate for at-home clear aligners because they can only fix:

  • Minorly to moderately crowded teeth — when some or all of your teeth overlap
  • Gapped teeth — one gap or multiple gaps between the teeth
  • Other minor to moderate spacing or bite issues

There are four reasons for ineligibility, including:

  • Your teeth are severely misaligned
  • You have untreated jaw discrepancies that require in-office orthodontic treatment (e.g., braces)
  • You have gum disease or untreated cavities
  • You have a permanent retainer (must be removed before treatment)
  • You have existing dental restorations such as implants, bridges, or partial dentures

Braces can fix more complex cases of teeth and jaw misalignment.

Pros and Cons of At-Home Teeth Straightening 

As with any product, at-home aligners have advantages and disadvantages:

Pros of at-home aligners

  • They are more affordable than traditional braces, lingual braces, Invisalign, and Clear Correct. Invisalign can cost up to $8,000, while at-home aligners cost up to $2,300 (average is under $2,000). 
  • No in-office visits are necessary before, during, or after treatment. Check-ups are completed remotely. Some brands like Candid require bi-weekly, remote scans with a licensed orthodontist.
  • Treatment is typically faster than braces or Invisalign; between 6 and 12 months (only minor to moderate cases).
  • The aligners are discreet and removable. You don’t have to worry about having visible metal brackets and wires on your teeth throughout treatment.
  • Payment plans are available for those who don’t want to pay for the total cost upfront. 

Cons of at-home aligners

  • They only offer remote monitoring, so treatment is less predictable without in-office visits. However, when monitored by an experienced orthodontist, remote invisible aligner treatment is effective and safe.
  • Most at-home aligners can only treat minor to moderate cases, including slightly crowded/crooked teeth and gapped teeth. Overbites, underbites, open bites, and similar forms of malocclusion require more invasive orthodontic treatment.
  • Most at-home aligners do not require x-rays before the treatment plan is created. It is essential to visit your dentist to check for cavities and other problematic oral conditions before beginning treatment. Candid is an affordable brand of at-home aligners that offers x-rays and in-depth scans at Candid Studios. Find one near you.
  • At-home aligners are not endorsed by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) because of the risks of tooth and root damage without the direct supervision of a dentist.

At-Home Aligners: Brand Safety Comparison

CandidSmile
Direct
byteALIGNER
CO
New
Smile
Works exclusively
with orthodontists
Forces pictures prior
to treatment
Proper treatment
timeline
Offers regular aligners
(safest option)
Offers night aligners
(unsafe option)*
Social six or full arch
tooth movement*
Full ArchN/ASocial 6N/ASocial 6
Orthodontist-directed
via remote monitoring
N/A
In-person option for
x-rays and 3D scans

* NewMouth does not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof that they are safe. From a clinical perspective, there are also concerns about what could go wrong if aligners are only worn for a few hours each day.

* Social 6 treatment only addresses a patient's cosmetic concerns. It consists of flaring the front teeth out without moving the molars or expanding the dental arch. Full arch treatment addresses function first and cosmetics second. The aligners move all of your teeth, rather than just the front teeth. This is a safer and more comprehensive way to straighten teeth.

Why Trust Us? How We Choose Brands

All clear aligner products on this site are heavily researched, vetted, and reviewed before recommending them to readers. These are our standards for determining a reputable clear aligner brand:

  1. We figure out if the brand works with dentists or orthodontists. If they don’t work with licensed professionals in the industry, we do not recommend their products. This ensures customers receive the highest quality care and their treatment is overseen by a licensed professional from start to finish. 
  2. We talk with company leaders to ensure the product is safe and effective. This may include asking for safety documentation and asking leaders about their manufacturing process. 
  3. We compare reviews from multiple sites. Our writers are instructed to read reviews and compare pros and cons. We clearly list the advantages and disadvantages of each clear aligner product to keep the content transparent. 
  4. We look into pricing and features. This ensures customers are getting the best quality products at reasonable prices.
  5. We check to make sure the customer service is high quality. We only recommend aligner brands that have clear instructions on how to contact them. Brands that offer “lifetime guarantees” are also well-respected. 

All clear aligner product pages are medically reviewed by a licensed dentist or orthodontist.

Our dentists are instructed to flag any recommendations they don’t agree with. Any products that don’t meet their high standards are removed.

Candid: Best Overall (Editor's Pick)

candid starter kit

Candid 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. 

The same orthodontist who creates your treatment plan will oversee your treatment from start to finish. Candid aligner treatment takes about six months (on average). 

Candid aligners cost $1,895 (credit check required). The original cost was $2,400 until October 2021.

To begin treatment with Candid, you will order an impression kit online ($95) or visit a Candid Studio for a risk-free scan. If you are approved for treatment, you’ll receive the aligners within 2 to 3 weeks.

With the payment plan, you’ll pay $199 down and $65 for 36 months. After treatment, you’ll buy a custom retainer for $100 to keep your teeth straight. 

Pros
  • In-depth scans are required every two weeks (via the CandidApp)
  • Candid Studio locations are available in many U.S. states (x-rays and 3D teeth scans are taken by trained Candid professionals)
  • Can treat most minor to severe cases of teeth misalignment
  • Customer safety is top priority; candidates are carefully selected based on eligibility
  • Treatment takes longer than other brands (but this is to ensure patient safety - moving teeth too fast can result in bite issues)
  • No nighttime aligners available (because they aren't proven to be effective or safe)
  • Completely remote treatment 
  • Convenient and affordable aligners
  • Risk-free teeth scan 
  • No diet restrictions 
  • Free teeth whitening treatment
  • Every treatment plan is monitored by a licensed orthodontist
  • An established orthodontist, Dr. Hurst, oversees the product, vision, and safety of customers
  • Communicative customer service
  • Payment plans available
  • Candid Guarantee (free refinements if you are unhappy with the results)
Cons
  • No refunds
  • A credit check is required
  • Treatment can be less predictable without in-office visits
candid aligner kit

Candid

Best remote monitoring & care

Every treatment plan is overseen by a qualified orthodontist with over 20 years of experience. Treatment is monitored in the CandidApp.

As of October 2021, Candid aligners now cost $1,895 ($505 less than the original price).

You can begin treatment in two ways:

NewSmile: Budget Aligner

NewSmile Fast Track

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.

NewSmile’s Fast Track Aligners are worn for 22+ hours a day. They should only be removed for cleaning, eating, and brushing. Treatment takes between 4 and 6 months, but sometimes up to a year. They cost $1,195.

NewSmile’s Night Aligners require less daily wear time (10+ hours a day). They cost $1,295.

* NewMouth does not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof that they are safe or effective. Learn more here.

NewMouth recommends Candid over cheap aligner alternatives because they offer hands-on remote monitoring. Every treatment case is also overseen by a licensed orthodontist.

Pros
  • Affordable aligner alternative (thousands less than braces or Invisalign)
  • Most discreet at-home aligner with scalloped edges (to prevent gum irritation) 
  • NewSmile App
  • Video call available with an ‘impression specialist’
  • BPA-free, latex-free, and FDA-approved 
  • Free whitening foam included with every purchase
  • Free set of retainers included with every purchase
  • Refund on impression kit if you aren’t a candidate
Cons
  • It is not always best to go with the cheapest option (treatment is more hands-off after you approve the plan)
  • Newer at-home aligner company; not many reviews
  • Treatment can be overseen by a dentist or orthodontist (less predictable)
  • Treatment can be less predictable without in-office visits
  • The aligners can be uncomfortable, especially at first
  • Daily upkeep can be time-consuming and inconvenient 
  • No in-depth remote monitoring
newsmile impression kit

NewSmile

Budget option

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. However, treatment is more hands-off after you approve the plan.

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

byte®: Quickest Treatment

byte starter kit

Byte® is another popular at-home aligner brand. They work with orthodontists, dentists, and doctors.

As a Byte customer, you’ll receive a HyperByte® (a 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 3 months.

* Keep in mind: There is no scientific proof pointing to the safety and effectiveness of moving teeth quickly. Successful orthodontics requires precise tooth movement.

Byte has two clear aligners options, including All-Day Aligners or At-Night Aligners.

Byte aligners cost $1,895 to $2,245 (no credit check required). The teeth straightening kit costs an additional $95.

* NewMouth does not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof that they are safe. From a clinical perspective, there are also concerns about what could go wrong if aligners are only worn for a few hours each day.

You’ll pay $349 to $419 up-front with the payment plan and $83 to $99/29 months. The first retainer is included with every purchase. 

Pros
  • Remote treatment
  • Free retainer included
  • Aligner-safe whitening foam (BrightByte) included 
  • Good customer support
  • No credit check required (100% approval with no credit impact)
  • Payment plan available
Cons
  • Treatment can be less predictable without in-office visits
  • No scientific proof pointing to the safety and effectiveness of moving teeth quickly
  • Treatment can be overseen by a dentist or orthodontist (less predictable)
  • No refunds on aligners
  • Can only treat minor to moderate cases of misalignment
  • No in-depth remote monitoring
byte personal aligners

byte®

Quickest treatment time

Byte's All-Day Aligners are worn for 22 hours a day and can straighten teeth in 3 months.

The At-Night Aligners straighten teeth while you sleep and can take up to 6 months.

* NewMouth does not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof that they are safe.

SmileDirectClub: First At-Home Aligner

smile direct club e1598562602831

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 $1,950 (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. 

* NewMouth does not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof that they are safe.

Pros
  • Treatment is monitored remotely
  • Affordable clear aligners 
  • Risk-free teeth scan (in-person option at a SmileShop)
  • No diet restrictions 
  • Free whitening treatment
  • Insurance is accepted
  • No credit check required
  • Payment plan available
Cons
  • Treatment can be less predictable without in-office visits
  • Treatment can be overseen by a dentist or orthodontist (less predictable)
  • No refunds on aligners
  • Can only treat minor to moderate cases of misalignment
  • Customer service can be hard-to-reach 
  • No in-depth remote monitoring
smile direct kit

SmileDirectClub

The biggest aligner company

SmileDirectClub is the largest, longest-standing clear aligner manufacturer. With hundreds of physical locations, you can choose an in-person consultation or order a mail-in impression kit.

ALIGNERCO: Another Affordable Option

alignerco

ALIGNERCO offers the cheapest invisible aligners on the market.

Treatment costs $1,145 (or $99 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. After you receive the kit, you'll take a dental impression at home and send them back to ALIGNERCO.

They will create a customized treatment plan and send the aligner trays straight to your door.

ALIGNERCO also sells NightOnly Clear Aligners. Wear time is 8 to 10 hours a day and the treatment duration is 8 to 12 months.

Keep in mind: NewMouth does not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof that they are safe.

NewMouth recommends Candid over cheap aligner alternatives because they offer hands-on remote monitoring. Every treatment case is also overseen by a licensed orthodontist.

Pros
  • Treatment is monitored remotely
  • No diet restrictions 
  • Free whitening treatment
  • Insurance is accepted
  • Payment plan available
Cons
  • Treatment can be less predictable without in-office visits
  • It is not always best to go with the cheapest option (treatment is more hands-off after you approve the plan)
  • No refunds on aligners
  • Can only treat minor cases of misalignment
  • Customer service can be hard-to-reach 
  • No in-depth remote monitoring
aligner co kit

ALIGNERCO

Another budget option

ALIGNERCO is another brand that offers an affordable aligner experience. However, treatment is more hands-off after you approve the plan.

At-Home Aligner Comparison Chart

CandidByteALIGNERCOSmileDirectClubNewSmile
Best Overall (Editor's Pick)Quickest Treatment
Time
Budget Aligner OptionFirst-Ever
Remote
Aligner
Budget Aligner Option
Cost$1,895$1,895 to $2,245$1,145 to $1,345$1,950$1,195 to
$1,295
Treatment Length6 to 12 months3 to 6 months8 to 12 months4 to 6
months
4 to 6
months
Payment Plan
Free Retainer
Premium Whitening Treatment
Lifetime
Guarantee
Accepts HSA/FSA

Teeth Straightening Kit — FAQs

Does an orthodontist oversee home teeth straightening treatment?

Candid works with 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. 

How often do I need to wear home teeth aligners? 

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.

* NewMouth does not recommend night aligners because there is no scientific proof that they are safe.

How long does home aligner treatment take? 

Home aligner treatment takes about six months (on average). If you don’t wear your aligners as directed, treatment can take longer.

What happens after home aligner treatment is complete? 

After treatment is complete, you’ll get a custom retainer to keep your teeth straight.

You'll receive instructions on how long to initially wear your retainers so your teeth don’t shift back. They should be replaced at least every year.

Are financing/payment plans available?

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. 

Last updated on December 27, 2021
13 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 27, 2021
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. Candid. “Discover the Candid Difference.” Candid, www.candidco.com/why-candid.
  3. Candid. “Candid Starter Kit.” Candid, www.candidco.com/products/starter-kit.
  4. Candid. “Candid Clear Aligners.” Candid, www.candidco.com/faq/p/treatment.
  5. SmileDirectClub. “Insurance.” https://smiledirectclub.com/insurance/.
  6. SmileDirectClub. “Pricing.” https://smiledirectclub.com/pricing/.
  7. SmileDirectClub. “How Does Smile Direct Club Work.” https://smiledirectclub.com/how_it_works/.
  8. FAQs About Invisible Aligners. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.byteme.com/pages/faq.
  9. Hyperbyte: The Technology Behind Faster Invisible aligner results. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.byteme.com/pages/hyperbyte.
  10. Insurance Coverage for Our Invisible Aligners. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.byteme.com/pages/insurance.
  11. Ke, Y., Zhu, Y., & Zhu, M. (2019, January 23). A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies. Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343314/.
  12. Weir, T. “Clear Aligners in Orthodontic Treatment.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 14 Mar. 2017, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/adj.12480.
  13. “What to Expect with Invisalign® Treatment.” Invisalign, https://www.invisalign.com/how-invisalign-works.
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