Admit it, you’ve probably stood in front of the mirror dreaming of the perfect smile. A true eye magnet. We all have.
But the sheer cost and time of traditional orthodontic treatment make it nothing more than a pipe dream. But what if it didn’t have to be?
Enter At-Home Clear Aligners.
Yes, even some parts of dentistry have moved online. Who would’ve thought? Now, you can get straighter, whiter teeth without stepping a single foot out of the house. And no, your dentist doesn’t set up shop in your living room, but they can send you some life-changing products to bring out a new you.
In this comprehensive guide, we talk about the ins and outs of at-home teeth alignment treatment and shed light on why it’s important, how the process works, and the best at-home aligner brands to look out for.
What are Clear Aligners?
Known also as invisible aligners, clear aligners are an orthodontic treatment for misaligned or crooked teeth. Like braces, they apply constant pressure on your teeth to gradually move them into shape. But unlike braces, they’re virtually invisible and removable.
An aligner tray is customized for every patient, depending on the degree of tooth misalignment (malocclusion).
When do I need aligners?
Dental aligners are capable of treating a variety of different cases. If you have one of the following conditions, then you could be a good candidate for aligners:
Crowded teeth (happens in small mouths, where teeth overlap one another, stick out, and/or get pushed inside)
Crooked teeth (teeth that don’t stand front-faced and straight)
Diastema (small or large gaps between the teeth)
Overbites (upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth)
Underbites (lower front teeth overlap with the upper front teeth)
Open bites (outward-slanting front upper and lower teeth that don’t touch when mouth is shut)
Misaligned primary (baby) teeth (to make room for the developing permanent teeth and existing baby teeth, clear aligners may be used during phase I orthodontic treatment. Suitable for children between ages 6 to 10)
In-Office Aligners vs. At-Home Aligners
Clear aligners come in two types:
The most popular option among aligners is in-office alignment. These aligners must be received from a licensed doctor, and treatment is more intensive.
At-home aligners, also known as direct-to-consumer aligners, are less expensive than in-office aligners. Since the application and treatment are completed remotely (your aligner is delivered), you won't have to visit a dentist or orthodontist for checkups. It’s the future of clear aligners.
At-home and in-office aligners are both made from clear, medical-grade, BPA-free plastic.
Some aligners may or may not touch your gums. With a 'scalloped' design, the trays sit comfortably along your gum line, which makes the trays less irritating and even more invisible.
In other aligners (most options at home), the gum line is not trimmed. As a result, they partially cover your gums and might cause more irritation at first. But most people aren't bothered by it as the discomfort is minor.
For this article, we’ll be talking about at-home aligners.
Getting Your Dental Aligners: The 4-step Process
If you’re looking to straighten your teeth, you’re probably also curious to know how the entire dental alignment transaction works. In this short section, we outline the process for getting your at-home invisible aligners:
1. Get a customized treatment plan
The first step is to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist or make an order online for an impression kit. In person, a dentist will examine your teeth and scan your mouth, or for the at-home teeth aligning treatment, you can send back the impression kit with the mold of your teeth (after biting into the “goopy putty”).
An individualized treatment plan will then be developed—we won’t bore you with this part; just let the experts handle it.
2. Your aligners are made and delivered
Using 3D technology, your custom treatment plan will be digitally created once your teeth impressions from the goopy putty have been inputted. Following approval of the digital models, the aligners are made in a production facility.
As soon as you accept treatment, the process begins. It can take up to 3 weeks for some aligner brands to ship you the product. The preliminary impression kits usually take less time to reach your door.
3. Wear and replace your aligners accordingly
You'll replace your aligner trays every one to three weeks (they’ll be sent to you periodically). For teeth straightening to be effective, you need to wear them for about 20 to 22 hours a day.
Single aligners can only move teeth slightly (1 mm or less) so multiple aligners are needed.
With each set of aligners, the teeth will slowly move into the correct position. You’re looking at anywhere between 3 and 24 months to complete the treatment.
4. Flex that smile at day, keep it conditioned at night
Once treatment is complete, a custom retainer is created from a mold of your newly straightened teeth. These retainers are meant to be worn every night while sleeping to ensure your teeth don’t slowly move back to their original position.
Why Should I Get Clear Aligners?
They are invisible
These appliances are almost undetectable when worn on the teeth since the aligners don’t require brackets and metal wires.
If you have many interactions with others and your smile plays a big role, clear aligners can help maintain your confidence and approachability.
Aesthetic dental anomalies have shown to be a strong motive for bullying for children especially, which can affect their upbringing and social development. That includes braces themselves. So people who suffer from social anxiety and insecurities can take the subtler route with invisible aligners and fix their teeth.
They are more convenient to use
Unlike traditional braces that restrict your menu options to foods like hard, chewy, and brittle, clear aligners can be taken out of a case while you eat, so you can eat any food you want while wearing them.
Less risk of chronic conditions and injuries
Your oral and overall health can be negatively affected by misaligned teeth. Overcrowding can result in excessive wear and tear on your enamel since they’re grinding on each other so much. Teeth that protrude can also cause discomfort in your mouth and can even lead to speech problems and headaches.
Not to mention, misaligned teeth and jaws have shown to affect mental health especially in children and teenagers who get bullied for crooked teeth, and thus have low levels of confidence and self-esteem.
On a more positive note, clear aligners treatment has shown to significantly improve periodontal health.
Easier to maintain proper dental hygiene
Clear aligners have been shown to facilitate oral hygiene and reduce the number of appointments and emergency visits.
Besides taking out the aligners when you want to eat, removable clear aligners allow you to clean your gums, teeth, and other dental parts thoroughly.
And, the removable aligners themselves can be cleaned separately, so you won’t have to try and maneuver your toothbrush around delicate wires and brackets.
Reduced treatment times
Compared to metal braces, clear aligners may reduce treatment time by half. Clear aligners usually treat your alignment problem in as little as twelve months, while traditional metal braces can take over two years to work.
But only your dentist can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and treatment time estimate based on your individual alignment issues.
Some Things to Look Out For With Clear Aligners
Clear aligners can be amazing. But there are some drawbacks, too. We mention them in this section:
They’re not for everyone
For starters, clear aligners are not the best option for those with severely crooked or misaligned teeth. In cases where they must be gradually repositioned upward or downward for better alignment with the rest of your mouth, conventional braces get the job done more effectively.
Clear aligners, studies show, were also not as effective in producing adequate occlusal contacts (where your teeth meet when your mouth is closed), controlling teeth torque, and retention.
Aligners require your cooperation
The success of clear aligners depends heavily on the patient's cooperation. You may want to remove them more often than necessary due to their ease of removal.
To have successful alignment and keep pace with your treatment schedule, your clear aligners should be left in your mouth for at least 22 hours daily for the duration of your treatment. As long as you leave them in, other than for eating or brushing, you can easily stay in control of your progress.
However, if you have a strong tendency to keep taking them out, traditional metal braces might be better since they cannot be taken out at will.
You’ll need to do more brushing and flossing
You won't have to change the details of your oral hygiene routine. You can still use your regular toothbrush, floss, and mouthwash. But you’ll need to use them more frequently—after every meal specifically.
Imagine wearing clear aligners and the spinach from lunch is trapped between your teeth for everyone to see. Not only is that a socially lousy look, but if you don’t remove all of the plaque and food particles from your teeth, you’re more likely to develop cavities as they remain there for a longer time.
Popular Invisible Aligner Brands: Your Best Options
You’ve learned all you need to know about clear aligners. Now, you might be looking for directions. Where do you go to buy the best clear aligners? In this section, we’ve reviewed the best possible options based on public approval and service.
NewSmile is a pretty recent company founded in early 2020—but they skyrocketed to stardom for their fantastic service. With NewSmile, you can have clear aligner treatment designed remotely and administered from the comfort of your own home.
|Pricing||$1499/ yr or $79/ mo (As of Jan. 03, 2022)|
|Night aligners Pricing||$1699/yr or $88/mo (As of Jan. 03, 2022)|
|Treatment Length||4 mos-10 mos|
|0% Down Payment||Available with a monthly plan.|
|Shipping||Front Door Delivery
Impression Kit Free Shipping
NewSmile costs $1,499. Even though this isn't the absolute cheapest option available for teeth alignment in Canada, it still represents thousands of dollars less than braces or Invisalign, as well as nearly $800 less than SmileDirectClub.
You can keep track of your progress with the NewSmile Aligner Monitoring App.
The NewSmile customer satisfaction rating is excellent. Even though they don't have as many customer reviews as some of their competitors, we were able to find more than 100 reviews of their services, most of them positive.
If at the end of your treatment, your smile does not match the one in your treatment preview, NewSmile will "work with you to identify the cause, and will help you achieve the results you desired."
You might not be getting the most specialized treatment since they use a team that includes both orthodontists and general dentists.
Nighttime-only aligners from NewSmile cost $200 more, even though they’re exactly the same as the all-day aligners.
SmilePath is another at-home invisible aligners provider. They’re unique because they make clear aligners financially accessible to anyone, even if their credit score needs some work.
Simply make an order online and send your molded teeth to them. They’ll evaluate your eligibility and send you image previews for what your teeth might look like at the end of the treatment. Like what you see? They’ll start making your aligners as soon as you approve and ship them to you within a few weeks.
|Pricing||$1399 - one time
$78/mo (18 mos)
$117/mo (12 mos)
(As of Jan. 03, 2022)
|Night aligners Pricing||$1499 - one time
$84/month (18 mos)
$142/month (12 months)
(As of Jan. 03, 2022)
|Treatment Length||6 mos. - 8 mos.|
|0% Down Payment||Available for an 18-month plan.
$295 for 12-month plan
$299 for Night Aligner 12-month plan
|Shipping||FREE shipping within Australia
(Up to 3 weeks)
As an additional convenience, SmilePath offers a nighttime option so that you can wear your aligners only at night.
The pricing for at-home clear aligners from SmilePath is the lowest available. Additionally, they frequently provide discounts on their website, which further cut their great rates.
They have an excellent customer service team that can answer all of your tough questions professionally and politely.
They use high-quality plastic aligners produced by supplier Retainer Essix, with over 15 years of industry experience.
While some of their competitors offer free tooth scanning in their physical offices, SmilePath requires you to make your own molds of your teeth.
Although SmilePath aligns your teeth more quickly than braces or Invisalign, it is not the fastest option. Other brands can complete the alignment in only three months, while SmilePath usually takes at least six months.
The aligners won't arrive as quickly as others, so you might have to begin your treatment a week or two later compared to other providers.
3.Straight My Teeth
As the lowest price provider, Straight My Teeth makes treatment affordable for a wide range of people without compromising quality. Alongside affordability, at-home clear aligner companies like Straight My Teeth eliminate all in-person checkups, a true godsend during the pandemic.
|Pricing||£654 - one time
£45/mo (12 mos) with £359 Downpayment
(Price as of Jan. 03, 2022)
|Night aligners Pricing||£704 - one time
£50/mo (12 mos) with £399 Downpayment
(Price as of Jan. 03, 2022)
|Treatment Length||4 mos-8 mos|
|0% Down Payment||No|
|Impression Kit||Included in one-time price.
|Shipping||(12-14 business days)|
Straight My Teeth has the lowest prices on the market by far. For your full treatment, you'll only pay £999 (or less if you catch a sale). The fee also includes one set of aftercare retainers and a whitening kit.
Retainer Essix manufactures the plastic for Straight My Teeth aligners, a reputable and established dental supply company.
Their customer service staff is consistently praised for their responsiveness and professionalism in online reviews.
On par with the industry average, treatment takes an average of 6 months.
You might not be working with the most qualified professional on your case when you visit Straight My Teeth as they have unlicensed dental technicians on staff.
Refinements cost an additional £150 if you are unsatisfied with your results at the end of treatment.
AlignerCo is relatively young as far as home aligner companies are concerned. So far, they have flown under the radar in the U.S. and Canada since opening their doors in May 2019.
Although they have not had any marketing campaigns like SmileDirectClub, they have generated some buzz by offering prices well below the industry standard, quickly establishing themselves as an affordable service.
|Pricing||Check Latest Price
$1135 - One-time payment which includes Impression kit
and a set of Retainers
|Night aligners Pricing||Check Latest Price
$1235- one time
|Treatment Length||4 mos - 8 mos|
|0% Down Payment||Available with a 12-month plan|
|Shipping||Up to 3 weeks|
Everyone can apply for the SmileFlex Easy plan since there is no credit check (although it requires a $345 down payment).
Among all the companies offering at-home aligners, AlignerCo's $1,635 sticker price is easily one of the lowest, and sometimes they run promotions that further cut the price.
All AlignerCo aligners are made from Essix plastic, a reputable and experienced dental products company.
Anyone who does not wish to wear their aligners all day can opt for the NightOnly treatment offered by AlignerCo.
Customers consistently praise them for their attentive, helpful service.
To begin your treatment, you will need to order an impression kit from AlignerCo since it doesn’t have any physical locations offering free tooth scans.
On their website, AlignerCo claims to offer orthodontist-designed treatment plans, but they actually use both orthodontists and dentists. Both are highly qualified to design and oversee your treatment, but if you are sure you want to work with an orthodontist, AlignerCo might not be the best option for you.
Compared to some of its competitors, AlignerCo may be a bit slower with delivery and treatment.
Their shipping policy is foggy, and their impression kits aren’t eligible for returns.
At-home clear aligners are a new era. They’re budget-friendly, convenient, and intuitive—if you buy from the right brands, that is. Not to mention, they’re a safer and more sanitary option to in-office alignment during the pandemic.
After reading, you’re now fully informed about at-home clear aligners and what to expect if you order from the best brands. The road to straighter teeth has never been straighter. Start flexing a newborn smile in no time with clear aligners delivered to your doorstep.
Karen Nunez is a practicing dental health care practitioner in Alberta, Canada. She's passionate about educating her readers on achieving optimum dental health through extensive research on the latest dental topics and providing science-backed product recommendations. During her free time, you can find her glued to her favorite Paulo Coelho books and concocting the best chocolate cupcakes her loved ones go crazy about.