Clear aligners are a great way to straighten your teeth. They are discreet and barely visible when worn, which is why they’re often referred to as invisible braces.
Despite their name, invisible braces are not like traditional metal braces. They do not have wires, metal brackets, or elastic bands that get in the way when you’re eating or talking.
Instead, they are made of clear and removable plastic trays that fit snugly into your mouth. This makes invisible aligners more convenient and comfortable for daily wear.
Currently, there are several brands that offer them. It’s only a matter of finding the best teeth aligners that match your budget and goals.
Invisible braces go by many names. They are also called clear aligners, teeth aligners, invisible aligners, and clear braces — just to name a few.
Aligners are wearable dental devices that straighten teeth by moving them in a specific direction. You can choose from in-office and at-home aligners. While both are essentially the same type of invisible braces, their treatment process is slightly different.
Some dentists and orthodontists offer this clear aligner treatment in-office. You have to set up an appointment before you can begin treatment.
We recommend seeing an orthodontist for your in-office treatment since they specialize in diagnosing and treating misaligned teeth. While dentists can provide the same treatment, they do not have the expertise and additional training that orthodontists have.
Your doctor will conduct an interview and perform a complete dental assessment at their office to see if you’re eligible for treatment. This includes taking x-rays, photos, and impressions of your teeth.
Our most recommended in-office aligners are:
The dental professional will then design your custom treatment plan. As soon as you approve it, they will have your invisible braces made by your preferred brand.
Custom aligners are sent to your doctor when they’re ready. You have to visit the dentist or orthodontist’s office throughout the treatment process.
This allows them to keep track of your tooth movement and the fit of your aligners. Your doctor decides when it’s time to switch to a new aligner.
At-home aligners are available online and delivered to your door. The whole treatment process requires minimal supervision from a dental professional.
Our most recommended at-home aligners are:
Most brands that offer them check your candidacy through online surveys and at-home impressions. You can order an at-home impression kit and take the impressions yourself.
Other companies have studios that you can visit for in-person consultations. At the studio, a specialist will take your dental and medical history, along with photos of your teeth.
The aligner company — through its network of doctors, dentists, and orthodontists — will review your dental records to see if you qualify for treatment. If you do, they will create a personalized treatment plan that is unique to your condition.
After approving your treatment, they will make your custom aligners and send them all at once to your home. You either get daytime aligners (which you wear throughout most of the day) or night aligners (which you wear in the evening during sleep).
You can change aligners on your own every 1-2 weeks or as directed by your treatment plan. Some aligner brands like SmileDirectClub and NewSmile have downloadable apps which you can use to track your progress, contact customer service, and get reminders to switch aligners.
Candid is the only company that works exclusively with orthodontists to provide in-depth monitoring through an app. The assigned orthodontist will use your teeth scans (taken every two weeks) to monitor your treatment. Using the same app, they will inform you of the next steps.
Keep in mind: Candid’s remote monitoring may be more comprehensive than most invisible braces companies. But they are not meant to replace visits to an orthodontist’s office.
The teeth straightening process involves several clear aligners. Each tray is designed to shift teeth gradually into place. To straighten teeth, you have to wear invisible braces and change aligners every few weeks.
Treatment time can take 3 to 18 months if you use in-office aligners and 3 to 12 months with at-home clear aligners. Ultimately, it depends on the brand of your teeth aligners and the severity of your dental condition.
At-home invisible braces usually move the front teeth, known as the social 6. In-office clear teeth aligners are capable of more complex tooth movements. They can adjust your full arch, including side arches and molars.
Candid aligners are the only at-home option that moves all teeth. These teeth aligners work just as well as in-office teeth straightening, except you don’t have to see a dentist or orthodontist.
The Social 6 are the six most visible teeth in your smile. It typically refers to the six front teeth of your upper arch or the six front teeth of your lower arch. Sometimes, it can mean both and total to 12 teeth — known as the Social 12.
Cosmetic dentistry usually corrects the social 6 or social 12. Invisible braces that perform this kind of treatment are called social 6 braces.
Safety risks: Social 6 aligners are a quick and effective way to fix cosmetic issues such as crooked teeth. But they can also ruin your bite or how your top and bottom teeth come together when the jaw is closed. The front teeth may also slide back into their previous position.
Having a proper bite is important to your oral health. A bad bite can lead to speech problems, difficulty chewing, and uneven wearing of teeth. It can also strain your jaw and result in bone loss and pain in the affected area.
The full arch refers to teeth on your upper and lower jaw. Besides the front teeth, it also includes the side teeth (cuspids and premolars) and molars.
Invisible aligners that perform full arch tooth movement work in the same way as traditional braces. First, they make room for your front teeth by pushing your molars to the back and widening your dental arch. Next, they align your front teeth with the rest of your arch.
This orthodontic treatment not only gives you straight teeth. It also corrects bite issues such as overbite, underbite, crossbite, and open bite. The best invisible braces move the entire arch to fix cosmetic and functional problems caused by misaligned teeth.
Invisible braces treat a wide range of dental malocclusions. A malocclusion is simply a medical term for misaligned or crooked teeth. Signs of malocclusion include crowded teeth (overlapping) and gapped teeth (spacing).
There are three types of malocclusions:
At-home teeth aligners treat mild to moderate cases of dental malocclusion or class 1 malocclusion. These include mild to moderate overlaps and gaps between teeth, but not problems with bite.
In-office clear aligners like Invisalign treat severe cases of teeth misalignment such as class 2 and class 3 malocclusions. Orthodontic treatment such as metal or ceramic braces can also correct these dental conditions.
Candid is the only at-home invisible braces company that can treat most severe cases of teeth misalignment. (FYI: Candid’s team told us themselves.) According to their website, Candid clear aligners can’t correct bite problems.1 But case studies show they can improve your bite.2
However, Candid’s clear aligners cannot treat severe bite problems and crooked teeth caused by a misaligned jaw. We recommend seeing your dentist or orthodontist before you buy teeth aligners online.
At-home teeth aligners are more convenient and affordable. Below are the five best invisible braces companies that offer them:
1. Candid only works with teeth straightening experts
Other invisible braces companies have a dental team that consists of doctors, dentists, and orthodontists. Candid sets itself apart by working exclusively with orthodontists who have at least 20 years of experience.
Dentists and orthodontists may be both dental professionals. However, orthodontists specialize in teeth misalignment, whereas dentists are only concerned with your oral health.
While dentists can be trained to provide orthodontic treatment like metal braces, they lack the training which orthodontists are required to have before they can practice. Candid ensures that you get expert care by working closely with orthodontists.
2. Candid provides comprehensive remote monitoring
The same orthodontist that creates your treatment plan will keep track of your progress and guide you on the next steps. Candid is the only aligner company that provides true in-depth monitoring via an app.
3. Candid invisible aligners straighten your whole bite
Other aligner companies usually offer social 6 braces for at-home teeth straightening. These are clear aligners that move the social 6 or your front-most teeth.
Social 6 treatment can address cosmetic problems, but it can also ruin your bite. Without ample room on the sides and back of your mouth, the front teeth eventually get pushed back to their original place.
Candid’s invisible braces perform full arch tooth movements just like Invisalign. By moving all teeth, they can improve the aesthetics and function of your whole bite. Dr. Lynn Hurst, Co-Founder and Chief Orthodontist at Candid, says this also ensures lasting results.
4. Candid does not offer night-only invisible braces
Candid does not have night-only aligners, which makes them safer than other brands. Dr. Hurst explains that your teeth are exposed to inconsistent force loads because you wear them for fewer hours, thus leading to poor outcomes.
“When you’re not wearing them [nighttime aligners] the contact between your top and bottom arches can cause your teeth to shift back into their original position. Every additional hour that you are not wearing aligners increases the likelihood that your teeth may shift in an undesired position… In summary, this circular event of moving teeth for 10 hours, followed by subsequent exposure to counter-forces, has not been proven to be either effective or healthy.”
- Dr. Lynn Hurst, Chief Orthodontist and Co-Founder of Candid3
Candid limits your option to daytime aligners because they’re proven to be safe and effective.
5. Candid has an extensive screening process
Qualifying for invisible braces treatment is not that easy with Candid.4 It may sound inconvenient, but it enables the company to provide safer treatments.
First, you need to be at least 13 years old and no longer have deciduous or baby teeth. Teenagers aged 13 to 17 are also required to visit a nearby Candid Studio for teeth scans.5
While this is optional for everyone else, a 30-minute appointment with a studio specialist allows Candid to assess your eligibility for their teeth straightening treatment more accurately. They will collect your medical and dental history, photos of your face and mouth, and a 3D teeth scan.
Having good dental health is a must. You should have also seen a dentist or orthodontist in the last 12 months. If you have cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease, they need to be addressed by your doctor before you can qualify for Candid treatment.1
Other aligner brands only ask that you answer an online survey and take impressions of your teeth. Unfortunately, these cannot fully assess your oral health. Using teeth straightening aligners when you are not qualified may result in complications or ineffective treatment.
6. More affordable pricing
As of October 2021, Candid reduced their teeth aligners’ cost to $1,895. It may not be the most affordable option. But considering all of its advantages, it is the only at-home clear aligner that gives you value for your money.
ALIGNERCO has the cheapest at-home clear aligners and the most flexible payment plans. They give you the option to pay monthly for up to 12 months and decide whether or not you will make a down payment.
They have a longer treatment time than most of their competitors, which lessens the risk that you will encounter problems when wearing clear aligners. ALIGNERCO’s shortest average treatment time is 8 months.
According to studies, the fastest you can safely straighten teeth is 6 months.6 Moving teeth too fast with invisible braces poses risks to your dental health. It can damage your teeth, gums, and surrounding bone tissue. Fast tooth movement is also known to cause bite problems.7
NewSmile’s teeth aligners cost a bit more than ALIGNERCO. But if you want cheaper monthly payments that don’t require down payment, they are your best choice.
Their invisible braces cost $77 per month (for daytime treatment) and $83 per month (for nighttime treatment). Compared to other brands, it’s one of the most budget-friendly options.
NewSmile is also the only company that can guide you through the impression process. Other companies merely provide printed instructions with their impression kit.
But when you buy an at-home impression kit from NewSmile, you get a free one-on-one video call with an Impression Specialist. During the appointment, they will teach you how to use your impression kit so you can take accurate molds of your teeth.
NewSmile has the most comfortable invisible braces with a “scalloped” design that allows them to sit comfortably along your gum line. They also have an app that lets you track your progress and get in touch with customer support.
If you have mildly crooked teeth, Byte’s clear aligners can do quick cosmetic fixes. The company is best known for its fast treatment time which lasts 3 to 6 months.
Byte’s teeth straightening kit includes the HyperByte® device, which sends high-frequency vibrations (HFV) to promote movement. Byte claims that when used for 5 to 10 minutes while wearing clear aligners, it can reduce your discomfort and cut treatment time by half.8
Does HyperByte really work? No one knows for sure. While there’s some evidence that high-frequency acceleration (HFA) works, most studies show they have no effect on the length of treatment or the discomfort felt by patients.9,10
Also, keep in mind that fast treatments are not necessarily safer or more effective. This is especially true for Byte aligners which move your “social teeth” in as little as 3 months.
Moving teeth too fast and aligning the front teeth without moving the full arch both increase the risk for ineffective treatment. They can ruin your bite and lead to short-term results.
Our final verdict on Byte: We think it’s a good option if you need a quick solution for mild misalignment on your social 6 or social 12 teeth. Otherwise, there are safer invisible braces on our list with longer treatment times.
SmileDirectClub is the only brand that gives you time to adjust to your teeth aligners. Their proprietary Comfort Sense™ technology starts you off with soft plastic aligners and gradually shifts you to firm aligners.11
They also have the most physical locations in the United States, making them more accessible than other companies. You can visit one of 50 Smile Shops for an in-person scan, which is a better way to assess if you’re eligible for at-home teeth straightening.
You can book your appointment online. And if you show up for your scheduled visit, you get a free Bright On™ light and teeth whitening pen.
In-office treatments are more reliable options for teeth straightening. Unlike at-home teeth straightening, a dentist or orthodontist supervises your treatment process.
Below are the best teeth aligners offered in some dental offices:
Invisalign® is the most well-known brand of teeth aligners. They use a proprietary material called SmartTrack® which ensures better-fitting clear aligners and more accurate tooth movement.12
The company provides different treatments based on how mild or severe your condition is. The length of treatment and number of invisible braces varies per individual:
Does Invisalign work? It does. But is it worth the money? It depends on your condition.
Studies show that Invisalign corrects mild to moderate dental occlusions in non-extraction patients. These are cases of misalignment where patients are not required to remove certain teeth for treatment.13
Invisalign has also been shown to move, align, and derotate teeth effectively.13 Derotation is the process of placing an abnormally rotated tooth into normal alignment.
That being said, its results are not as predictable for cuspids and premolars, which are the teeth located between your front teeth and molars. Researchers also found that Invisalign has a limited ability to expand the arch and correct bite problems and severe malocclusions.13
A systematic review of Invisalign further reveals that although accurate and effective, it still cannot produce the same results as fixed appliances like traditional dental braces.14
However, a study published in 2020 suggests that the accuracy of Invisalign has improved.15 Invisalign also continues to enhance its system. The aligner company now offers SmartForce® attachments, which make orthodontic tooth movements possible even without metal braces.16
Our final verdict on Invisalign: We still think it’s the best invisible braces for in-office teeth straightening. But before you consider Invisalign, a dental professional should assess your teeth and make sure that you’re qualified for treatment.
ClearCorrect is a more affordable alternative to Invisalign. You do have to see a dentist or orthodontist for an estimate of your treatment cost.
The total cost of treatment can vary depending on your treatment plan:
If we compare Invisalign vs. ClearCorrect, the latter has more comfortable and more discreet invisible aligners due to their thinner thermoplastic material.
Unfortunately, this may mean that ClearCorrect is less effective. The material used by Invisalign is meant to improve results.
You have to consider these factors when choosing a clear aligner:
However, your biggest consideration should be based on your dental condition.
Remember to see a dentist who can assess your oral health.
They can check for problems that may prevent you from safely using aligners. If you have dental caries or gum disease, a dentist can take care of them before you undergo treatment.
You also have to consult a licensed orthodontist.
They can check your teeth for malocclusions and bite issues and determine how mild or severe they are. Based on this assessment, your orthodontist will help you decide on your treatment options.