Traditional braces are highly effective, with millions upon millions of successful cases over the last 100 years. But people want more from orthodontic treatment than great results. Now, they also want discreet treatment.
That’s why lingual braces were developed. Lingual braces pretty much work the same way as traditional braces; they’re simply attached to the back of the teeth instead of the front.
Lingual braces are a great treatment option, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for everyone. But how can you determine which option is the best fit for you and your unique circumstances? That’s what we’re here to discuss. In this guide, we’ll cover the best alternatives to lingual braces, so you can find a treatment option that works for your lifestyle.
Invisalign | #1
Invisalign was the first company to offer clear aligner treatment. Plenty of other providers have thrown their hats in the ring since, but Invisalign has managed to stay a household name. Let’s take a look at some of the main advantages and disadvantages of this treatment option:
- Discreet: Aesthetics is a huge part of why Invisalign and clear aligners have become so popular. Invisalign’s clear aligners are practically invisible. Lingual braces also have a low profile aesthetically, but can affect your speech for a few weeks (sometimes up to 3 months).
- Experienced: In their over two decades in business, Invisalign has treated more than 12 million people worldwide. There’s no doubt they’ve encountered a case just like yours. They invented this technology, so you’ll certainly be in practiced hands when you choose them.
- Comfort: Clear aligners are smooth, and won’t dig into your lips and cheeks. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for lingual braces, since the brackets can be pretty uncomfortable against your tongue.
- Effective: Invisalign includes supplementary attachments to assist in complicated tooth shifts. Their SmartForce attachments are small, tooth-colored buttons that your doctor will attach to certain teeth to create additional pressure. These attachments are partly why Invisalign can treat practically all of the same conditions that braces can.
- No food restrictions: Unlike lingual braces, there are no food restrictions with Invisalign. You won’t need to solemnly abstain from corn on the cob — simply remove your aligners when consuming anything besides water, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before putting them back in place.
- Cost: Invisalign’s cost ranges between $3,000-$8,000. So if you’re seeking alternatives to lingual braces because of cost, Invisalign may not be the right fit. It’s usually less than lingual braces, but it isn’t necessarily an affordable treatment in its own right.
ClearCorrect | #2
Though they might not have the same level of name recognition as Invisalign, ClearCorrect has been offering quality, effective in-office clear aligner treatments since 2006. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this treatment option:
- Discreet: ClearCorrect’s clear aligners have a very low profile in terms of appearance and the way they affect your speech. Lingual braces are totally out of sight, but they do have a greater impact on the way you say certain words.
- Experience: ClearCorrect has over fifteen years of experience offering this kind of treatment. They’re the second largest clear aligner provider — they know what they’re talking about.
- Comfort: There’s no getting around the fact that clear aligners are much more comfortable than braces. These smooth plastic clear aligners won’t cause the abrasion and discomfort that lingual braces will.
- Effective: ClearCorrect utilizes supplemental attachments to produce complex tooth shifts throughout your treatment. This means they are able to treat more complicated cases.
- No food restrictions: Unlike braces, clear aligners don’t have any food restrictions. You won’t need to kick your caramel habit cold turkey — just take out your aligners when consuming anything other than water, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before wearing them again.
- Cost: It varies doctor by doctor of course, but can run between $4,000-$5,000. This is less than you’d spend with lingual braces, but certainly not pocket change.
Six Month Smiles | #3
Six Month Smiles offers both clear aligners and ceramic braces through local partnered doctors. Six Month Smiles has been changing smiles since 2007, so they have plenty of experience backing them up. Let’s take a closer look at their main advantages and disadvantages:
- Variety: With Six Months Smiles, you can work with your doctor to decide whether clear braces or clear aligners are the best fit for you.
- Short treatment lengths: Six Month Smiles isn’t bashful about their short treatment lengths — after all, it’s in the company’s name. Though 6 months is their most common treatment length, their full range is 4-9 months. That’s quite a bit faster than the 18-24 month window for lingual braces.
- Discreet: Clear braces and clear aligners are both low profile treatment options. Clear aligners are a bit more disguised than clear braces, but both are discreet options. Plus, neither will affect your speech like lingual braces usually does.
- Cost: Six Month Smiles typically costs between $3,500-$5,000. Your total will likely be less than you’d spend with lingual braces, but it’s still a pretty daunting price tag for most people.
- Treatable conditions: The clear aligners from Six Month Smiles can’t treat the same complex conditions as other brands because they don’t use supplemental attachments. Their braces are better equipped to tackle more complicated movements.
At-Home Clear Aligners
At-home clear aligners utilize the technology that Invisalign created, but they adapt it for remote care. These treatments have a lot to offer, but are they right for you? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of at-home clear aligner treatment:
- Discreet: At-home clear aligners provide a low profile treatment — most people won’t even realize you’re wearing them! You won’t have to deal with the speech issues that lingual braces present, so these aligners are unnoticeable in more ways than one!
- Affordable: At-home clear aligners are able to deliver safe treatments at a fraction of the cost of in-office options. Why? Less overhead. In-office options have to finance, well…an office! At-home clear aligners eliminate a significant amount of upfront cost to deliver an affordable treatment option. The average cost of at-home aligner treatment is around $1,900 — which is thousands less than lingual braces treatment.
- Convenient: At-home clear aligner treatments take place from the comfort of your own home. You won’t need to attend frequent in-person appointments as you would with lingual braces treatment. Remote oversight is usually much easier to incorporate into a busy schedule.
- Flexible: Many at-home clear aligner providers offer a nighttime only form of treatment. Instead of the typical 22+ hours of daily aligner wear, this option allows for just 10 hours of wear a day. Most people just pop in their aligners a couple hours before they go to bed and dream their way to a new smile.
- Short treatment lengths: At-home clear aligner treatments usually wrap up in about 6-9 months; which is especially impressive compared to the 18-24 month timeline for lingual braces.
- No food restrictions: Unlike lingual braces, at-home clear aligners don’t have any food restrictions. You won’t have to bid a tearful farewell to popcorn — just remove your aligners when consuming anything other than water, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before putting them back in.
- Treatable conditions: At-home clear aligners are best suited to correct mild to moderate conditions of crowding and spacing. So if your condition is on the severe side, then you’d be better off with an in-office option like lingual braces.
- Less one on one care: At-home clear aligners have a high level of oversight, but you won’t be chatting in real time with your doctor. If getting that kind of face time is important to you, then an in-office treatment like lingual braces may be better suited for you.
- Insurance coverage: Although some insurance companies contribute to at-home clear aligner treatments, you’re much likelier to receive coverage for an in-office option like lingual braces.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of our top-ranked at-home clear aligner providers:
Byte | #1
Depending on the person, treatment with lingual braces can take longer than treatment with regular braces. That’s a pretty long time, considering traditional braces usually stay on 18 to 24 months.
Byte prides itself on its short treatment lengths; the average treatment wraps up in just 4 months. But this isn’t the only difference between Byte and lingual braces. Here are some important ways the two compare:
|Price: Byte has an affordable price: $1,895 for All-Day treatment and $2,295 for At-Night aligners.||Price: The price of your lingual braces depends on how much care you need and your orthodontist’s fees. We’ve seen an average price point ranging from $5,000-$7,000 (but as high as $13,000!).|
|Noticeability: Byte clear aligners offer a low profile treatment. Not only are the clear aligners practically invisible, but your speech will be relatively unaffected.||Noticeability: Lingual braces are totally out of sight. What may be noticeable is a slight lisp in your speech patterns (it takes a couple of months for the lisp to go away in some cases).|
|Financing: With Byte, you’re automatically approved for financing as long as you make a down payment of $249; then you’ll pay $82/month for 32 months (nighttime treatment pricing is slightly different).||Financing: The details of your lingual braces financing will vary, it’s determined by your provider.|
|Treatment length: Byte’s treatment wraps up in 4 months for daytime treatment, and 5 months for nighttime treatment.||Treatment length: In some cases, lingual braces can take a touch longer than traditional braces, making their average treatment range between 18 to 24 months.|
|Discomfort: Let’s be clear: you’re shifting your teeth into new positions, so there will be some aches. With Byte, those aches are pretty temporary. It’s just some soreness, particularly when you switch to a new set of aligners.||Discomfort: Lingual braces brush up against your tongue and you can’t remove them, which makes them more uncomfortable than other options.|
|Daily wear: Byte has systems for all-day and nighttime-only wear. With daytime aligners, you’ll wear them for 22 hours per day. Nighttime aligners are kept in for 10 continuous hours, mostly while sleeping.||Daily wear: Lingual braces are affixed on your teeth until the end of treatment.|
Byte is our favorite at-home aligner company, and we highly recommend them. Their treatment lengths are short, their price is affordable, and their Byte-for-Life guarantee makes it easy to trust in their process. That said, Byte isn’t a feasible option for everyone. If your alignment issues are greater than simple gaps or crowding, lingual braces, or another in-office option will be a better fit for you. They may cost more, but they can handle the full range of cases.
Candid | #2
One of the biggest perks of lingual braces is the direct, in-person oversight you’ll get from your orthodontist. This allows your treatment provider to make alterations that improve your results. If a bracket breaks or you have a minor dental emergency, your orthodontist can take care of it quickly. At-home aligners can’t do that because they’re entirely remote. But Candid is a bit of an exception to this rule.
Though Candid began as a fully remote provider, they’ve recently shifted to “CandidPro,” a hybrid at-home/in-office clear aligner option. This treatment model strikes a nice balance between the oversight of in-office care and the convenience of at-home treatment. Your treatment is administered by a local dentist in the Candid network, and overseen remotely via their CandidMonitoring program. Though most of your treatment takes place from the comfort of your own home, if any issues arise you can head to your local Candid dentist to make it right.
Treatment oversight isn’t the only feature separating Candid and lingual braces, though. Here are other ways these two options stack up against each other:
|Price: There’s no set price for Candid treatment, but it will cost at least $3,500. The final price will be determined by the dentist overseeing your treatment, but you’ll almost always pay less with Candid than lingual braces.||Price: The price tag for lingual braces changes based on the materials, severity of your misalignment, and your doctor’s fees. We’ve found most treatments range from $5,000-$7,000 (but sometimes run as high as $13,000!).|
|Noticeability: Candid’s clear aligners are practically invisible, and they shouldn’t have much of an affect on your speech.||Noticeability: Since they are on the back of your teeth, lingual braces are almost always hidden from sight. More noticable is the slight lisp they typically cause for the first month or so.|
|Treatment oversight: Most oversight occurs remotely with Candid, all thanks to their CandidMonitoring program. Simply upload progress photos to the Candid app for the Candid team and/or your dentist to review.||Treatment oversight: Lingual braces patients get oversight at the office with their orthodontist. You’ll have in-person appointments every 4-8 weeks of your treatment.|
|Treatment length: On average, Candid’s treatment lasts 6-9 months from start to finish.||Treatment length: Most lingual braces treatments last between 18-24 months.|
|Financing: It’s likely that the dentist administering your Candid treatment will offer a payment plan, but the details will vary from office to office.||Financing: We can’t pin down an exact financing plan for lingual braces; this is up to the individual doctors.|
|Discomfort: When you shift your teeth into new positions, there will probably be some aches. With Candid those pass quickly. Usually just when you switch to a new set of aligners.||Discomfort: Due to their location, lingual braces brush up against your tongue, which can create pretty noticeable irritation.|
|Daily wear: Your Candid aligners must be in place for 22 hours a day, but they can be removed for mealtimes and brushing and flossing.||Daily wear: From day one until the end of your treatment, lingual braces are attached to your teeth.|
Candid is our #2 pick for a reason! They are an all-around great service without any notable issues. If you’re drawn to them, then we are confident you’ll enjoy the experience. You’ll get a premium hybrid treatment offering the ‘best of both worlds.’
Still, Candid isn’t ideal in all cases. They can only correct mild to moderate gaps and crowding. If you are looking to make bigger changes, you’ll need to look into lingual braces (or another in-office alternative instead).
AlignerCo | #3
Just like any in-office treatment method, lingual braces have a pretty hefty price tag. After all, you have to pay your orthodontist or dentist for their expertise. Plus, they have overhead costs like rent, office staff, utilities, and equipment. All those things add up to create a higher treatment cost.
This makes AlignerCo a very attractive alternative. But price isn’t the only factor separating lingual braces and AlignerCo:
|Price: AlignerCo has the lowest cost aligners in the industry. Just $1,145 for all day aligners, and $1,345 for their nighttime only aligners.||Price: The cost of lingual braces changes based on the materials, severity of your misalignment, and your doctor’s fees. We’ve found most treatments range from $5,000-$7,000 (but sometimes run as high as $13,000!).|
|Noticeability: With AlignerCo, your aligners are practically invisible and your speech will remain relatively unaffected.||Noticeability: Lingual braces are pretty hard to spot in the majority of situations. What people might pick up on is a slight lisp (it takes a couple of months for this to go away in some cases).|
|Treatment length: AlignerCo requires 6 to 11 months for daytime treatment and 8 to 12 for nighttime treatment.||Treatment length: Lingual braces are more gradual, making their average treatment range between 18 and 24 months.|
|Financing: AlignerCo has a few different payment plan options. You can pay $110/month for 12 months or make a $275 downpayment and then pay $95/month for 11 months. The payment plans for nighttime treatment vary a bit.||Financing: There isn’t an exact financing plan for lingual braces; this is up to the individual doctors administering your treatment.|
|Discomfort: Any time you alter your tooth alignment, there will be soreness. With AlignerCo, however, these aches pass pretty quickly. It’s usually just when you switch to a new set of aligners.||Discomfort: Lingual braces brush up against your tongue and you can’t remove them, which makes them more uncomfortable than other options.|
|Daily wear: With AlignerCo you can choose between all day treatment (22 hours of wear a day) or nighttime only treatment (10 hours of daily wear).||Daily wear: Lingual braces are cemented to the teeth until the end of treatment.|
We love AlignerCo, which is why it’s our #3 pick for at-home aligner treatments. Just in terms of affordability alone, it is hard to pass up. And thankfully, “affordable” doesn’t mean “cheap.” That said, if you have complex changes to make with your teeth, you’d probably be a better candidate for lingual braces.
Smile Direct Club | #4
If we asked you to name a clear aligner company, odds are Smile Direct Club would be one of the first to come to mind. And that’s not a big surprise; Smile Direct Club was actually the first company to bring clear aligners directly to the customer. And they’re still the largest at-home aligner provider on the scene.
Smile Direct Club is the biggest and most well-known mail-order aligner company, and that means they have the ability to offer some perks that many of their competitors can’t match, from nighttime aligners to SmileShops. But what’s truly important here is how Smile Direct Club and lingual braces compare:
|Smile Direct Club:||Lingual Braces:|
|Noticeability: With Smile Direct Club, your clear aligners are practically invisible, and they will hardly affect your speech.||Noticeability: People around you are unlikely to see your lingual braces since they’re positioned behind your teeth. But they might notice a slight lisp for the first months of treatment.|
|Price: Smile Direct Club has an affordable price of $2,050. We like that they don’t charge more for their nighttime aligners; everything is the same flat price.||Price: The cost of lingual braces fluctuates based on the complexity of your misalignment and your doctor’s fees. The average price ranges from $5,000-$7,000 (but we’ve seen them run as high as $13,000!).|
|Financing: With Smile Direct Club, you’ll get automatic approval as long as you make a down payment of $250. Then you’ll have monthly payments of $89 (for 26 months).||Financing: For lingual braces, your treatment provider will set your payment plan.|
|Treatment length: Smile Direct Club usually wraps up in an average of 6 months for daytime treatment and 10 months for nighttime treatment.||Treatment length: Lingual braces don’t have short treatment lengths; usually results take about 18-24 months.|
|Discomfort: Placing pressure on the teeth to move them will always cause some soreness at times. With Smile Direct Club, those aches only last a few hours with each new aligner.||Discomfort: Lingual braces irritate your tongue throughout the duration of treatment, which makes them more uncomfortable than other options.|
|Daily wear: Smile Direct Club offers both daytime and nighttime treatment options; with daytime aligners, you’ll wear them for 22 hours per day. Nighttime aligners require 10 hours of wear per night.||Daily wear: Lingual braces are not removable; once they are on, they are in place until treatment ends.|
Smile Direct Club is at the top of the list for a lot of smile-shoppers. And that’s for good reason; they offer a great product at a great value. If you have a mild to moderate case and you want to use the most well-known at-home aligner company, then Smile Direct Club is the way to go.
However, like all other at-home aligner companies, Smile Direct Club can’t treat extreme cases. Lingual braces are a great option for tougher cases, and as an added plus, they’re pretty discreet.
Which Lingual Braces Alternative Should You Choose?
We get it: the options can be a bit overwhelming, especially when the fate of your smile is on the line. All of the alternatives we’ve listed are good options, so if you’re drawn to one, go for it.
Still, if we had to choose just two services to consider, we’d suggest Byte and Candid. Byte’s treatment lengths are the shortest in the industry, and their Byte-for-Life guarantee offers immense peace of mind. Candid’s premium hybrid service makes for an unparalleled amount of treatment oversight — without losing out on convenience. For more information about these companies, check out our in-depth reviews of Byte and Candid.
How do clear aligners and lingual braces straighten teeth?
They both move teeth by directing force against them. With lingual braces, this is generated by the archwire, while for clear aligners, it comes from the shape of the aligner. This force must change from time to time to effectively move the teeth. For braces, these changes are made every 4 to 6 weeks through adjustments, while with Byte and similar companies, pressure changes slightly with each new aligner.
How does this change the patient experience?
Essentially, those monthly adjustments with lingual braces mean lots of time at your doctor’s office. While this isn’t terrible, it isn’t as convenient as switching out your aligners on your own.
What are aligners and lingual braces made from?
Aligners are made from dental-grade BPA-free plastic. Lingual braces are typically made from stainless steel, but some options are titanium.
I need my wisdom teeth removed; how soon after can I start treatment?
Most companies and doctors ask that you wait at least 6 weeks after wisdom teeth removal to start treatment.
If I have a dental implant, can I straighten my teeth?
Usually, yes. However, you need to wait at least 6 months after the implant surgery since you need time for the bone to remodel and to firm up in place.
How do I manage teeth soreness during treatment?
Most people use over-the-counter pain relievers and saltwater rinses.
Do I need to see my dentist if I choose online aligners?
You should see your general dentist before starting treatment to verify you have no cavities. Then, see them every six months as usual.
What do I need to do to keep my smile straight once treatment ends?
You will need to wear retainers to hold the teeth in place. Also, take care of your teeth in general. Tooth loss and other dental work could compromise your results.
Can I use FSA or HSA funds to cover my treatment?
These funds can only be applied to orthodontic treatment when it isn’t cosmetic. As a result, at-home aligners are often excluded. Talk to your administrator to clarify.