Getting a straighter smile used to come with some pretty glaring drawbacks. Between the high price tags and frequent in-person appointments, orthodontic treatment wasn’t feasible for many adults. Thankfully, the industry has innovated, and the dark ages of metal only treatments are behind us. Now straightening your smile can be done conveniently and discreetly—all thanks to at-home clear aligners.
These treatments offer significantly more convenience for the busy adult seeking a straighter smile. Instead of rushing off to the orthodontist once a month, these options allow for the bulk of your treatment oversight to take place from the comfort of your own home. But which service is best for you? In this review, we’ll compare the 4 best clear aligner brands to help you decide which may be the right fit for you.
Overview (The 2 Favorites)
Before we dive into the list and review our four favorite clear aligner providers, here’s a quick overview of this guide.
You’re likely a busy person with a lot on your plate. You’ve got things to do! If you’d like to skip the research and get started with one of the smile-favorites and ‘best’ clear aligner providers, here they are: Byte and Candid.
- ✔ Best Overall Value
- ✔ Excellent Customer Support
- ✔ Thousands of Positive Reviews
- – Orthodontist-Only Network
- – Premium Remote Monitoring
- – Hundreds of Positive Reviews
Best Clear Aligners Reviewed
Now that we’ve outlined the two most popular clear aligners, let’s break down and review the four options worth straightening your teeth with as of May 6th, 2022.
- Byte (Recommended)
- Smile Direct Club
#1 Byte: Shortest Treatment Length & Best Overall Value
Founded in 2017, Byte is one of the newer fully remote home aligner companies on the market. Even though they’re new, they’ve got a lot going for them: Byte’s offers the shortest treatment lengths in the industry.
On average, Byte users can achieve the smile of their dreams in 4 months (other aligners usually take 6 months or more). These shorter treatment lengths are all thanks to Byte’s HyperByte technology. Essentially, you put on your aligners and bite down on the HyperByte device for five minutes (or ten for nighttime-only treatment). HyperByte gently vibrates your teeth to facilitate faster shifts.
As an added bonus, Byte also offers a nighttime-only treatment called Byte At-Night. If you snack frequently (which would require you to remove and clean your aligners with each snack), then you may prefer nighttime aligners. That way, you could straighten your teeth while you sleep. Oftentimes nighttime-only treatment increases treatment length quite a bit, but not with Byte. Byte At-Night averages just 5 months, which is even shorter than the all-day aligner wear options of their competitors.
The sticker price for Byte’s aligner system is $1,895 for daytime treatment and $2,295 for Byte At-Night. However, there are a couple other costs that go into your full treatment. For one, you’ll need to buy an impression kit for $95. That will kick off your treatment. Then, if you opt to use BytePay, a credit-free financing plan, you’ll actually end up paying $2,869 (or $3,467 for Byte At-Night).
But it’s what that dollar amount includes that really matters. With Byte, you’ll get every aligner in your treatment plan, the HyperByte device (costs $699 when purchased separately!), and free whitening treatment. In short, Byte gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
Byte’s Patient Support
If you ever need help with your aligners or payments, Byte makes it easy. Their support team is excellent, and you have plenty of options to reach out: social media, phone, and email. Phone is easiest—they’re available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST). If you email them, you can expect a response within 24 hours.
Who Should Use Byte?
If you want an excellent mix of value and short treatment lengths, then Byte is a great option. Byte’s the best choice if you’re in a rush to perfect your smile before a wedding, graduation, or photoshoot.
#2 Candid: Most Comprehensive Treatment
Candid got their start as a fully remote clear aligner provider, but has recently changed to a hybrid at-home/in-office treatment model known as “CandidPro.” You’ll kickstart your treatment at an in-person appointment with a dentist in Candid’s growing network. There your dentist will determine whether you’re suitable for treatment, take intraoral scans, photos and X-rays, and answer any questions you may have about the process.
After an in-depth consultation, your dentist should have a clear idea of what your priorities are with your treatment. They’ll explain those goals and send your scans to Candid’s orthodontics team, and they’ll collaborate on a treatment plan just for you.
3-4 weeks after your consultation, your aligners should arrive on your doorstep. From there on out, most of your treatment will happen from the comfort of your own home, thanks to Candid’s sophisticated remote monitoring system, CandidMonitoring.
As a part of the CandidMonitoring system, you’ll upload progress photos every 10-14 days for your dentist and/or the Candid team to review.
If any issues occur, you’ll be able to visit your dentist in-person to remedy the situation. Typically though, most of your treatment will occur from the comfort of your own home. But it’s nice to know you have a familiar local option should the need arise.
Candid is the only clear aligner provider utilizing remote treatment that is capable of treating all of your teeth, including your molars. Aligner competitors that are 100% remote are only able to treat the front six upper and bottom teeth (also known as “the social six”).
In many ways, Candid offers more comprehensive treatment than their competitors. Here’s how Candid compares to other aligner companies:
- Candid vs. Byte: Byte has shorter treatment lengths, and offers more flexibility than Candid due to their nighttime only treatment option. However, Candid is able to provide more comprehensive treatment, since they can move all teeth, which Byte cannot do. With Candid you will also have more robust treatment oversight, due to their hybrid treatment model and CandidMonitoring program.
- Candid vs. AlignerCo: When it comes to price, AlignerCo has Candid beat. AlignerCo offers the additional convenience of nighttime only treatment. Candid’s hybrid treatment is more expensive due to your dentist’s time and physical office space. But with your dentist and the full power of the Candid team, your treatment will have more oversight with Candid than AlignerCo.
- Candid vs. Smile Direct Club: Smile Direct Club boasts the most brand power and a versatile array of daytime and nighttime treatment options. They also offer retail scanning locations to kickstart your treatment. Candid’s initial in-person scans aren’t a one-off, your dentist is there to collaborate with the Candid team every step of the way. So Candid is much pricier than Smile Direct, but that’s due to the oversight you receive throughout your treatment.
Candid doesn’t have one set sticker price, your price will be determined by the dentist you see for treatment. However, you can expect to pay at least $3,500. This includes all of your Candid aligners, any in-person appointments, the equipment for CandidMonitoring, and whitening foam. Candid’s pricing is significantly more expensive than competitors offering 100% remote treatment, but usually less than fully in-office options like braces and Invisalign.
Even though Candid’s pricing is typically less expensive than traditional options, we know that coming up with that kind of cash is no small feat. It’s likely your dentist will be able to offer some sort of financing plan, but the particulars will vary from office to office.
Candid’s Patient Support
With Candid’s hybrid treatment plan, you can receive support from all sides. Your CandidMonitoring photo updates will be reviewed by the Candid team and/or your local dentist. Beyond the robust treatment oversight offered by CandidMonitoring, you’ll also have patient support options available from both your local dentist’s office and the Candid support team.
The hours and modes of communication of your dentist’s office will of course vary, but you can reach Candid’s support team via phone, email, webchat, and even social media. Their support team is available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week. Traditional methods like phone and email are the fastest, but even their slowest method (social media) gets a response within 24 hours.
Between the Candid support team and your local dentist’s office, any questions that arise during your treatment are sure to be answered promptly.
Who Should Use Candid?
If you’re tempted by the convenience of at-home clear aligner treatments, but you want a high level of oversight, then Candid’s hybrid treatment may be worth considering. Unfortunately due to the in-person element of this treatment, if there isn’t a dentist in network with Candid near you, then this won’t be a suitable option.
#3 AlignerCo: Most Affordable
AlignerCo makes your ideal smile more accessible by offering the lowest sticker price on the market. At just $1,145, AlignerCo is widely accessible. That doesn’t mean their products are cheap, though. AlingerCo’s aligners are manufactured by RaintreeEssix, a top dental product supplier. What’s even better is that AlignerCo offers two flexible payment plan options for those who want to pay for treatment as they go. One of which doesn’t even require a credit check.
Affordability aside, one of our favorite things about AlignerCo is their excellent customer support. They’re relatively new (founded in 2019), and they don’t have a huge customer base. But because they’re small, they can dedicate more time and personal attention to each customer.
A small drawback to AlignerCo is that they aren’t as speedy as some of their competitors. The average AlignerCo treatment lasts between 6 and 11 months. That’s not a huge drawback, but it is worth noting.
AlignerCo’s base price for their aligners is $1,145 for all day treatment and $1,345 for their nighttime only treatment. But what really matters is what that sticker price includes. This price will get you all of the aligners in your treatment. And if you pay for the whole kit up front, you’ll get the impression kit for free. That normally costs $75, so it’s a nice perk.
As an added plus, AlignerCo offers two flexible financing options for each treatment. For daytime treatment you can choose between SmileFlex and SmileFlexEasy. SmileFlex requires a soft credit check, but if you qualify, you’ll make monthly payments of $110 for 12 months. SmileFlex Easy is a bit different; there’s no credit check required, but there is a $275 down payment. After that, you’ll pay $175 per month for 6 months. Nighttime only financing has similar plans, just a little pricier.
AlignerCo’s Patient Support
AlignerCo has excellent customer support. Since their customer base isn’t too big for their support team to handle (which happens to some other companies), AlignerCo gives dedicated attention to each customer.
If you need to get help or ask questions about your treatment, AlignerCo offers fairly traditional support methods: phone, email, and webchat. The fastest methods are phone and chat (we tested them and got a near-instant response from chat). If you email, you can expect a response within 24 hours.
In a lot of online reviews, customers mention their representative by name, giving a shout-out for top-notch support. Good support is one of the top loves across the board for AlignerCo.
Who Should Use AlignerCo?
AlignerCo is the champion of the budget-savvy buyer. If you want a million-dollar smile at a fraction of the cost, AlignerCo is the best choice. It’s not the fastest option, but it’s a lot easier on your wallet.
#4 Smile Direct Club: Best Brand Power & Easy Start-Up
Odds are you’ve probably seen an advertisement for Smile Direct Club on TV or social media. That’s because they’re the oldest, most experienced service on the market, having served more than 1.5 million people since their start in 2014. With so much experience, it’s likely they’ve treated a case similar to yours.
Smile Direct Club has hundreds of retail locations, aptly named SmileShops. If you can visit a SmileShop, you’ll receive a free teeth scan to kickstart your treatment. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy an impression kit.
Smile Direct Club also offers flexible nighttime only treatment options, allowing you to essentially dream your way to a new smile.
Smile Direct Club’s Pricing
Smile Direct Club’s sticker price is $2,050, but every once in a while, you’ll find a discount. For example, they run a $100 off promotion around New Year’s.
That money only gets you the aligners included in your treatment plan plus a free whitening treatment. You’ll need to spend a little extra on your impression kit—$59 to be exact. It’s free if you get a scan at a SmileShop. And you’ll also need to buy your own post-treatment aligners. Each set costs $99.
If the base price is a bit too much to pay all at once, you can enroll in Smile Direct Club’s payment plan. There’s no credit check; all you need is a $250 down payment. After that, you’ll pay $89 per month for 26 months, a total cost of $2,564. All told, Smile Direct Club is a fair value, but it’s not the most competitive price on the market.
Smile Direct Club’s Patient Support
Smile Direct Club has a huge customer base, but they’ve had a few hiccups with their customer support. We suspect that the support team couldn’t quite keep up with the accelerated growth Smile Direct experienced a few years ago. Put simply, Smile Direct Club’s support team is good once you reach them, but reaching them is the hard part since you may experience delays.
The good news is that Smile Direct Club offers a ton of online resources, from how-to videos to FAQs to blog posts. If you need help with your aligners, we recommend checking their website first. Then, if you still have questions about your treatment or payments, you should try to contact them.
Email and phone are Smile Direct Club’s main communication channels. We’ve found that their phone support is much faster. Email inquiries can wait more than 24 hours for a response.
Who Should Use Smile Direct Club?
If you prefer an in-person scan to completing your own impressions, then Smile Direct Club could be a great match for you. Their hundreds of SmileShops have simplified the startup process for customers nationwide. Smile Direct Club is also worth a second look if you want to use a nighttime aligner system instead of the traditional all-day aligners.
Why These Brands Make the Cut
You can find our full evaluation process here, but here’s a quick look at the criteria we’ve used to determine our top four recommendations:
- Product quality: All clear aligners might look the same at first, but there are some differences worth noting. We look at who manufactures the aligners, how the aligners are trimmed, and the transparency of the plastic. Some providers use more durable plastic for their nighttime only treatments, others make them exactly the same way.
- Treatment oversight: How many times does someone check in with you to see how your treatment is going? Does the provider have an app to easily upload progress photos? How is their customer support? How long will your treatment last? These are important questions to ask—no two aligner companies are exactly alike.
- Bang for your buck: Every clear aligner company has a different price point; that’s understandable. But the more important question is how much you’ll get for your money. Some companies throw in a lot of extras like post-treatment retainers and whitening, and others keep it simple.
- Customer experience: Some providers have a better track record with their customer base than others. How is the company rated on third party sites? What happens if you break an aligner? Does the provider have any guarantees on the results of your treatment? What about if your teeth shift after treatment? You want to know you’ll be taken care of throughout your treatment, and even afterwards too!
Things to Know Before Getting Started
Invisible aligners may be cheaper than braces, but they’re still a pretty big investment. To be sure you find the best fit for your condition, lifestyle, and expectations, keep these things in mind:
- Not all aligners are created equal. Some have a matte finish while others are shiny. Some are scalloped to match the gum line, and others are cut straight across. These two differences affect the visibility and effectiveness of your aligners. Matte aligners are less visible than shiny ones, and straight-cut aligners are stronger than ones cut to match your gums. On top of that, certain companies partner with trusted aligner manufacturers to ensure high-quality production. If visibility, quality, or treatment length are important factors for you, you’ll want to investigate each company’s aligners before you purchase.
- Clear aligners might come with some discomfort. Everyone’s experience is a bit different, but your treatment’s aggressiveness goes hand-in-hand with levels of potential discomfort. For example, nighttime-only aligners tend to cause a bit more soreness than traditional treatment because your teeth have less time to adjust to their new positions. Similarly, some companies give you biweekly or weekly aligners, and weekly aligners cause slightly more discomfort.
- Aligners don’t mix with food and beverages. With any aligner company, you’ll need to remove your aligners whenever you eat or drink (water excluded). Then, before you put them back in, you should brush your teeth and floss. If you’re a frequent snacker or drink a lot of coffee, this can be a hassle since you wear your aligners for 22 hours per day. It’s an avoidable hassle, though: nighttime-only aligners only require ten hours of continuous wear.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I use Smile Direct Club, should I get a teeth scan or use an impression kit?
The decision to use an impression kit or in-person scan essentially comes down to your location and personal preferences. We’ve read a lot of reviews from individuals that loved their experience at the retail locations, so if you live near one, go for it. It’s free, and there’s no requirement to buy aligners. But if you’re too far away, stick with the impression kit.
Do any of these services offer discounts?
Byte, AlignerCo and Smile Direct Club all offer discounts. AlignerCo runs sales and promotions more often than the others, but all of these fully remote providers offer discounts in some form or another. Your treatment price with Candid will be set by the dentist overseeing your treatment. So it’s possible that certain dentists will offer competitive pricing, but there aren’t any overarching Candid sales.
What if I’m not happy with the outcome?
Most of these companies do not offer refunds if you’re dissatisfied with the treatment outcome. However, you can appeal for a correction to your treatment provided you’ve followed the company’s usage schedule and guidelines. If you haven’t followed your treatment requirements, you’ll be ineligible for any refunds or refinements (extra aligners).
I’ve heard the most about Smile Direct Club. How do other providers compare?
Smile Direct Club is definitely the biggest name in the industry. Their brand power is a big advantage. And they do have a lot going for them: they’re experienced, they offer nighttime-only treatment, and they’re a reputable brand. However, other companies are a bit cheaper (AlignerCo) or faster (Byte) or provide more comprehensive treatment and oversight (Candid).
How do at-home clear aligner providers compare to Invisalign/braces?
Fully remote treatment options are much more affordable than traditional options like Invisalign and braces. Invisalign and braces are capable of handling even the most severe conditions, but remote clear aligner treatments are best suited for mild to moderate cases of crowding and spacing. Candid occupies a hybrid space in between traditional options and 100% remote options. There is an in-person element to their treatment offerings, but the majority of your treatment is conducted remotely.
Do the results from clear aligner treatment last forever?
It’s possible that your teeth will shift, regardless of whether you use traditional braces or an at-home aligner system. To reduce the risk of shifting, you should wear (and regularly replace) the post-treatment retainers provided by your aligner company. Some companies include your first set of retainers in the sticker price, while other companies charge a modest fee.
Do any of these services include whitening kits?
Byte, Candid, and Smile Direct Club include a complimentary whitening kit with your aligners. AlignerCo sells their kit separately for $49.99. These kits can be used to whiten during your treatment; it’s formulated to safely whiten your teeth without damaging your aligners. If you run out, you can always purchase more.
I’m in a rush! Which clear aligner provider has the shortest treatment times?
Byte, hands-down. Thanks to their HyperByte device, the typical treatment (using daytime, 22-hour wear) lasts just 4 months. Other companies average 6 months.
Do any online teeth alignment services have refund policies?
Most don’t. They’ll help correct your smile if your treatment doesn’t go as planned, but you won’t get your money back. Smile Direct Club has a 30-day refund policy, but that’s not much help because you won’t really see tangible results within thirty days.
Can I use any of these services if I live outside the United States?
Candid doesn’t currently operate internationally. Byte is growing their international reach, and they recently expanded to Australia. Smile Direct Club ships to numerous countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. AlignerCo’s sister company, SmilePath, operates in Australia and their other sister company, Straight My Teeth, operates in the United Kingdom.
What happens if I mess up the impression kit?
If you’re not sure if your kit will work, go ahead and send it in. If your provider can’t use the mold you’ve made, they’ll let you know. But if you totally botched the impressions and you know they’re unusable, then contact customer support. They’ll get the process rolling to send you a new kit.
Do these services have aggressive upsells?
Thankfully, no. Each company (excluding AlignerCo) has a soft upsell by including a free whitening kit with your treatment. But since there’s no commitment to buy replacement whitening kits once you run out, it’s not a true upsell.
Is there an age requirement for using an at-home teeth aligner?
It depends on the aligner company. Some companies will treat people as young as 12, provided all their adult teeth have come in. Others start at age 16. And some even tailor a special treatment procedure for teens. Regardless of the company you choose, minors must receive parental consent before commencing treatment.
Will home clear aligners make me talk funny?
Home clear aligners are minimally invasive. To most people, they’re imperceptible. But let’s be real: there’s a foreign object in your mouth, so it might feel weird at first. Most people usually adjust after a few days and don’t have any weird speech quirks during treatment.
Can I drink coffee or tea while using an online teeth straightening kit?
Nope. Tea, coffee, and foods all can damage or stain your aligners. The only exception is water. Otherwise, you should remove your aligners whenever you eat or drink.
What happens if I lose my aligners?
Contact your customer support right away and they’ll tell you what to do. Some companies will send a replacement aligner. But in general, you should wear your previous aligner in the meantime. That will keep your teeth from shifting back to their original positions.
Is it worth paying extra for a teeth whitening kit?
Your first kit is typically included. But after that, you’ll need to purchase a kit if you want further whitening treatment. Even without whitening, your teeth will look better than when you started. That said, if you want to brighten your smile during treatment, you should stick with the treatment your company provides, even if it’s more expensive than another option. It’s safe to use with your aligners.
Are home teeth straightening kits covered by insurance?
That depends on your insurance. If you have orthodontic benefits with your policy, then you may be covered. We recommend that you check with your individual provider to learn if your treatment will be covered. If you choose Candid for treatment, insurance will go through the dentist office you choose, not Candid itself.
Do these providers have good customer support?
In general, all of these companies have good support teams. But they vary in responsiveness and efficiency. Byte, Candid, and AlignerCo all have prompt, friendly service teams. Smile Direct Club will get you the help you need, but we’ve found that they’re a touch slower to respond. In addition to their in-house patient support team, your Candid treatment will benefit from the support of the dentist office where you receive your treatment.