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 23, 2022.
- Byte (Recommended)
- Smile Direct Club
Byte #1: 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 has 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). This shorter treatment length is 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 their competitors all-day aligner wear options.
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 8 a.m. to 6 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 length, 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.
Candid #2: Most Comprehensive Treatment
Important: Candid recently discontinued their fully-remote clear aligner treatment option and now only offers their premium hybrid treatment, CandidPro. Because of this recent change, some of the content on this page may be out of date.
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 the 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 treatments 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.
AlignerCo #3: 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 Essix, 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 $95 per month for 11 months.
Similarly, for nighttime only treatment you have the option of NightFlex or NightFlex Easy. With NightFlex you will need to pass a soft credit check, then make 12 monthly payments of $99. With NightFlex Easy you will make a downpayment of $345, followed by 11 monthly payments of $105.
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.
Smile Direct Club #4: Popular Brand
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 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 $1,950, 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 24 months, a total cost of $2,386. 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.
Which Should You Choose?
Byte is our #1 recommendation for home teeth straightening. They offer excellent customer support, fast treatment times, and a generous aligner bundle. If you decide Byte is right for you, be sure to take advantage of our special offer (for $180 off treatment).
Smile Tip: According to our research, Byte provides a better customer experience than any other clear aligner service.
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:
- Treatment quality: How does your treatment go from start to finish? How many times does someone check in with you to see how your treatment is going? These are important questions to ask—no two aligner companies are exactly alike.
- Treatment length: How long will you have to wait to see your perfect smile? The industry’s average treatment time is 6 months, but there’s some give and take depending on which company you choose.
- Overall value: 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.
- Patient support: Is it a pain to get in touch with a support rep? Or do you get quick responses from someone who’s familiar with your case? Some aligner companies shine in the customer support department, but others fall short.
- Noticeability: At-home clear aligners like to write themselves off as completely invisible, but that’s not exactly true. They’re nearly invisible. And the clear aligners from some companies are more visible than others.
Things to Know Pre-Treatment
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 speed 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.
At-Home vs. Traditional Aligners
At-home aligners are a recent development in dentistry; the first company, Smile Direct, got started in 2014. Then competitors began emerging in 2017. So all in all, at-home aligners are a relatively new concept.
Thankfully, though, at-home aligners use proven, established technology to administer your treatment; they just take out the middleman. Instead of picking up your aligners at your orthodontist’s office, the at-home aligner company you choose will send your aligners directly to you. Once you receive them, the day-to-day of your treatment looks really similar to Invisalign: you wear your aligners for about 22 hours a day, moving on to the next aligner as prescribed. With Invisalign, you’d need to go to regular check-ups with your orthodontist.
Office visits are the primary difference between in-office and at-home treatment, and with those visits comes extra cost and time. (In-office treatment methods can handle a wider variety of cases, though).
For most busy adults, at-home treatment is a much better option. Office visits won’t put any additional stress on your already busy schedule. Plus, at-home treatment is considerably cheaper, and it’s typically faster. The speed, convenience, and affordability is tough to beat.
That said, if you’re still deciding between traditional and remote treatment, it’s a good idea to do some research on your local options for orthodontics.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Home Teeth Straightening Kits Covered By Insurance?
The short answer: it depends. Most home teeth aligner companies accept FSA and HSA accounts. But as far as true insurance goes, you’ll have to check with your individual provider. Home teeth aligner systems are considered “orthodontic treatments.” So, if your insurance includes orthodontic benefits, then you’ll get some reimbursement for your aligners.
As a general rule, we recommend that you contact your insurance company before purchasing your aligners. They’ll help you quickly determine whether or not your aligners will be covered. And if they are, your insurance company can help make sure your treatment gets coded correctly.
It’s a hassle up front, but it’s much easier to address this issue before making any payments than after!
What About Invisalign?
Home teeth aligners are not the same thing as Invisalign. Invisalign also utilizes clear aligner technology, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Invisalign is basically the same as braces, but without all the brackets and wires. Just like braces, treatment with Invisalign requires ongoing office visits, during which your dentist can incorporate other dental appliances (like elastics) into your treatment plan. This makes Invisalign a great treatment option for more severe cases of dental misalignment.
How Does Home Teeth Alignment Actually Work?
By magic! Okay, not really. It only seems that home teeth aligners use magic to shift your teeth as discreetly as possible. But home teeth aligners use the same science as braces to straighten your smile. The key difference is that clear aligners don’t use wires and brackets.
Instead, plastic aligners, when used as a full, step-by-step set, gradually shift your teeth to move them into place. Each aligner moves your teeth a tiny bit closer to your perfect smile.
At-home teeth aligners are much cheaper than traditional braces and Invisalign because there are no office visits involved. Basically, you don’t get charged for the overhead costs involved with a traditional dentist or orthodontist. That said, home teeth aligners are still reliable because they’re tailored specifically to your smile. Like we’ve mentioned, most companies use orthodontists to create their treatment plans. So, it’s almost the same as visiting the orthodontist but without the annoying office visits.
One note: these home teeth aligner companies are not the same thing as Invisalign. Invisalign uses clear aligners, but that’s where the similarity ends. Invisalign treatment is basically the same as braces, without the brackets and wires. It still requires office visits and the cost that goes with them. Home teeth aligners let you straighten your teeth at home from start to finish.
If I Use an At-Home Teeth Alignment Service, Should I Get a Teeth Scan or Use an Impression Kit?
This question really only applies to Candid and Smile Direct Club. And ultimately, it’s up to you. We’ve read a lot of customer reviews from individuals that loved the customer service 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.
Does Any of These Services Offer Discounts?
All four offer discounts. The real question is how much and how often. As far as we’ve seen, Candid offers discounts the least frequently, and the other three offer them occasionally, especially around major holidays. There are also referral discounts, too.
Is Smilelove still a good option?
Not in our opinion, no. At one point Smilelove was on our list of the best clear aligners, however, due to the effects of COVID-19, they’re not accepting new clients.
What If I’m Not Happy With the Outcome?
Most of these companies do not offer refunds if you’re not satisfied with the outcome once you’ve finished treatment. However, you can appeal for a correction to your treatment provided you’ve followed your treatment correctly.
I’ve Heard the Most about Smile Direct. 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).
How Do At-Home Teeth Aligners Compare to Invisalign/Braces?
At-home teeth aligners are much cheaper than Invisalign and braces. They’re usually faster, too. The biggest drawback is that most home teeth aligners cannot correct bite issues, misshapen jaws, or severe cases of crowding and spacing. Candid is the best equipped to deal with more serious conditions, but it can’t handle everything. Extreme cases should be handled in person, making Invisalign or braces a better option. The required office visits would ensure detailed care and a more robust treatment.
Do the Results From At-Home Teeth Alignment 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. In some cases, your first set is free. Other companies charge a modest fee for these retainers.
Do Any of These Services Include Whitening Kits?
Byte, Candid, and Smile Direct Club include a complimentary whitening kit with your aligners. AlignerCo doesn’t offer it (in the interest of keeping their cost as low as possible).
For the three companies that do, you can use their whitening during your treatment; it’s formulated to safely whiten your teeth without damaging your aligners. If you run out, you can purchase a new set from the company you choose.
I’m in a Rush! Which is the Fastest Home Teeth Aligner?
Byte, hands-down. Thanks to the HyperByte system, the typical treatment (using daytime, 22-hour wear) lasts 3 months with Byte. Other companies average 6 months.
Do Any Online Teeth Alignment Services Have Refund Policies?
Strictly speaking, 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 ship internationally. Byte is growing their international reach, and they recently expanded to Australia. SmileDirectClub ships to numerous countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. AlignerCo has their roots in the United Kingdom, and they operate as SmilePath in several countries.
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 their 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 Teeth Aligners Make Me Talk Funny?
Home teeth aligners are minimally invasive. To most people, they’re imperceptible. But let’s be real: there’s a foreign object in your mouth. 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 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 position.
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.
Do These Services Have Good Customer Support?
In general, all of these companies provide good customer support. 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.