Everyone deserves a smile they’re proud of. But historically, teeth straightening treatment has been both expensive and time-consuming.
Thankfully, these days there’s a new affordable alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment: at-home clear aligners.
These invisible aligners (similar to Invisalign) are the newest alternative to braces. They’re faster, more convenient, and most importantly, more affordable than braces or Invisalign. But which service should you choose? In this review, we’ll compare the 4 best home teeth straightening brands to help you decide which is the right fit for you.
Best Online Clear Aligners Reviewed
Now that we’ve outlined the two most popular services overall, let’s break down and review the four best online clear aligners as of December 24, 2020:
- Byte (Recommended)
- Smile Direct Club
Byte | #1
Byte only hit the scene in 2017, but they quickly gained traction as one of the most popular clear aligner brands on the market. What makes Byte stand out? They’re able to deliver results in about half the time of their competitors. In fact, Byte users can get the smile of their dreams in just three months on average (other aligners usually take around 6 months).
This groundbreaking speed 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 option called Byte At-Night. Some other companies offer nighttime treatment, but Byte is the only one that designs their aligners specifically for nighttime wear. Byte At-Night aligners are made of a thicker, premium-grade material to allow your teeth to move safely and efficiently—even when you’re only wearing them 10 hrs/day.
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 $2,763 (or $3,336 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 Customer Support
If you ever need help with your aligners or payments, Byte makes it easy. Their customer support 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 speed and value, then Byte is a great option. It’s the best choice if you’re in a rush to perfect your smile before a wedding, graduation, or photoshoot. For even more details on Byte, visit our in-depth Byte review.
Candid | #2
Candid strives to be the best at-home alternative to Invisalign by making your remote treatment as much like an in-office visit as possible through their Remote Monitoring program.
Essentially, you’ll use your smartphone and a special imaging device to take pictures of your teeth and send them to your orthodontist. He or she will review your pictures to check your treatment progress. If your treatment needs any changes, you’ll get them.
Beyond their treatment quality, Candid makes it more convenient to kick off your home aligner treatment with their retail locations. Rather than taking impressions yourself, you can visit a Candid Studio, where a care specialist will take 3D scans of your teeth.
Candid’s sticker price is $2,400. They don’t offer tons of discounts but you can occasionally score a deal.
For that price, you’ll get all your treatment aligners, Remote Monitoring, and whitening treatment. Your last set of aligners can also act as your post-treatment retainer. If the $2,400 sounds too daunting, you can apply for Candid’s financing. Provided you pay the $399 down payment, you can get a monthly payment as low as $99 per month for 24 months.
Candid’s pricing is pretty fair. It may be higher than some competitors, but it covers their Remote Monitoring program, a feature that none of their competitors offer.
Candid’s Customer Support
Candid offers better customer support than the competition. In fact, it’s probably easier to get in contact with Candid’s support than any other home teeth aligner company. (Note: when we say “customer support,” we’re talking about the general support line that you should contact for questions about payment, order status, etc. You’ll contact your orthodontist for questions about your treatment process, but we’re not addressing that contact process here).
You can reach out via phone, email, webchat, and even social media. Their customer care team is available from 9 a.m. to 10 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.
Their hours are wide open, and their support is even better. By all accounts, Candid’s representatives are prompt, courteous, and helpful.
Who Should Use Candid?
Candid’s biggest advantage is their Remote Monitoring program. It mimics the appointment you’d have at a real orthodontist’s office. For someone who needs a lot of regular oversight during their treatment, Candid makes a great option. You’ll get regular oversight without the hassle of going to the office.
Another big plus is Candid’s Studios; visiting a retail location makes it much easier to get your treatment started. The best part: there are no strings attached. After you get a scan, there’s no obligation to move forward with treatment.
That said, Candid’s locations are limited to major cities. If you live in or near a city like Atlanta, Chicago, or Boston, then Candid may be the most convenient for you.
AlignerCo | #3
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 them doesn’t even require a credit check.
Affordability aside, one of our favorite things about AlignerCo is their excellent customer service. 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 than anyone else.
AlignerCo’s base price for their aligners is $1,145. With a referral code, your price can be as low as $1,045. 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 (either method costs $1,320). First, there’s SmileFlex. This option 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.
AlignerCo’s Customer 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 personalized 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
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 a million customers since their start in 2014.
Like Candid, Smile Direct Club has retail locations, aptly named SmileShops. Unlike Candid, Smile Direct Club has hundreds of locations, so they’re much more accessible. If you can visit a SmileShop, you’ll receive a free teeth scan. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy an impression kit.
In addition, Smile Direct Club offers nighttime-only treatment. They’re one of just two companies we’ve reviewed that offer this service.
Smile Direct Club’s Pricing
SmileDirectclub’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 SmileDirectClub’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, SmileDirectClub is a fair value, but it’s not the most competitive price on the market.
Smile Direct Club’s Customer Support
Smile Direct Club has a huge customer base, but they’ve had a few hiccups with their customer support. We suspect that their customer list has grown much faster than their support department. Put simply, Smile Direct Club’s customer support 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 office visit to completing your own impressions, then Smile Direct Club is the best choice for you. They have more retail locations than Candid, simplifying 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? We Recommend Byte
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 $165 off treatment).
Why These Brands Make the Cut
Spoiler alert: our top four clear aligners are Byte, Candid, AlignerCo, and SmileDirect.
- Byte: Fastest treatment speed on the market & best overall value; daytime and nighttime treatment
- Candid: Remote Monitoring program best mimics the orthodontist oversight you’d get with an in-person treatment method
- AlignerCo: Most affordable aligner kit on the market; daytime and nighttime treatment
- SmileDirectClub: Most brand power; daytime and nighttime treatment
But there are other clear aligner brands, too: SnapCorrect, New Smile, and others. So why did we pick those as our top four?
You can find our full evaluation process here, but here’s a quick look at the criteria we’ve used to stack up our big four:
Treatment quality: Does an orthodontist or a dentist design your treatment? 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 speed: 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.
Customer service: Is it a pain to get in touch with a customer service rep? Or do you get quick responses from someone who’s familiar with your case? Some aligner companies shine in the customer service 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.
So with those criteria in mind, let’s talk about the four best at-home clear aligners.
Keep In Mind Before Starting
You’ve decided on the aligner company you’re going to use. You’ll soon be on your way to a winning smile. But before you kick off your treatment, follow these tips to make the process as simple as possible.
1) Get rid of those wisdom teeth first
Technically speaking, you can still get treatment before your wisdom teeth have come in. But then you run the risk of having them come in and push your freshly-straightened teeth out of the way. It’s better to postpone your treatment until you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed.
2) Follow your prescribed treatment to a T
Each clear aligner company has its own treatment process, such as wearing an aligner for a week or two weeks, using a HyperByte tool, or wearing the aligners for a set time per day. Deviating from the plan can derail your treatment and cause additional discomfort, so don’t do it.
3) If anything goes wrong, contact customer support right away
Life happens. Your aligners could break or go missing. Or maybe you get a tooth infection that prevents you from wearing your aligners for a bit. If anything ever happens that obstructs your prescribed treatment, get in touch with your support team. They’ll be able to help you replace your aligners or revise your treatment plan accordingly.
4) For whitening, use the treatment your clear aligner provides
Each company includes at least one set of their whitening treatment with each treatment set, and there’s a good reason for that. The whitening product they’ve developed is formulated to use in conjunction with their aligners. Some other whitening treatments could damage the plastic in your aligners.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) 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
Q: Are Home Teeth Straightening Kits Covered by Insurance?
A: 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!
Q: What About Invisalign?
A: 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.
Q: How Does Home Teeth Alignment Actually Work?
A: 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.
Q: If I Use an At-Home Teeth Alignment Service, Should I Get a Teeth Scan or Use an Impression Kit?
A: 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.
Q: Does Any of These Services Offer Discounts?
A: 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.
Q: Is Smilelove still a good option?
A: 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.
Q: What If I’m Not Happy With the Outcome?
A: 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.
Q: 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).
Q: How Do At-Home Teeth Aligners Compare to Invisalign/Braces?
A: At-home teeth aligners are much cheaper than Invisalign and braces. They’re usually faster, too. The biggest drawback is that online teeth aligners cannot correct bite issues or misshapen jaws. Extreme cases should be handled in person, making Invisalign or braces a better option. The required office visits would ensure detailed care.
Q: Do the Results From At-Home Teeth Alignment Last Forever?
A: 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.
Q: Do Any of These Services Include Whitening Kits?
A: 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.
Q: I’m in a Rush! Which is the Fastest Home Teeth Aligner?
A: 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.
Q: Do Any Online Teeth Alignment Services Have Refund Policies?
A: 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.
Q: Can I Use Any of These Services If I Live Outside the United States?
A: Byte and Candid currently don’t ship internationally. Smile Direct Club ships to the most countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. AlignerCo has their roots in the United Kingdom, too.
Q: What Happens If I Mess Up the Impression Kit?
A: 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.
Q: Do These Services Have Aggressive Upsells?
A: 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.
Q: Is There an Age Requirement for Using an At-Home Teeth Aligner?
A: It depends on the aligner company. Some companies will treat people as young as 13, provided all the adult teeth are in. Others start at age 16. Regardless of the company you choose, minors must receive parental consent before treatment.
Q: 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.
Q: Can I Drink Coffee or Tea While Using an Online Teeth Straightening Kit?
A: 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.
Q: What Happens If I Lose My Aligners?
A: 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.
Q: Is it Worth Paying Extra for a Teeth Whitening Kit?
A: 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.
Q: Do These Services Have Good Customer Support?
A: 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.