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.
Overview (The 2 Favorites)
Before we dive into the list and review of the four best clear aligner kits available online, here’s a quick overview of this guide.
With the world as it is right now, you’re likely a busy person and have a lot on your plate. If you’d like to skip the research and get started with one of the smile-favorites and ‘best’ clear aligner services, 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 November 24, 2021.
- Byte (Recommended)
- Smile Direct Club
byte #1: Fastest Treatment & Best Value
Founded in 2017, byte is one of the newer home aligner companies on the market. Even though they’re new, they’ve got a lot going for them: byte’s treatment is almost twice as fast as their competitors.
On average, byte users can achieve the smile of their dreams after three months (other aligners usually take 6 months or more). 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 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.
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. 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
Candid strives to offer the most comprehensive at-home aligner treatment. First of all, they are the only at-home aligner provider offering treatments designed exclusively by orthodontists. Orthodontists are the most qualified professionals to oversee this treatment, since they attend 6 post graduate years of study regarding the science of teeth movement.
Most of Candid’s competitors use a combination of general dentists and orthodontists, so you never really know which you’re getting. Additionally, Candid is the only at-home clear aligner provider that is capable of treating all of your teeth, including your molars. At-home aligner competitors are only able to treat the front six upper and bottom teeth (also known as “the social six”).
Candid also makes it more convenient to kick off your treatment thanks to their retail locations. Instead of taking impressions on your own, you can visit a Candid Studio. There, a care specialist will take care of your scans for you, and at most locations you’ll even receive a complimentary panoramic X-ray to get treatment started.
As a part of the CandidMonitoring System, you’ll upload progress photos every 14 days to the Candid App throughout your treatment. These photos will be reviewed by their support team, and if any issues arise your assigned orthodontist will step in and remedy the situation.
In many ways, Candid offers more comprehensive treatments than their competitors. Here’s how Candid compares to other aligner companies:
- Candid vs. byte: Though the same price, byte is both faster and more convenient 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.
- Candid vs. AlignerCo: When it comes to price, AlignerCo has Candid beat. In terms of treatment, Candid’s in person retail locations offer a convenient way to jumpstart treatment without the impression kit. Plus with Candid your treatment is designed exclusively by orthodontists, instead of a mix of general dentists and orthodontists.
- Candid vs. SmileDirectClub: SmileDirectClub boasts the most brand power and a versatile array of daytime and nighttime treatment options. Both Candid and SmileDirectClub have retail locations. Though SmileDirectClub has more locations, almost all of Candid’s locations offer a free panoramic X-ray at your appointment, which is a major plus.
Candid’s sticker price is $1,895. They don’t offer tons of discounts but you can occasionally score a deal.
For that price, you’ll get all of your Candid aligner treatment, CandidMonitoring, and whitening. Candid doesn’t include your first set of retainers for free, but recommends using your last set of aligners as an initial set of aftercare retainers. If you can’t swing the full $1,895 in one payment, you can apply for Candid financing.
Candid offers two financing plans. With their in-house plan you’ll put $199 down, and pay as little as $65/month for 36 months. They also offer third party financing through Affirm. You’ll need to pass a credit check, but this plan wouldn’t require a down payment.
Candid’s Customer Support
Candid offers pretty unique customer support compared to other aligner companies thanks to their CandidMonitoring program. But let’s talk about “customer support” in the traditional sense of the term. This is what you’ll contact if you have any questions about payments, replacing an aligner, or similar issues (note: CandidMonitoring does not give you detailed interactions with an orthodontist; customer support acts as a liaison).
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. If you read a few customer reviews, you might find some complaints when requesting refinements to the original treatment. That’s concerning, these issues are relatively few and far between. For the most part, their support is pretty good.
Who Should Use Candid?
Candid’s biggest advantage is their ability to treat your whole smile, not just the front few teeth. This comprehensive approach to treatment makes Candid well suited to treat more complicated issues than their competitors. Pair that with their treatment plans designed exclusively by orthodontists, and Candid is the most clinically advanced at-home teeth straightening service available.
Another big plus is Candid’s Studios; visiting a retail location makes it much easier to get your treatment started. The best part: you’ll even get a free panoramic X-ray at nearly all of their locations. That’s a nice perk, as well as a thorough approach to starting clear aligner treatment.
Right now, 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: 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 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.
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. 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.
SmileDirectClub #4: Popular Brand
Odds are you’ve probably seen an advertisement for SmileDirectClub on TV or social media. That’s because they’re the oldest, most experienced service on the market, having served more than 750,000 customers since their start in 2014.
Like Candid, SmileDirectClub has retail locations, aptly named SmileShops. Unlike Candid, SmileDirectClub 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.
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.
SmileDirectClub’s Customer Support
SmileDirectClub 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, SmileDirectClub’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 SmileDirectClub 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 SmileDirectClub’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 SmileDirectClub?
If you prefer an in-person office visit to completing your own impressions, then SmileDirectClub is the best choice for you. They have more retail locations than Candid, simplifying the startup process for customers nationwide. SmileDirectClub 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 $165 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 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.
Things to Know Before Starting
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.
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.
What Are Clear Aligners?
In the short time they’ve been on the market, at-home teeth aligners have become a popular alternatives to braces and Invisalign. And it’s no surprise why: they’re discreet, affordable, and incredibly convenient. The best part? With home aligners, you don’t have to step foot in an orthodontist’s office, making it a great option for busy adults.
What makes at-home aligners possible? Long story short, at-home aligners are the culmination of decades (and even centuries) of orthodontic research. The concept of braces has been around for hundreds of years, but we’ve come a long way since then, moving from crude brackets and wires to clear trays and even teledentistry, or remote dental care.
If you’re considering at-home aligners to treat your smile, you’ll want to be fully informed about them. That’s why, in this article, we’ll give you a fly-by of the history of home aligners and how the treatment works. By the end, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Invisalign & Aligner Revolution
At-home aligners would not exist without Invisalign, the pioneer of what we like to call the Clear Aligner Revolution. In a sense, Invisalign invented the clear aligners we know today. The concept was simple: why not use something clear to pull on the teeth instead of metal?
Thanks to extensive research and innovation, Invisalign was able to introduce their clear aligners as the top alternative to braces. Unsurprisingly, the concept took off. All told, clear aligners from both Invisalign and other companies are much less noticeable than braces—for both the user and everyone else. The clear material is nearly invisible, and it doesn’t cut into your cheeks and gums much. (Granted, there is still some discomfort, but it’s far less than braces).
Even though a lot of competitors have emerged, Invisalign still reigns supreme as the most popular alternative to braces. They largely owe their success to the sheer versatility of their treatment process. In fact, thanks to their SmartTrack technology and SmartForce attachments, Invisalign is just as powerful as braces.
In practice, treatment with Invisalign and home aligners looks pretty similar: you wear your clear aligners religiously, and those aligners exert gentle force on your teeth, pulling them into new positions. At-home clear aligners use the same basic technology as Invisalign, but they simplify the process even more (see below).
Home Aligners History
At-home aligners are a recent development in dentistry; the first company, Smile Direct, got started in 2014. Then some competitors broke into Smile Direct’s at-home monopoly in 2017. So all in all, at-home aligners are just getting started.
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 a win-win.