If you’ve ever dreaded getting your picture taken because you don’t love your smile, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel self-conscious about their teeth because they’re crooked, crowded, too far apart—you get the idea. Poor teeth positioning makes a lot of adults uncomfortable with their grins.
A lot of people deal with a condition known as teeth crowding—when the teeth are jammed tightly together. It’s one of the most common orthodontic issues. Teeth crowding frequently makes it hard to brush and floss effectively. It can be limited to one section or spread throughout the entire row of teeth.
Thankfully, it’s possible to fix teeth crowding. And if you have teeth crowding that you’d like to correct, you’re probably considering your options. Home clear aligners have become a fairly popular treatment method in the last few years. But can home clear aligners fix your teeth crowding? In this guide, that’s the question we’re here to answer.
How Does At-Home Treatment Work?
At-home clear aligner treatment (also called teledentistry) might sound complicated. But overall, it’s a very simple process. Frankly, the hardest part is picking which company you’re going to use!
In general, the success of your home aligner treatment hinges on your wearing each aligner as prescribed—that’s how the magic happens! Look at it this way: if you get braces, your orthodontist attaches brackets and wires to your teeth to pull them into new positions. Periodically, the orthodontist tightens the wires to shift the teeth even further. Over time, your teeth shift into their perfect positions, and you get the braces removed.
Home teeth aligners work in much the same way, but they trade the semi-permanent brackets and wires for clear, removable plastic. Each aligner is uniquely crafted to pull your teeth towards their new positions. But with home aligners, you don’t have to visit the orthodontist every time you need an adjustment to have your wires tightened. Instead, you’ll simply move on to the next aligner in your treatment. The next aligner is “tighter,” moving your teeth a little bit further. Step by step, you achieve the smile of your dreams.
Here’s a flyby of the treatment process:
- Step 1: You pick which home clear aligner company you want to use. Our top recommendations are Byte, Candid, AlignerCo, and SmileDirect.
- Step 2: You order an impression kit and create molds of your teeth at home. Then you ship the molds back (return shipping is usually free). Alternatively, you can visit a retail location (Candid and SmileDirect only) and have someone else take scans of your teeth.
- Step 3: Based on your scans or molds, the company of your choice will design a treatment plan for you (provided you’re a candidate for treatment). You will have an opportunity to approve it and purchase your treatment kit. After that, they’ll manufacture your aligners.
- Step 4: You receive your full aligner kit at your home address and start wearing them. Typically, you’ll wear each aligner for a week, then move on to the next. By the time you reach your last aligner, you’ll have the smile of your dreams.
- Step 5: You wear your post-treatment retainers to maintain your new smile. Some companies include the first set for free, and others require you to purchase them.
Can Home Clear Aligners Correct My Teeth Crowding?
In many cases, home clear aligners are the perfect method to correct teeth crowding. After all, when someone suffers from teeth crowding, the solution is to pull the teeth apart. And that’s exactly what home clear aligners are designed to do.
That said, home aligners aren’t the answer for every case. Teeth crowding occurs for two primary reasons: the teeth simply erupt in a misaligned position or the jaw bone is too small to hold all the teeth. Home clear aligners can correct misalignments, but they cannot change the size of your jaw itself. If your jaw is too small, you may need to have teeth removed or have more extensive work done to expand the jaw.
Your smile is unique, though, and we can’t diagnose the severity of your teeth crowding. If you’re curious about home aligners, we recommend that you consult with your dentist. They can best judge the severity of your crowding, including whether your jaw is too small to actually hold all your teeth when they’re correctly aligned.
Another issue to consider is whether your teeth crowding is complicated by other bite issues like overbite, underbite, overjet, or something else. If that’s true, you may need a more robust treatment method like Invisalign or braces to adequately address your smile.
If you are a good candidate for home clear aligners (and many people with teeth crowding are), then you’re in luck. They’re incredibly convenient, and they’re a lot cheaper than other treatment options.
How Can I Be Sure I’ll Get The Results I Want?
If you’re skeptical about getting treatment entirely from home, you’re in good company. But rest assured, home treatment is safe, reliable, and ultimately, more affordable. However, that only applies for people who are good candidates for treatment.
A word of caution, though: home aligner companies determine your candidacy based on the positions of your teeth, not your jaw. If they believe they can correct your teeth, they’ll give you the go-ahead. But some cases of teeth crowding are caused by the size of the jaw. In these cases, home clear aligners may not be able to sufficiently resolve your crowding. And in a few rare cases, a home aligner company will wrongly decide you’re a good candidate for treatment because they can’t tell the precise size of your jaw. To be completely sure, we recommend talking with your dentist to determine the cause of your teeth crowding. If your crowding will not require tooth removal or your jaw doesn’t need expanding, then you can probably go with at-home treatment.
More importantly, to get the results you’ve been promised, it’s largely up to you. When your aligner kit arrives, you’ll receive detailed instructions: how many hours to wear your aligners each day, how long to wear each aligner, how to clean your aligners—you get the idea. It’s up to you to follow those instructions. If you do, you’ll get the results you want. If not, you run the risk of harming your smile.
Some companies will have regular check-ins with you to see how things are going. Candid is the best example of this. But others don’t. Ultimately, you have to hold yourself accountable.
Which Companies Should I Choose From?
Home-based clear aligner products work a lot like Invisalign, but they cut out the overhead costs of an orthodontist’s office by shipping the aligners directly to you. By wearing each aligner for the prescribed amount of time, you’ll be able to shift your teeth into new positions so they’ll align correctly.
We’ve researched every home teeth straightening service on the market and consolidated the most important information in our review of the top 4 services. But for now, here’s a quick overview of our top three recommendations:
byte | $1,895
Our #1 pick for at-home treatment is Byte, and there’s a lot we love about them. But when it all comes down to it, you should pick Byte if you’re in a hurry to achieve the smile of your dreams. Typically, they’re twice as fast as their top competitors. That’s thanks to their HyperByte system, a proprietary device that Byte includes in every treatment bundle at no extra cost. As a Byte patient, you’ll use your HyperByte for 5-10 minutes per day. Using gentle, rapid vibrations, the HyperByte system helps to shift your teeth faster than aligners alone.
On average, patients can expect to wear their aligners for 3 months. However, that assumes you wear your aligners for the prescribed time and use the HyperByte regularly.
As an added plus, Byte offers two treatment methods: Byte All-Day aligners and Byte At-Night. In principle, they’re the same treatment. But with All-Day aligners, you’ll wear your aligners for 22+ hours daily. Byte At-Night cuts that wear schedule down to 10 hours daily—mostly while you sleep. Since you wear your aligners less often with Byte At-Night, your treatment will last about 6 months instead.
Since there are two treatment methods, Byte charges two different price points: Byte All-Day aligners cost $1,895; At-Night runs you $2,295. Why the extra cost? Byte At-Night uses premium aligners that stand up to nighttime grinding. They’re a little more expensive to produce.
Candid | $1,895
One of the biggest concerns people have with at-home aligners is simple: home aligners don’t offer you much in the way of treatment oversight. That’s not true with Candid, though. Candid offers a unique program called CandidMonitoring. As a patient, you’ll get a regular notification from your CandidApp to have a virtual check-in. Using your smartphone and a special imaging device, you’ll send in photos to the Candid care team to show how your treatment is going.
If they decide your treatment is going well, you may be able to move on to your next aligner sooner than expected. In general, your Candid treatment will last 6 months or a bit faster.
Candid is able to move all of your teeth, including your molars. This sets them apart from every other at-home clear aligner provider. Candid’s competitors typically focus on the 6 front upper and lower teeth (otherwise known as “the social six”). Not Candid. Candid treats your whole smile, not just the easy to spot teeth. Their ability to move molars means that Candid is well equipped to tackle more complex issues than their competitors.
Another plus of Candid: it’s possible to skip the impression kit process by visiting a Candid Studio. Instead of making molds of your teeth at home, a professional at a Candid Studio will take scans of your teeth for you. These free scans offer a great value, since most locations include a complimentary panoramic X-ray of your teeth. This helps your orthodontist get a comprehensive view of your oral health prior to starting treatment.
On the whole, there aren’t any real drawbacks to Candid. At $1,895, Candid is the same price as byte’s day aligners. Between Candid’s treatment oversight, their ability to treat more complicated cases, and their convenient in-person scans, your money goes a long way when you pick Candid.
AlignerCo | $1,145
Byte and Candid are both fantastic options, but your wallet might disagree. $2,000 is cheaper than braces and Invisalign, but it’s still a significant investment. And if you’re like a lot of busy adults, your budget is pretty tight. You might not have that kind of cash. If so, AlignerCo is a good solution. They pride themselves on being the most affordable home aligner company on the market. Their price point proves it, too: $1,145.
With AlignerCo, there aren’t a ton of extras like free whitening. They try to keep your treatment kit as affordable as possible. That said, they don’t cut corners; you still get all the aligners you need as well as a free set of post-treatment retainers.
While AlignerCo gets the job done effectively, there are two key drawbacks. First, AlignerCo uses a mixed team of orthodontists and dentists to create their treatment plans. So there’s no guarantee that an orthodontist will design your treatment specifically. Dentists have some training in shifting teeth, but it’s not to the same level as an orthodontist.
Last but not least, AlignerCo’s treatment is a touch slower than average. Most people will need to wear their aligners for 6 to 11 months. That’s a pretty wide range, and competitors like Byte are considerably faster.
Which Service Should I Choose?
All of the at-home options we’ve listed in this guide are good choices, but you can only pick one, right? Ultimately, you’ll have to pick the method that’s right for your smile. But if you want our recommendation, our favorites are Byte and Candid. We love them for different reasons, though.
Byte is an excellent option all-around. Their customer service is great, and their treatment time is crazy fast thanks to their HyperByte vibration technology. And even though they’re not the cheapest option available, we do think they make up for it by including the HyperByte device in the cost of the aligner kit.
Candid is a bit different. Their speed is average, but they can offer more comprehensive treatment than their competitors. Getting started with Candid is pretty convenient too, given their 40+ Candid Studios.
Ultimately, it’s up to you what you choose to do about your teeth crowding. Braces aren’t right for everyone, and neither are home clear aligners. Hopefully, though, this guide has helped you think through your options.
Thankfully, you have the luxury of time to decide if you want to fix your bite issues and how you want to do it. If you do, we wish you the best of luck as you pursue your new smile!