At-home teeth aligners present a lot of great advantages: they’re cheaper than braces, they’re less visible, and they’re far more convenient. You won’t have to visit the orthodontist’s office, and you can keep eating all your favorite foods.
In this review, we’ll break down the simplicity (or lack thereof) of four at-home aligner companies: Smile Direct, Candid, Byte, and AlignerCo.
What makes one home clear aligner easier to use than another?
Convenience is one of the biggest advantages that home teeth aligners have over traditional braces. After all, you get to avoid all the pesky visits to the orthodontist’s office. However, not all aligner companies are created equal.
Some make the process easier than others. We’ve evaluated each company based on the simplicity of their startup procedures, the ease of everyday use, and the treatment speed (because it’s easier to put up with a short process).
Based on those criteria, we rank Smile Direct, Byte, Candid, and AlignerCo as the most convenient companies. Check out the full run-down below to learn which is the most convenient option and why.
The run-down: Smile Direct, Candid, Byte, and AlignerCo
Ease of getting started
The amount of time and effort it takes to get started sends a powerful message about a company’s commitment to convenience. In general, here’s how it works: you order an impression kit from the company, take your impressions, send them back, and the company creates your treatment plan.
Unfortunately, some customers struggle with the impression kits. To alleviate this frustration, some companies offer an alternative: physical locations that provide free teeth scans instead. This bypasses the challenge of taking impressions, and as an added plus, it’s completely free. Here’s how the companies stack up.
Smile Direct makes it easy to get started. That’s because they offer both impression kits and physical locations, affectionately called SmileShops. There are hundreds of SmileShops across the country, so there’s a good chance you live near one. In fact, Smile Direct has more shops than any competitor. If you don’t live near one, you can order an impression kit instead.
Like Smile Direct, Candid maintains retail locations called Candid Studios. They aren’t quite as numerous as SmileShops, but you’ll find them in major cities, and Candid has big plans for expansion in the future. If you don’t live near a Studio, you can order an impression kit instead.
Byte has a few claims to fame, but a retail presence isn’t one of them. If you choose Byte, you’ll have to order an impression kit. Thankfully, Byte does their best to guide you through the impression kit process; you can schedule a video call to have one of their customer service representatives guide you through the process. Your kit also includes 2 impressions’ worth of putty, so you can mess up once without issue.
AlignerCo’s startup process is a lot like Byte’s; they do not have any physical retail locations. But they also do what they can to make it easier. If you’re nervous about the impression kit process, you can schedule a video support session with AlignerCo. A customer support representative will help coach you through the process.
With all four companies, there’s a guarantee on your impression kit. If it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, you’ll get a refund for the cost of the impression kit.
Ease of daily use
Once you receive your aligners, it’s time to start wearing them. This isn’t really a complicated process. You simply wear each aligner for the prescribed amount of time and then move on to the next until your smile is perfected.
Most companies require you to wear your aligners for 22 hours per day. Basically, if you’re not eating or drinking, you’ll need to wear your aligners. But that entails cleaning them (and your teeth) each time. That can be inconvenient for some users, especially if you love to snack.
To combat that issue, some companies offer nighttime-only treatment. With this option, you only have to wear your aligners for ten hours each day. And since you don’t snack while you sleep (at least, we hope you don’t), you won’t have to remove your aligners and clean them constantly.
Here’s how these companies compare based on ease of daily use:
Smile Direct is just one of two companies that offer nighttime-only treatment. Here’s how it works: you submit your impressions and opt-in for nighttime treatment. During treatment, you’ll pop in your aligners every night and make your way to your perfect smile. You’ll need to wear them for ten continuous hours, so if you don’t get ten hours of sleep, just pop them in a few hours before bedtime.
Candid currently only offers daytime treatment. You’ll need to wear your aligners all day except for when you’re eating and drinking. You won’t be able to switch to nighttime wear until you’re on your post-treatment retainer. And even then, you should wear it for 22 hours for the first two weeks. After that, most people can just wear their retainer at night.
Candid has one other day-to-day factor that makes them “easier” than other companies: their CandidMonitoring program. Essentially, you’ll use your smartphone and a special imaging device to take images of your teeth. Your images are reviewed to check your progress (or address any issues, if applicable). If everything looks good, you’ll get the go-ahead to move on to your next aligner ahead of schedule. Long story short, Candid gives you more mid-treatment oversight than any other home aligner company.
Byte’s biggest advantage over the competition is their sheer speed. But they also offer some flexibility since you can choose All-Day treatment or Byte At-Night. These treatment lines use slightly different aligners, so Byte At-Night will cost a bit more. Daytime treatment requires 22 hours of wear per day, but if you opt for nighttime treatment, you’ll just have to wear your aligners for 10 hours consecutively.
Byte adds one extra step to your treatment: with both daytime and nighttime treatment, you’ll use their HyperByte device for 5-10 minutes per day. This little device uses gentle vibrations to help your teeth move more efficiently, making Byte the fastest option on the market.
AlignerCo offers both daytime and nighttime treatment. If you choose traditional treatment, you can expect to wear your aligners for 6-11 months provided you maintain 22 hours of wear per day. NightOnly, their nighttime offering, requires just 10 hours of wear per day.
Another nice perk to AlignerCo is the fact that they only charge an additional $200 for nighttime treatment. So if you want the convenience of nighttime treatment, you won’t have to shell out tons of extra cash for it.
A treatment’s duration is loosely related to its convenience too. After all, even the most convenient option adds a few extra steps to your day. How long you have to put up with those extra steps is worth noting.
Smile Direct’s treatment time depends on which treatment schedule you choose. Nighttime treatment is a bit slower – 10 months for most people. Daytime treatment lasts for 6 months.
Candid’s daytime treatment option matches the industry standard of 6 months for most patients. There are no extra bells and whistles, so you won’t be able to “rush order” a treatment from Candid.
That said, if all goes well, your orthodontist may tell you to move on to your next aligner sooner than expected. This could speed up your treatment a bit—not exponentially, of course, but every bit helps. A word of caution, though: you should only move on to your next aligner ahead of schedule when your orthodontist tells you it’s okay to do so. Moving on too soon can be risky and painful. Your orthodontist will judge when it’s safe to do so.
Byte is simply the fastest home aligner on the market, so if you need a rush-order smile to prep for a big celebration or photoshoot, you’re in luck. Even Byte’s nighttime treatment takes a mere 5-6 months. Daytime treatment usually lasts 3-4 months. This speed adds a lot of convenience to their treatment.
AlignerCo has a pretty average treatment speed, or in some cases, a touch slower than average. Treatments range between 6 to 11 months for daytime treatment; nighttime treatments last about 8 to 12 months.
Treatment speeds for any of these treatments vary from person to person. If your case is simple, you’ll have a faster treatment. But more extreme cases can take longer. Either way, it’s much more convenient and simple than traditional braces.
The #1 most convenient aligner company is…
Smile Direct. Thanks to their brand power and nationwide reach, Smile Direct makes it as simple as possible to straighten your teeth. Their SmileShops eliminate the anxiety (and cost) of taking your own impressions, and customers usually rave about the excellent customer experience at the Shops.
And since Smile Direct also offers the flexibility of both nighttime and daytime treatment regimens, you can pick what works best for you.
That said, the other three companies are all very convenient methods, too. If you find yourself drawn to Byte, AlignerCo, or Candid, you’ll have a hassle-free, easy experience.