20 years ago, Invisalign became the superhero of modern orthodontics.
It rescued adults everywhere from the unsightly wires & brackets of traditional braces, replacing them with smooth, clear plastic aligners.
Early on, Invisalign had a monopoly on the market, but soon after, competitors began to throw their hats in the ring. Today, at-home clear aligner brands like AlignerCo offer a faster and more affordable treatment alternative for busy adults on a budget.
That’s not to say that Invisalign didn’t adapt to the new competition, though—they created Invisalign Express to expand their offerings.
But how do AlignerCo’s clear aligners actually compare to the industry innovator’s speediest option, Invisalign Express? That’s what we’re here to answer.
In this comparison review, we’ll put AlignerCo and Invisalign Express side by side to see how they stack up in terms of cost, treatment speed, customer friendliness, and more. By the time we’re finished, you’ll have a much clearer image of which option lines up with your needs!
Spoiler | AlignerCo Wins
4 Things They Have in Common
Invisalign Express and AlignerCo are two very different treatments, but they do have similar products. It comes as no surprise, then, that they have a few things in common:
1) Discreet: Both Invisalign Express and AlignerCo are far less noticeable than braces. Trade wires and brackets for clear aligners and that’s bound to happen. Some people find that they ‘lisp’ a little bit when they first start wearing the aligners, but most people adjust pretty quickly. Most users find that other people rarely (if ever) spot their aligners.
2) Safe: We’re talking about the future of your smile here, so safety is crucial. But rest assured, both Invisalign Express and AlignerCo are safe ways to straighten your teeth. Both companies use similar technologies and although Invisalign Express has a few add-ons that AlignerCo doesn’t, the basic principle of both is the same. Both companies use safe, BPA-free plastic in their aligners and dental professionals to design your treatment.
3) Convenient: If you ever talk to a friend who had braces back in the day, you’ll probably hear horror stories about avoiding popcorn or gum, the pains of dislodging food from the wires, and other hassles. Clear aligners take these hassles down several notches. You’ll have to remove your aligners every time you eat or drink (excluding water), but you’ll get to eat all of your favorite foods. And cleaning your teeth is just as simple as ever, too. Just pop out your aligners to brush and floss, then reinsert them.
4) Insurance Accepted: Both AlignerCo and Invisalign Express may be covered by your insurance. If your plan includes orthodontic benefits, there’s a good chance you can receive partial coverage. Some general dental policies may cover your treatment, too. However, many insurance providers are more likely to cover in-office treatments like Invisalign Express than at-home ones like AlignerCo.
5 Ways They Differ
This wouldn’t be a comparison review if these two companies didn’t have a few differences, now, would it? Here are a few key differences between AlignerCo and Invisalign Express:
1) Who can get treatment: One of the biggest differences between Invisalign and AlignerCo is who can receive treatment. AlignerCo can only treat mild to moderate cases of crowding and spacing. More extensive cases—like those caused by an overbite, underbite, or misshapen jaw—must be monitored in-person by an orthodontist. Invisalign Express can’t handle very extreme cases, but they can take on a few more than AlignerCo thanks to their Smartforce attachments.
2) Cost: There is no one-size-fits-all price tag for Invisalign Express. That’s because your price depends on your dentist or orthodontist’s fees and the severity of your case. The more severe your case, the more it will cost. On average, most people will spend between $1,500 and $4,000. With AlignerCo, though, there are very few overhead costs, so your treatment will be much more affordable: $1,145, which is the lowest price you’ll find anywhere.
3) One-on-one care: The biggest disadvantage of at-home aligner companies like AlignerCo is that you don’t actually meet in-person with an orthodontist. Sure, an orthodontist will design your treatment plan, but you won’t have opportunities to sit down with him or her and discuss how your treatment is progressing. With Invisalign Express, however, you’ll have direct, in-person care from your dentist or orthodontist when you make office visits every few weeks.
4) Financing: Both AlignerCo and Invisalign Express offer financing. AlignerCo has two methods—one requires a credit check and the other requires a downpayment instead. Payments range between $95 and $110. Invisalign’s financing is a bit different, as your orthodontist’s office will arrange the details of your payment plan.
5) Treatment speed: AlignerCo and Invisalign Express are both faster than braces, but their treatment times are a little different. On average, AlignerCo takes 6 to 11 months, while Invisalign Express lasts between 3 to 6 months.
Company Track Records
To say that Invisalign is the biggest clear aligner company is an understatement. They got their start in 1997 thanks to Align Technology, a dental supply manufacturer. For roughly a decade, they had a complete monopoly on the clear aligner scene. Even though at-home aligner companies have since popped up, Invisalign is still a (nearly) household name. They partner with dentists around the world (more than 100,000 of them!), and as a result, they’ve served more than 8 million customers.
In terms of treatment, what really stands out about Invisalign is the wide variety of cases they can treat. They’re best known for Invisalign Full, which can treat just about any case. That’s thanks to their patented SmartForce attachments and ability to incorporate elastics, expanders, etc. Invisalign Express can’t use elaborate elastics and expanders, but they can use some SmartForce attachments.
Compared to Invisalign Express, AlignerCo is much, much newer. AlignerCo was created in 2019. Their goal was to create a treatment method that was as cost-effective as possible. So unlike a lot of at-home aligner companies, AlignerCo doesn’t include any whitening treatments in their kit. That’s because they want to keep their prices low. That said, AlignerCo’s price is so manageable that you’ll have plenty of cash left over to get whitening if you want it.
One other thing we love about AlignerCo: they may cut down on expensive extras, but they don’t skimp on quality. Each aligner provided by AlignerCo is top-notch.
With both AlignerCo and Invisalign Express, you’ll get access to a top-notch dental treatment team, and you’ll achieve the smile of your dreams before you know it. But exactly how you reach that dream smile will vary depending on which treatment you use.
With Invisalign Express, you’ll go to your orthodontist’s office for regular appointments—from step one to your post-treatment retainers. If needed, your orthodontist will add on any attachments. If anything seems off during one of your appointments, your treatment provider will adjust your plan on the fly. It’s the best way to get individualized, prompt care.
AlignerCo works a bit differently. You won’t have any in-person appointments with your orthodontist. In fact, the entirety of your treatment occurs remotely. You’ll take impressions on your own and send them back to AlignerCo.
After your impressions are done, AlignerCo designs a treatment plan for you. If you approve it, they manufacture your aligners and ship them to you. Then the ball’s in your court. It’s up to you to wear your aligners as prescribed. You won’t have any regular check-ins with an orthodontist.
With either Invisalign Express or AlignerCo, you’ll get top-notch treatment. But if you’re hoping for more orthodontist involvement, you should opt for Invisalign Express.
No two smiles are created equal, so no two smiles get treated equally. That means that your treatment prognosis will be quite different from someone else’s. How long you’ll wear your aligners will largely depend on your condition’s severity and complexity. Then, of course, there’s your own wear schedule to consider; if you follow your treatment to a ‘T,’ you’ll finish faster than if you were to wear your aligners inconsistently.
That said, each company has its own speed factor. Here are the average treatment times for Invisalign and AlignerCo:
- Invisalign Express: 3 to 6 months
- AlignerCo: 6 to 11 months
AlignerCo is one of the slower at-home aligner companies (they’re just a little slower than the industry average of 6 months). Invisalign Express is a bit quicker. Just how long the treatment takes depends on your case, though. That’s because Invisalign Express is a three-level system, and you pay for the number of aligners you need. You’ll purchase a set of 5, 7, or 10 aligners depending on how much correction you need. Predictably, the 5-aligner sets require the least amount of time.
Pricing & Features
A million-dollar smile is exciting, but it shouldn’t cost you a million bucks. The overall price tag of each service matters, and it’s also important to consider what your money gets you. Every treatment option includes a few basic costs: getting started, the treatment itself, and post-treatment retainers. We’ll cover those here.
- Invisalign Express, price varies: To kick off your Invisalign Express treatment, you’ll need to have an initial consultation with your dentist or orthodontist of choice. The cost of this consultation largely depends on your individual provider. Some orthodontists may offer it for free, and others will charge a nominal fee. It’s up to them.
- AlignerCo, FREE or $75: The impression kit from AlignerCo includes everything you’ll need to take your impressions, including putty, trays, a mouth spread, instructions, and return shipping. Bought separately, the kit costs $75, but AlignerCo will give you the kit for free if you pay for your entire treatment up front.
- Invisalign Express, $1,500-$4,000 (average): The actual cost of Invisalign Express largely depends on your dentist’s or orthodontist’s fees and length of your treatment. Your orthodontist or dentist will give you a full quote before you begin treatment.
- AlignerCo, $1,145: AlignerCo set out to make treatment as affordable as possible, and they’ve succeeded. With a price point of just $1,145, they’re about $400 cheaper than their closest competitor (NewSmile). But they don’t cut corners on their kit, either. For that price, you can get every single aligner in your treatment process.
- Invisalign Express, varies: Like everything else with Invisalign, your cost for post-treatment retainers will largely depend on what your orthodontist or dentist charges. The average prices we’ve seen for Invisalign Full are between $100-300 (and they’re probably similar for Express), but you may end up paying more or less.
- AlignerCo, FREE: AlignerCo includes your first set of post-treatment retainers for free with the purchase of your aligner kit. That’s a big plus, since you’ll need it to keep your newly-perfected smile in position for a lifetime. However, the retainers don’t last forever. Whenever you need a replacement (we recommend every six months), you can pick up another for about $100.
It’s tough to give a definitive price for Invisalign Express; your total cost will depend on how many aligners you need, plus your provider’s fees. So in some cases, your Invisalign Express price won’t be much higher than AlignerCo. However, if you need more aligners, your price will be considerably higher. In every case, though, AlignerCo is the cheapest option on the market.
No one wants to have issues with their treatment. But sometimes, life happens. An aligner could break or go missing, payment information could change – you get the idea. When issues arise, you’ll need to get in contact with customer support.
Technically speaking, you can contact Invisalign directly via email. But the better approach is to get in touch with the orthodontist or dentist who’s overseeing your Express treatment. He or she knows the ins and outs of your case, so if you need a repair, a replacement, or a modification, your local provider is the best way to get it.
AlignerCo, on the other hand, is completely remote. So if you have any questions about your payment, need to get replacement aligners, or something else, you’ll need to contact customer support methods. Their customer support hours run from 9:00 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, even on weekends. If you contact them through email, you’ll probably get a response within 24 hours. Although webchat and phone calls are much quicker.
We especially love AlignerCo’s check-in procedures. On a regular basis, AlignerCo will send you an email to see how your treatment is going, and you’ll respond with photos of your teeth. With regular check-ins, it’s highly unlikely that any minor issues (although rare) will become big problems.
Office Visits – Are They Worth The Extra Cost?
Regular office visits are the biggest difference between in-office treatments like Invisalign Express and at-home ones like AlignerCo. As part of your Invisalign Express treatment, you’ll need to visit your dentist or orthodontist every few weeks so they can evaluate your progress, add attachments, and make timeline adjustments if necessary.
And while this helps ensure safe, effective treatment, it also makes Invisalign Express less affordable and convenient. Office visits are the primary reason in-office treatments are more expensive. Your dentist’s time, equipment, and resources aren’t free, after all. Plus, fitting regular appointments into your busy schedule (and potentially taking time off work) isn’t ideal. The fully-remote service you’ll get from at-home treatments is much more convenient, and without office visit costs, much cheaper too.
Ease of Getting Started
As we’ve mentioned, there are different ways to kick off your Invisalign Express or AlignerCo treatment.
The ‘trickiest’ part of starting your Invisalign Express treatment is finding your local Invisalign provider and booking a consultation. (Please note that not all dentists who provide Invisalign also provide Invisalign Express, but many do). After that, the provider will handle all the technical aspects of taking scans, X-rays, and molds of your teeth at your appointment. You just have to show up, answer questions, and, of course, keep your mouth open when asked.
Some customers report that using AlignerCo’s impression kits can be a tad more complicated since you need to take the impressions on your own. Once your kit arrives, you’ll use the included trays and putty to make molds of your teeth. Then you’ll take a few pictures so your orthodontist can get a good look at your teeth from different angles.
If you have questions or would like someone to help, you can arrange a video chat with an AlignerCo associate. They’ll coach you through the process. Once you’re done, you’ll send back your impressions (which is free, thanks to a prepaid shipping label).
Some customers struggle to take good impressions, regardless of which at-home aligner company they use. Invisalign definitely wins this category since your dentist or orthodontist will handle the difficult parts. AlignerCo does their best to ease the process with their video sessions, but it’s still not as easy as receiving in-person care.
In the age of Amazon and other Internet retailers, online shopping is pretty common. But savvy shoppers are careful to read online reviews before clicking “Buy.” This is especially important for AlignerCo, which you can only purchase online. Your orthodontist can give a professional opinion on Invisalign Express, but it is still nice to hear the opinions of others who’ve used the system.
You could dig through online reviews yourself, but we know your time is valuable, so we’ve done it for you. We’ve given a brief summary of the top customer likes and dislikes for both Invisalign Express and AlignerCo. (A quick note, though: most of the Invisalign-related reviews are for Invisalign’s full treatment, but the products are inherently the same, so it’s still worth noting here).
|Top loves: Teen-friendly usage; much more comfortable than braces (for customers who’ve had both); ability to eat anything||Top loves: Small-company feel; extremely affordable treatment; process is easy to complete|
|Top complaints: Some aligners wore out too quickly; SmartForce attachments can come loose; basically as pricey as braces||Top complaints: Frequent emails from multiple addresses; misplaced photos; confusion over impression kit instructions|
|Average score: 4.5/5||Average score: 4.5/5|
AlignerCo and Invisalign Express are both pretty well-loved by their customers.
However, we take AlignerCo’s total score with a grain of salt since they haven’t accumulated a lot of reviews just yet. They have a respectable number for such a young company, though. And if they keep up the good work, they’ll win even more positive reviews in no time. Then we’ll have even more confidence in AlignerCo.
No one wants a purchase to go wrong, regardless of whether it’s a big or small one. And when it comes to your teeth, your satisfaction is critical.
With Invisalign Express, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be dissatisfied with your treatment because your orthodontist or dentist will be able to make small adjustments throughout the process. If any issues arise, your dentist will spot them before they become major problems, keeping your treatment on track and ensuring your satisfaction.
That said, the exact warranty you’ll get will depend on your individual provider. Some will replace a Smartforce attachment for free, some will charge you for new aligners if you lose one, and others don’t have any sort of warranty policy. You’ll have to ask your orthodontist or dentist to know for sure.
AlignerCo’s Satisfaction Guarantee
Like a lot of home aligner companies, AlignerCo offers only one true refund: their impression kits. If you buy one and you aren’t a candidate, you’ll get a refund for the kit and any money you prepaid for your aligners. Beyond that though, once you purchase your aligners, you’ll only receive a refund if there are manufacturing defects with your aligners.
However, if you reach the end of your treatment and you’re not satisfied with your results, you should contact customer support. Provided you’ve followed all the requirements of your treatment, you might qualify for a refinement, which provides extra aligners for $200.
Invisalign Express and AlignerCo are both great companies, so if you’re drawn to either one, you’ll get excellent service. However, these two aren’t the only good options.
If you’re still curious about other companies, we’d also recommend checking out Byte. They’re the only online clear aligner that we rank ahead of AlignerCo. They have the fastest treatment speed on the market, and they offer an impressive Byte-for-Life guarantee. You can find a full review here.
Which is the Best Clear Aligner?
Let’s be clear: Invisalign Express and AlignerCo are both good options. However, what works for someone else may not be what’s best for you. Here are some general guidelines for who should choose Invisalign and who should opt for AlignerCo:
- Choose AlignerCo If: Your budget is a top priority. AlignerCo may not be the fastest, but they are the most affordable in the industry. And with referral discounts, you can get treatment at an even more affordable price.
- Choose Invisalign Express If: Your case is pretty minor but you still want the security of having a professional handle your treatment in-person.
Invisalign Express might be a good option if you prefer in-person care or want to use the Invisalign brand. But AlignerCo wins out if you need a smaller price tag. All told, you should choose the treatment that best lines up with your priorities.
AlignerCo Wins! In our opinion, the sheer affordability and convenience of AlignerCo is hard to beat, especially for busy young adults. That said, AlignerCo is not the only option (and not our absolute favorite pick).
If you like the idea of straightening your teeth from home, we encourage you to compare all the top-rated home aligner services before making a final decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either service offer discounts?
Invisalign Express doesn’t really offer discounts in the traditional sense. However, your individual provider may give you benefits or perks as part of your treatment. AlignerCo frequently offers referral discounts for $100 off your aligners. Sometimes they offer discounts on their impression kits too.
How exactly does at-home teeth alignment work?
At-home aligner kits like the one from AlignerCo borrow the technology Invisalign perfected. When you send in your impressions, AlignerCo uses those molds and advanced software to create a personalized treatment plan. That technology can predict exactly how your teeth will move when you switch to the next aligner in your kit.
Using each new aligner as a step in the process, AlignerCo gradually moves your teeth from their initial positions to their final destination.
Is there an age requirement for using either Invisalign or AlignerCo?
Invisalign Express is a good option for teens and adults. There’s no explicit age requirement for Invisalign Express; your individual provider can make the call. AlignerCo will treat anyone ages 14 and up. With either company, minors must get parental consent prior to treatment.
How do I know whether at-home or in-office treatment is right for me?
Unless your case is very severe, you’re probably a good candidate for at-home aligner treatment through AlignerCo. Their impression kit is the only way to know for sure, and thankfully, there’s no risk. If you purchase an impression kit and it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, AlignerCo will refund the cost of the kit.
Will either of these clear aligners make me talk funny?
Most clear aligner users find that their aligners are practically imperceptible to others, even during conversation. That said, some people find that they may speak with a slight lisp when they’re first adjusting to their aligners. After a couple of days, this feeling usually goes away.
If I lose my aligners during or after treatment, do I have to pay for new ones?
If you lose your AlignerCo aligners, contact customer support right away, and they’ll get to work on sending a replacement your way. Invisalign Express, however, depends on your individual provider. Your dentist or orthodontist should be your go-to if you lose an aligner. You’ll likely need to pay for a new one, but how much depends on your provider’s policies.
Can I drink coffee when using Invisalign Express or AlignerCo?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from AlignerCo and Invisalign Express are fairly resilient, but coffee is good at creating stains. Drinking coffee with your aligners in—or any beverage besides water, for that matter—puts you at the risk of staining them.
Are there any hidden costs?
Neither company has a whole lot of hidden costs. There will be costs if you lose an aligner, but that’s an added expense that you can prevent. One cost you might not be expecting is post-treatment retainers; with AlignerCo, you get the first set for free. You’ll need to purchase your first set with Invisalign Express, but the cost will depend on your individual provider.
Are at-home clear aligners as effective as Invisalign?
In most mild to moderate cases, yes. Thanks to the tested technologies used by remote treatment companies like AlignerCo, your aligners will match your teeth as well as they would with Invisalign Express. That said, there are exceptions. Some people’s teeth may not shift as well as predicted. Other people might not follow the prescribed treatment perfectly. These cases tend not to be as effective.
If you do choose an at-home aligner company, make sure you follow your treatment plan extra carefully. And on the off chance that something seems “off,” you should contact customer support right away. The sooner you correct a minor issue, the more effective your whole treatment process will be.
Which is easier: at-home or in-person treatment?
Once you get past the impression kits, we think it’s a little easier to use at-home aligner treatments. That’s simply because you never have to remember to go to an appointment; you’ll get an email or text notification that it’s time to move on to your next aligner instead. For many busy adults, it’s easier to complete all of the steps at home.
Can I still use Invisalign Express if I’m not a candidate for AlignerCo?
Maybe, but it’s tough to say. Both Invisalign Express and AlignerCo are mostly limited to minor cosmetic cases. Invisalign Express can add SmartForce attachments to your treatment regimen, allowing for more nuanced movements. So Invisalign Express might be able to handle a case that’s slightly beyond what AlignerCo can handle.