Eager to transform your smile? We get it; no one likes to play the waiting game, especially not for a perfect smile.
Thankfully, Six Month Smiles doesn’t keep you waiting long; their treatment lengths are among the shortest for in-office treatment methods.
Six Month Smiles, along with at-home clear teeth aligners, are part of an innovative new wave of orthodontic treatments. But even though the two options both give Invisalign a run for their money, they’re not the same.
It’s important to know the difference between the two to pick the right option for your smile.
In this guide, we’ll dig into the main similarities and differences between Six Month Smiles and at-home clear aligners. By the end, you’ll have a clear picture of which option is better for your smile.
In-Office vs. At-Home Treatment: An Overview
In principle, Six Month Smiles and at-home clear teeth aligners have a lot in common. After all, they both use clear plastic trays to shift your teeth into new positions (unless you choose the braces option from Six Month Smiles). But there are plenty of differences.
Of the two options, Six Month Smiles is a bit older. They got their start in the mid-2000s thanks to Dr. Ryan Swain. Dr. Swain had a lot of clients who wanted the low profile of aligners, but they weren’t sold on Invisalign.
The answer? Swain offered clear braces, and Six Month Smiles was born. Later on, Six Month Smiles added clear aligners to their treatment offerings. By comparison, at-home aligners are a bit newer (the oldest company, Smile Direct Club, got their start in 2014).
The founding date is not the only difference between Six Month Smiles and at-home clear aligners, though. More technically speaking, Six Month Smiles is an in-office treatment, and home clear aligners are administered remotely. That’s an important distinction, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Here are some ways in-office treatments and at-home treatments are different:
|Six Month Smiles||At-Home Clear Aligners|
|Treatment oversight: Every step is overseen by your doctor||Treatment oversight: Minimal oversight (Candid being the exception)|
|Treatment length: 6 months on average, full range is between 4-9 months||Treatment length: Ranges between 4 to 11 months, with most lasting 6 months|
|Cost: $3,500 to $5,000 on average||Cost: Typically ranges between $1,145 and $2,300, with most hovering around $1,895|
|Treatable cases: Mostly mild to moderate, but clear braces allow for tougher cases||Treatable cases: Mild to moderate cosmetic cases only|
This is just a fly-by of the differences, though. Choosing a treatment method for your smile is a big decision. And to make the right one, you’ll need to understand how each treatment method works. That’s where we step in. For the remainder of this guide, we’ll dig into the details of all the similarities and differences between Six Month Smiles and at-home clear aligners.
Before we deep dive into the differences, we should fill you in on what stays consistent across both treatment types. And to be honest, Six Month Smiles and at-home clear aligners have a lot in common. Obviously, either method will straighten your smile discreetly. But the similarities go a bit beyond that:
- Appearance: If you look at photos alone, it can be hard to tell the difference between aligners from Six Month Smiles and home clear aligners (clear braces are the exception). That’s because both aligner types are designed with one goal in mind: being as discreet as possible. They’re made from clear plastic and molded to fit your smile and no one else’s.
- How treatment works: Aligners from Six Month Smiles and home aligner companies work in the same way: the clear plastic exerts gentle, constant force on your teeth, moving them into new positions.
- Wear schedule: Treatment only works if you wear your aligners for the prescribed amount of time. And with both Six Month Smiles and at-home aligners, that entails near-constant wear—typically 22 hours per day.
- Safety: Whenever you undergo orthodontic treatment, you’re putting a foreign object in your mouth. Thankfully, clear aligners are made from safe, BPA-free plastic. The aligners shift your teeth at safe rates, too.
- Flexibility: Clear aligners are removable, which allows you a lot of luxuries you wouldn’t get with braces—easy teeth cleaning and eating all your favorite foods, to name a few.
If Six Month Smiles and home clear aligners were 100% the same, we wouldn’t be writing this review. If you’re choosing between these options, you’ll want to keep in mind these important distinctions:
- What they can treat: At-home clear aligners are limited to minor cosmetic cases of cosmetic misalignments. Six Month Smiles, thanks to orthodontist oversight and their clear braces, can treat tougher cases. They’re not as powerful as other in-office methods like Invisalign or braces, though.
- Office visits: At-home clear aligners won’t require a single office visit throughout your treatment, but Six Month Smiles does. Office visits might seem like a hassle, but the orthodontist involvement you get as a result ensures that treatment is top-notch (and more powerful).
- Treatment length: Six months is the average treatment speed for most home clear aligners, but some systems wrap up sooner than others. For instance, Byte’s average treatment lasts 4 months, but AlignerCo lasts 6-11 months.
- Attachments: If you go with the clear braces option from Six Month Smiles, your orthodontist can add on small hooks for elastics. Elastics allow for slightly more powerful movements (these add-ons typically aren’t available with aligners alone, though).
- Price: As an in-office method, Six Month Smiles costs more than at-home aligners. After all, your orthodontist and their staff get paid for their oversight and expertise. That’s why the average price range for Six Month Smiles falls between $3,500 and $5,000. For reference, the typical at-home method costs about $1,895.
What About Invisalign?
No discussion about clear orthodontic treatment is complete without mentioning Invisalign, right? After all, Invisalign is the reason we have clear aligners to begin with. They’re the oldest and most well-known clear aligner treatment.
The basics of Invisalign is the same as Six Month Smiles and at-home clear aligners: clear aligner trays help to shift your teeth. However, Invisalign has more options for attachments and add-ons than any other clear aligner company. Between their SmartForce attachments and their SmartTrack plastic (which causes faster, more reliable shifts), Invisalign is the most powerful, comprehensive alternative to braces.
That said, Invisalign treatment isn’t perfect for everyone. It’s expensive, and their treatments can take longer than Six Month Smiles and at-home aligners. We won’t dig into too many of the details here, though. If you’d like more information about Invisalign treatment, check out our Invisalign review.
Which Treatment Is Right for Me?
As much as we’d love to tell you which treatment is best for you, we can’t. Ultimately, what’s “best” for your smile will depend on your priorities, as well as the starting condition of your smile.
For example, you might be eager to see your perfect smile, or you might want to save money. If that’s the case, then at-home clear aligners might be perfect. But if your case is tougher, or you want to work with an orthodontist in person, then Six Month Smiles might be the better choice.
When picking your treatment method, it’s helpful to list your priorities: affordability, treatment length, level of oversight—you name it, there’s a treatment option that matches it.
Six Month Smiles has a few advantages over at-home aligners. For one, you’ll get consistent, in-person oversight. Plus, they offer clear braces, which allows them to treat slightly more severe cases without losing a low profile. If you need a more powerful treatment option, Six Month Smiles is worth a look.
That said, we like at-home clear aligners better overall. They’re affordable, convenient, and fast—all without sacrificing the invisibility of clear aligners. And since most adults don’t have severe misalignments, they’re good candidates for at-home aligners.
There are plenty of at-home aligner companies out there; but only one has the honor of being our #1 ranked provider, and that’s Byte.
Byte is our top choice for at-home alignment since they perform well in every category. But their main selling feature is their short treatment lengths; Byte treatment typically lasts just 4 months. They also offer both daytime and nighttime treatment options. Last but not least, Byte offers a Byte-for-Life guarantee. If your teeth ever shift post-treatment (and you’ve worn your retainers as prescribed), then Byte will send you new aligners to get your smile back to perfection.
Intrigued by Byte, Candid, or at-home clear aligners in general? Check out our full comparison review of the Top 4 Home Clear Aligners.
How are Six Month Smiles and at-home aligners able to correct tooth alignment so quickly?
The main factor behind the speed of treatment is that these systems are specifically designed for mild to moderate corrections. Other reasons they work faster include the design of the aligners or clear braces and add ons, such as anchors for in-office treatment and the HyperByte with Byte’s at-home system.
Do I need to see a dentist or orthodontist as part of treatment?
With Six Month Smiles, yes; this is an in-office treatment. If you choose at-home aligners, technically, you don’t need to see a doctor. That said, we suggest you see one before starting treatment to make sure there is nothing wrong with your teeth or gums. You should also maintain your usual schedule of teeth cleanings and exams.
Which is better for straightening teeth: aligners or clear braces?
In most cases, there is no difference between the results aligners deliver and those of clear braces. However, if you have more severe orthodontic concerns, clear braces will be best. Just keep in mind that those from Six Month Smiles are more limited in their capabilities than some other brands and that more complex cases take longer to treat.
Will my insurance pay for my treatment?
That depends on a few factors. The biggest of which is if you have orthodontic coverage at all. Not all dental plans include this. If yours does, it may only cover part of your treatment, or even exclude coverage if it is deemed cosmetic. That said, it could cover it in full. It all depends on your provider. Speak with them to verify coverage and limits.
I read something about root resorption being an issue with orthodontic treatment. Should I be worried about this?
Root resorption is most often seen in cases treated with high levels of force on the teeth and with longer durations. Both Six Month Smiles and at-home clear aligners use gentler forces and have short treatment times, which actually reduces the risk of root resorption when compared to more traditional methods.
Can Six Month Smiles and at-home aligner systems treat relapse cases?
Yes, both types of systems can treat orthodontic relapse, depending on the reason your teeth have shifted. If they moved due to gum or dental disease, these underlying causes must first be addressed.
How many aligners are needed for treatment?
This depends on how significant the changes you wish to make are. In most cases, patients will need 20 sets or less.
Can I mix clear aligners and clear braces?
If you choose Six Month Smiles, yes. They allow patients to use clear aligners on their top arch and clear braces on their bottom arch. However, this is only a good idea when the bottom arch has a need for more significant corrections than the upper arch.
Are there conditions that can prevent at-home aligner treatment from being an option?
Yes, if you have any of the following, chances are at-home treatment won’t be right for you:
- Severe alignment concerns
- Gum disease
- Active tooth decay
- Numerous missing teeth
- Issues with the jawbone
Are all at-home clear aligner companies trustworthy?
With any large purchase, especially those that can impact your health, you should take time to really research your options. We have vetted numerous companies, and you can explore our in-depth reviews, but we still encourage you to take time to vet them on your own as well.