A million-dollar smile is great and all, but what about getting one as an adult?
No one past their teenage years wants to deal with the “brace face” life (or relive it if the effects of their braces have worn off).
Thankfully, home clear aligners make it possible to straighten your teeth from the convenience of your house. No braces, no wires, no office visits.
These clear aligners have become a popular alternative to braces. Why? They’re much cheaper than braces and Invisalign. They’re also much more convenient.
But the “convenience” of home clear aligners is limited; with most companies, you’ll have to wear your aligners for 22 hours a day. A few companies offer nighttime treatment. That cuts down the wear schedule to just 10 hours—mostly while you sleep. Byte and Smile Direct are two of the most popular nighttime treatment options, but they aren’t identical.
In this comparison review, we’ll help you decide which method is right for you: Byte At-Night or Smile Direct’s Nighttime Clear Aligners.
5 Things They Have in Common
For the bulk of this review, we’ll talk about the differences between Byte At-Night and Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners. But they do have a fair bit in common. Both companies will help you perfect your grin without going to the dentist’s office. But the commonalities between Byte and Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners go much deeper than that:
1) Affordability: Money is always an issue, right? Thankfully, both Byte At-Night and Smile Direct Nighttime Aligners are relatively affordable. Sure, they have their own price points (more on this later), but they’re both thousands of dollars cheaper than braces or Invisalign, which can cost about $5,000. Smile Direct charges the same price for both daytime and nighttime treatment, but Byte At-Night costs a touch more than Byte’s standard offering.
2) Flexible Financing: Even though Byte At-Night and Smile Direct Nighttime Clear Aligners are both affordable, ~$2,000 isn’t exactly pocket change. Thankfully, both companies offer financing with automatic approval. If you have a poor credit score, there’s no worries. With both companies, you can jump on a payment plan and start your treatment right away.
3) Discreet: Byte At-Night and Smile Direct’s Nighttime Clear Aligners are slightly different products, but it doesn’t really matter. After all, you’ll only be wearing them at night, so they’re much more discreet than any daytime aligner.
4) Safe: We get it. Home dentistry (also called teledentistry) sounds a bit sketchy. But in reality, it isn’t. Both Byte and Smile Direct use teams of qualified dental professionals to create a custom nighttime treatment plan just for you. They combine your dental impressions with advanced technology to craft your set of aligners. Basically, they’ve taken the technology Invisalign perfected and brought it to the comfort of your home.
5) Insurance Coverage: Byte and Smile Direct both accept FSA and HSA accounts, and your insurance may cover part of your nighttime treatment, too. Smile Direct works directly with UnitedHealthcare and Aetna, but some other providers may offer coverage too. Byte runs a free coverage check for you; just give them your insurance information and they’ll do the legwork to see if you’re eligible for reimbursement or not.
That covers the similarities. For the remainder of this review, we’ll dig into the differences so you can pick the home aligner that’s best for you.
The Rundown: How Byte and Smile Direct Club Stack Up
Home teeth alignment is a fairly new industry, and nighttime-only treatment is an even newer development. Still, it’s important to consider each company’s track record.
Smile Direct is the biggest aligner company in the entire industry; that’s no secret. In terms of sheer customer volume, no other at-home provider can really compete. That said, Byte has grown a lot in the short time they’ve been on the market, and have already built an impressive track record.
|Customers served||200,000+||1.5 million|
|Claim to fame||Shortest treatment lengths thanks to their proprietary HyperByte device||Best brand power in the industry|
|No food restrictions||✓||✓|
|No office visits||✓||✓|
|Covered by insurance (w/ orthodontic benefits)||✓||✓|
|Personalized customer service||✓|
|Free retainers||✓||Only with SmilePay|
|Financing||$299 down payment, then $99 a month for 32 months (includes $779 Byte Protection Plan)||$250 down, then $89 for 26 months|
|Treatment length||5 months||10 months|
|Start-up process||Impression kit only||Impression kit or 3D scan at a Smile Shop|
Intrigued? That’s just the fly-by! Let’s take a closer look at how these providers compare.
Let’s be clear: you’ll get quality aligners with both Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners and Byte At-Night. Each of these companies use safe, BPA free plastic to make your aligners. But Smile Direct and Byte don’t have the exact same product. Of course, that’s only natural; they’re different companies. We’ll cover those differences here.
There are two ways manufacturers typically trim the tops of clear aligners: straight across, or scalloped to match the gumline. A straight cut aligner can exert more force, since its overlap with the gums acts as an anchor. Since the scalloped aligners don’t have that same overlap, they have a slightly more discreet look, but aren’t quite as forceful; so it’s a bit of a tradeoff.
Some providers make their aligners from clear, shiny plastic, while others opt to use plastic with a slightly frosted appearance. This might seem a little counter intuitive, but frosted plastic is actually less noticeable than highly transparent plastic. Since teeth have a porous surface, a frosted aligner better mimics our natural matte smile—whereas a shiny aligner tends to be a little more noticeable.
Let’s take a look at the ways Byte and Smile Direct design their clear aligners:
|Byte||Smile Direct Club|
|Manufacturer||Dentsply Sirona||Smile Direct Club|
|Materials||BPA free, PETG plastic (basically a modified, more affordable polyurethane) |
At-Night aligners are made for a thicker, more durable plastic than their all-day aligners
|BPA free, Comfort Sense plastic; which uses plastics of varied firmness to provide a better aligner fit|
|Aligner Cut||Straight cut||Straight cut|
|Aligner Transparency||Clear, shiny plastic||Slightly frosted plastic|
Smile Direct used to be top of the class in terms of quality, because their aligners were made by Align Technology (the company that makes Invisalign’s aligners). But that partnership has dissolved, and Smile Direct is now manufacturing their aligners in-house. Hopefully their quality won’t drop without this partnership, but it’s still too early to know for sure.
Byte is partnered with a respected dental supplier, Dentsply Sirona. You can feel confident that your Byte aligners are made by a trustworthy company and are high quality.
With Smile Direct, you’ll find that the nighttime clear aligners are the same as their daytime ones. On one hand, that’s pretty cool; you can switch between daytime and nighttime treatment if you want (just be sure to touch base with their customer support if you opt for that). That said, if you’re prone to grinding your teeth overnight, you run the risk of damaging your aligners.
Byte At-Night works a bit differently; they use premium aligners for their nighttime treatment. Those aligners are thicker, allowing for faster shifts. They’re also grind-resistant. Between the thicker, premium plastic and the HyperByte system, Byte At-Night still manages to deliver shorter treatment lengths than the industry average (not to mention, average results in half the time as Smile Direct).
Byte and Smile Direct each keep an eye on your treatment through progress photos submitted throughout treatment, but the details of this oversight varies. Let’s take a look at the ways that these remote providers oversee your treatment.
|Byte||Smile Direct Club|
|Frequency of check-ins||Every 3-4 weeks||Every 90 days|
|Photos sent via||Patient portal||Smile Direct app|
|Treatment Length||5 months||10 months|
|Customer Support||Available via phone, email and social media—7am-5pm PST||Available via app, chat, email and phone. Smile Direct says their team is available 24/7|
Both of these providers ask for photo updates throughout your treatment, but you’ll get eyes on your progress more frequently with Byte than you would with Smile Direct.
Not sure how to capture quality images of your teeth? Not to worry—both of these providers include a cheek retractor in your treatment bundle to help get those pesky cheeks out of the way so you can take clear photos of your smile. From there, you’ll simply upload the photos to your Byte patient portal, or your Smile Direct app.
Outside of these photo check-ins, if you need anything during your treatment you’ll reach out to each of these providers’ customer support teams.
Smile Direct definitely has room to improve in the customer service department, but we’re glad to see the changes they’ve made already. For perspective, Smile Direct experienced near-explosive growth in 2017; their service department couldn’t quite keep up (you’ll see more complaints from 2017 than any other year on online reviews).
In contrast, Byte’s customer support is much better. They give individualized attention to each customer. That’s probably why so many people mention their representative by name in their online reviews.
Between Byte’s short treatment lengths, frequent check-ins, and personalized oversight, we think it’s safe to say they excel when it comes to treatment oversight.
Thanks to the HyperByte device, Byte is able to offer shorter treatment lengths than any other clear aligner service. Smile Direct does not include a comparable device in their aligner bundle.
Bang For Your Buck
Part of the appeal of at-home clear aligners is their comparative affordability to traditional options like braces and Invisalign. Let’s take a look at how much you can expect to spend when you choose Byte or Smile Direct.
|Byte||Smile Direct Club|
|Startup Costs||$95 impression kit||$59 impression kit or free scan|
|Add-Ons||Byte Protection Plan: $779 |
Whitening: First bottle include, replacements are $30 per bottle (less if purchased in bulk)
|Whitening: After your free whitening runs out, you have many whitening options to choose from. Prices range from $17-$75|
|Financing||$299 downpayment, then 32 monthly payments of $99 (includes $779 Byte Protection Plan)||$250 downpayment, then 26 monthly payments of $89|
|Post-Treatment||First set of retainers is free, then $129/set afterwards||$99 per retainer set|
With any home aligner company, you’ll kick off your treatment by taking impressions of your teeth, and nighttime-only treatment is no exception. Most companies require you to use an at-home impression kit. However, Smile Direct maintains over 300 retail locations that offer alternatives to taking impressions on your own.
Byte charges a bit more for Byte At-Night than normal daytime treatment. That’s because Byte At-Night is their premium offering. The aligners are the highest quality. It’s not a huge price difference, but it’s worth noting. In the kit, you’ll get everything you need to straighten your teeth and keep them that way, including the HyperByte system and post-treatment retainers. Bought separately, the HyperByte system costs a whopping $699, so you get a lot of value for your money.
With Smile Direct, the price you see is usually the price you get, and it’s the same whether you choose daytime or nighttime treatment. Like Byte, they include all the aligners you’ll need to treat your smile. However, their post-treatment aligners aren’t included. Instead, you’ll need to purchase them separately for $99.
Can’t pay all at once? Thankfully, both services offer financing. And as long as you pay the downpayment, there’s a 100% approval rate.
One quick note: if you’re involved in BytePay, you’ll get access to the Byte Protection Plan. Here’s how it works: you’ll get 5 years’ worth of retainers at no extra charge (a $1,161 value). Plus, Byte will replace any lost or stolen aligners (up to $2,000 worth, but that’s a lot of aligners). If you’re not enrolled in BytePay, you can purchase the BPP for $779 (it’s just $649 for daytime treatment). In our opinion, it’s a great way to protect your smile in the long-term.
The cost and quality of your clear aligner treatment are important, but so is how you’re treated throughout the process. Let’s see what you can expect from the customer experience when you choose Byte and Smile Direct for your clear aligner treatment.
For many shoppers, customer reviews can make or break purchasing decisions. If you’re one of those shoppers, we’ve got you covered. We’ve done the legwork for you to see what customers across the web are saying about Byte and Smile Direct. We’d love to summarize what they say about the nighttime aligners specifically, but most reviewers just talk about the company in general.
|Top Loves||Excellent customer service (even mentioning representatives by name); visible results within a couple weeks; easy to use||Friendly customer support; very affordable; convenient to treat at home|
|Top Complaints||Guarantee on impression kit does not apply to bite issues||Billing mix-ups; sometimes aligners break; requesting re-evaluations is tedious|
Smile Direct’s reputation is mostly positive, but they do have a bit of a mixed bag. Like several other companies, they seem to struggle a bit when it comes to making treatment refinements (more on that in a minute). But we’ve found that the majority of their negative reviews stem from 2017, and they’ve made big strides towards picking up their own slack. If they keep up the good work, their cumulative score might improve.
Meanwhile, Byte has an overwhelmingly positive reputation online. Across over three thousand reviews, they have a 4.7/5-star average. That’s pretty much unprecedented, and for us, it inspires a lot of confidence in their treatment.
Both Byte and Smile Direct provide a guarantee on your impression kit. If you send in impressions and it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for nighttime (or even daytime) treatment, they’ll refund the kit price. If you are a candidate, though, you’ll pay the kit price regardless of whether or not you decide to get treatment.
Additionally, Byte stands by their product with their “Byte for Life” guarantee. This guarantee is essentially a lifetime warranty. If your teeth ever shift after your nighttime treatment, even years down the road, Byte will send you new aligners to correct it. All you need to do to hold up your end of the deal is stay on top of wearing and replacing your aftercare retainers.
Smile Direct gives you 30 days to change your mind about your nighttime aligners. If you try it out and decide it’s not right for you, you can return them for a full refund.
Smile Direct also offers lifetime touch-ups after treatment. As long as you’ve worn and replaced your aftercare retainers as directed, you’ll be eligible for additional aligners to correct any movement down the line.
What if I break an aligner?
If you break or lose an aligner, reach out to your provider right away. They’ll help you determine if you need a replacement, or if you can simply move on to the next set of aligners in your treatment plan.
If you’re enrolled in the Byte Protection Plan, your replacement will be free. Otherwise, a Byte At-Night replacement aligner will be $149. Smile Direct generously replaces one aligner for free, but you’ll need to pay for subsequent replacements. The exact amount will be determined by the Smile Direct dental team.
Sometimes teeth can be a bit more stubborn than your treatment plan accounted for, and you may need more aligners than expected. These extra aligners are called refinements, and some providers charge extra for them. Luckily, Byte and Smile Direct both provide refinements for free.
If you reach the end of your Byte treatment and you’re not satisfied with the results, you can request a re-evaluation. As long as you’ve followed the prescribed treatment plan, Byte will provide refinements for free.
With Smile Direct, this is called the Club Warranty. Smile Direct promises its “club members” (AKA customers) that if they’re not totally satisfied with the results at the end of the treatment, they can request a re-evaluation and get new aligners to finish the job.
To be eligible for this warranty, you must check in with your assigned doctor every 90 days and follow your prescribed treatment to a T. You have to wear your aligners for 10 hours each night (so slightly before you actually go to sleep) and switch each aligner as scheduled. If you’ve followed your treatment, then all requests for re-evaluation must be submitted within 30 days of finishing treatment to be eligible for the warranty.
That being said, Smile Direct receives a fair amount of negative reviews about their refinements process. To be fair, most providers receive some degree of feedback like this; the reality is, refinements are one of the more complicated aspects to remote treatment. However, Smile Direct seems to particularly struggle with this process. It’s one thing to have a generous policy, it’s another to implement it.
Let’s be clear; moving teeth from one place to another is never going to be a completely pain-free experience. That comes with the territory—even braces and Invisalign cause discomfort. Since nighttime only treatment leaves so many hours a day for your teeth to shift, this option can lead to more discomfort than all-day options.
Most of the soreness occurs when you switch to a new set of aligners; since these will have a snugger fit than the previous set. That’s where Byte’s proprietary HyperByte device comes in. Its small micropulses loosen your tooth’s ligaments to help alleviate discomfort and shorten your treatment.
Like we mentioned earlier, Smile Direct is working on their “Comfort Sense” aligners. Even though this is a new feature, it’s possible this could improve the wear experience of their customers.
Which is the Best Nighttime Aligner for You?
When it all comes down to it, Byte At-Night and Smile Direct’s Nighttime Clear Aligners are both good options. But at the end of the day, you can only pick one.
If you want our honest opinion, we prefer Byte At-Night. Smile Direct is not a bad service in any sense. But Byte is our favorite service across the board. We love their lifetime guarantee, their treatment oversight, and their excellent customer service.
Choose Byte if: You’re looking for the best quality nighttime aligners and the shortest treatment lengths.
Choose Smile Direct if: You want the confidence that comes from working with a well-established brand. Smile Direct has served more than 1.5 million customers, so they’ve probably already seen a case just like yours.
Final Verdict: Byte Wins! Based on our 4-part review criteria, Byte At-Night offers significantly better overall value than Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners. We encourage you to take advantage of our exclusive Byte discount for $180 off your aligner bundle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either provider offer discounts?
Technically, both services run occasional sales. Both Byte and Smile Direct have year-round discounts for different groups: military members, teachers (Smile Direct), students, and first responders (Byte). Both companies also run special seasonal sales, too. But they don’t last forever.
For example, as we’re writing this, Smile Direct Club is running a sale for a $12 impression kit, and Byte is offering a $19.95 impression kit. But there’s no telling how long those sales will last. If you find a good deal, you’ll need to jump on it.
Are Byte At-Night and Smile Direct nighttime clear aligners legit?
Your mom warned you about things that sound too good to be true, right? Thankfully home aligner companies like Byte and Smile Direct aren’t. These companies leverage a competitive product with competitive prices. But they don’t sacrifice quality to do it. How? They don’t have the overhead costs of a physical office like a traditional orthodontist’s office, so they can reinvest those savings in measures that ensure fast and convenient treatment.
Which company is more customer-focused?
Byte At-Night is a bit more customer-centric than Smile Direct. They assign a personal care assistant to each customer, which gives you more customized support. And practically, Byte has a smaller customer base that allows them to give more attention to each individual.
How exactly do at-home nighttime aligners work?
They’re nearly invisible, but they’re not magical. Technically speaking, at-home clear aligners use roughly the same technology as Invisalign. This starts with your impressions, which a dental professional uses to design a series of clear trays that gently move your teeth to their final destination. With Smile Direct Nighttime Aligners, you wear each aligner for two weeks instead of the usual one week for standard treatment. Byte At-Night, however, only requires you to wear each aligner for one week.
How do Byte and Smile Direct compare to Invisalign?
They’re distant cousins, really. Invisalign pioneered the clear aligner alternative to traditional braces. However, Invisalign adds one unique aspect: devices affixed to your teeth to secure the aligners, which must be attached in-office by a qualified orthodontist. Home aligners don’t use these devices, allowing you to complete your entire treatment at home.
Plus, Invisalign doesn’t offer a nighttime-only treatment option. You’re required to wear Invisalign’s aligners for 22+ hours per day.
How do these services compare to AlignerCo and Candid?
Smile Direct and Byte are pretty similar to both Candid and AlignerCo, although these competitors have their own perks. AlignerCo is the cheapest service on the market thanks to their frequent sales. Candid is a hybrid at-home/in-office option; your treatment begins at an appointment with a Candid partnered dentist, but is overseen remotely thanks to their CandidMonitoring program.
Similar to Byte and Smile Direct, AlignerCo also offers nighttime only treatment. Candid has no plans to offer nighttime only treatment, so if you choose Candid you’ll be wearing your aligners for 22 hours a day.
Is there an age requirement for using either Byte or Smile Direct?
Both Byte and Smile Direct require that you have all your permanent teeth before beginning treatment. (You don’t want to dump thousands into teeth that will just fall out, anyway). With both Byte and Smile Direct, patients must be at least 12 years old. Minors must have parental consent to receive treatment. We also recommend that you consider your wisdom teeth; if you’ll need them removed, you should do that before getting treatment.
Does either service give free whitening treatment?
Byte includes one free bottle of their whitening treatment with your aligner kit. You can use it during your treatment. A replacement bottle costs $30. Smile Direct also offers a free whitening kit with your treatment package, but if you want more after that, you’ll need to pay. Depending on what size kit you purchase, you’ll spend $17-75.
Can I use Byte and Smile Direct if I live outside the USA?
If you live in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or Australia, then you can use Smile Direct. Byte doesn’t have a wide international reach yet. At present, they’re primarily available in the U.S. and Australia.
Do Byte and Smile Direct have aggressive upsells?
Thankfully, no. Both companies “bait you in” (mildly) by giving you one set of their whitening treatment for free. But since there’s no obligation to buy a replacement kit once yours runs out, it’s not a true upsell.
How do I know if at-home nighttime aligners are right for me?
Many people are good candidates for at-home treatment. In general, the only people who should automatically steer clear of at-home aligners are people with significant bite issues. If underbite, overbite, crossbite, etc. is the cause of your misalignment, then clear aligners may not be able to permanently correct your issue.
That said, in Byte and Smile Direct’s case, nighttime treatment isn’t right for everyone. Because the nighttime aligners exert extra force on your teeth, you’ll need to get a doctor’s approval prior to treatment.
Individuals with implants may still be able to get treatment. To know for sure, you’ll need to take an impression kit with either service. They’ll let you know for sure if you are a candidate or not. If you are not a candidate, you’ll get a refund for the price of the impression kit.
If I lose my aligners during or after treatment, do I have to pay for new ones?
With Smile Direct, you should get in touch with customer support. They’ll help you determine if you need to replace the lost aligner or just move on to the next one. If you do need a replacement, they won’t charge you for the first one. You will be charged for subsequent replacements; but the exact amount will be determined by Smile Direct’s dental team. Byte will send you a replacement aligner for $149 for At-Night treatment, and $129 for all-day treatment.
Can I drink coffee when using Byte or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from Byte and Smile Direct are fairly stain-resistant, but you should generally avoid eating or drinking colored liquids and foods while wearing your aligners. Water is a safe bet, though. This isn’t a huge concern for nighttime aligners, though, since most people don’t drink coffee, tea, cola, or other colored beverages in the middle of the night.
Are there any hidden costs?
Byte doesn’t really have any hidden costs. What you see is what you get. Smile Direct does have one unadvertised cost, but it isn’t exactly hidden. You’ll need to pay $99 for post-treatment retainers; Byte includes the first set for free. With either company, however, you’ll need to purchase new post-treatment retainers occasionally. They do wear out over time.