There’s a lot to love about home aligners. They’re relatively affordable, discreet, faster than braces, and incredibly convenient.
But “convenient” doesn’t mean you should jump headlong into treatment without doing your homework. There are a few important steps you should take before beginning aligner treatment.
In this guide, we’ll outline those steps—six of them in total—including what to do in each step and why they’re necessary. If you follow these steps, you’ll be all set for aligner treatment.
1) Do your research
If you’re reading this guide, then you’re already on the right track with this step, so keep it up! Deciding how to treat your smile is no small matter. After all, your smile is unique, as is your budget, your timeline, and more. You need to pick the treatment method that’s best for your unique needs. And to know what’s best for your smile requires some research. (Our website is a great place to start).
We have our favorite aligner companies, but what we view as the “best” might not be best for you personally. For example, budget-friendliness might be your number-one criteria, or you’re in a rush to see your perfect smile. Or maybe you prefer to work with an established brand. What you value the most will affect which brand you choose. That’s why it’s so important to do your research; that’s the only way you’ll know which brand is the best match for you.
2) Get in a good hygiene routine
We don’t want to sound like your dentist here, but have you been flossing? Brushing after every meal for two minutes? Dental hygiene is always important, but it becomes even more important during aligner treatments. Think of it this way: aligners sit on your teeth and gums for hours at a time. And all bacteria needs to grow is a few germs, a moist environment, and time. Your aligner-clad mouth will provide all three.
We’re not saying that you’re guaranteed to fight bacterial infections when wearing clear aligners, but it’s a possibility, especially if you’re lax in cleaning your teeth.
Thankfully, being proactive about brushing, flossing, and rinsing will keep bacteria buildup (and subsequent cavities or gum disease) at bay. Cavities and gum disease would slow down your treatment considerably.
In principle, your hygiene routine won’t look much different from what it does now: you’ll still brush and floss on a regular basis. That said, during aligner treatments, you should brush and floss more often than you do now.
Ideally, you’ll need to brush your teeth any time you eat or drink something besides water. You’ll need to clean your aligners each time, too. Some aligner companies will give you a cleanser for your aligners; if they do, you should use it regularly.
3) Schedule a dental checkup
Prior to starting orthodontic treatment, you should visit your dentist to get a clean bill of dental health. Technically, some home aligner companies require your dentist’s sign-off. But even if it’s not required, we recommend it anyway.
Cavities and other dental conditions, if left untreated, can negatively affect your orthodontic treatment. For example, a cavity trapped underneath an aligner can get worse due to plaque build-up. Even minor gum disease can be further irritated by the plastic in your aligners. And if gum disease gets severe, it could completely derail your treatment. In a worst-case scenario, gum disease softens your bones, making your teeth shift. If that happens while using clear aligners, all your money could potentially go to waste.
By checking in with your dentist ahead of time, you can resolve these issues (if needed) and get your teeth ready for aligner treatment. Ultimately, a clean bill of health can save you money down the road.
4) Get your wisdom teeth removed (if you need to)
Technically speaking, you can get aligner treatment even with your wisdom teeth. After all, your wisdom teeth can be moved just like your “unwise” teeth. That said, many people need to have their wisdom teeth removed prior to aligner treatment. For example, some people’s wisdom teeth emerge without issue, but their front teeth are overcrowded; straightening them out would space them further apart—and the wisdom teeth may not allow space for that.
When wisdom teeth emerge and there’s not enough space, they tend to push on the teeth around them to force their way through. That’s why it’s not incredibly uncommon for wisdom teeth to impact or cause misalignments. However, when you put dental devices like appliances, wires, or clear aligners on top of the teeth, the teeth can’t move out of the way for the wisdom teeth…but like it or not, the wisdom teeth will force their way through. If that happens, the wisdom teeth can damage the teeth above them.
In these cases, it’s necessary to pull out the wisdom teeth to make room for the newly aligned teeth. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you’ll need your wisdom teeth removed prior to treatment, so this is another vote for a dentist appointment prior to aligner treatment.
If you do need to have your wisdom teeth removed, you’ll need to wait a little while post-surgery to start aligner treatment. Your gums need time to heal. How long do you need to wait? It depends. Byte, for reference, recommends waiting at least six weeks after surgery.
5) Cut down on snacking
Don’t get us wrong: we’ve got nothing against snacks. We love them, too, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your favorite treat when you’ve got a case of the munchies. And thankfully, clear aligners allow you to eat all of your favorite foods; braces don’t. Unfortunately, though, snacking is tough when you’re wearing aligners.
You need to remove your aligners whenever you eat or drink anything besides water. Foods and drinks are prone to damaging or staining your aligners, after all. Taking the aligners out isn’t too much of a hassle, but it’s important to clean them and brush your teeth each time. If you succumb to snack attacks often, you’ll find yourself brushing far more often than is practical.
Reducing your snack breaks now will put you in a good routine; it won’t be as tough to adjust to the routine of removing your aligners every time that way.
6) Figure out your budget
One thing we love about home aligners is the fact that they’re much more affordable than traditional treatments like braces or Invisalign. That said, home aligners aren’t cheap, either. They’re a significant investment. For example, the most affordable company costs $1,145, and the priciest one would run you $2,300. In contrast, the average cost for braces and Invisalign hovers around $5,000.
Every home aligner company offers financing plans, but the precise details of those plans vary. For example, some companies require a credit check, and others require a downpayment instead. In general, the monthly payment is pretty similar from one company to the next: about $95-$100 a month. You’ll make those payments for 12-24 months, so it’s an expense that you should carefully plan into your budget.
Once you’ve tackled these six steps, you’re all set to begin treatment! The prospect of a new, perfect smile is exciting. To achieve that perfect smile, we recommend that you choose the home aligner that best fits your needs and priorities. We’ve created detailed reviews about the top 5 home aligner companies, but here’s a quick look at what sets each aligner company apart:
- Byte: Fastest treatment time (3 months for daytime, 5-6 for nighttime), byte-for-Life guarantee, nighttime and daytime treatment
- Candid: Provides frequent treatment oversight; offers retail locations to begin treatment with a scan
- AlignerCo: Most affordable price point in the entire industry: $1,145
- Smile Direct Club: Oldest, most well-known aligner company; maintains retail locations; both daytime and nighttime treatment options available
- SnapCorrect: Free whitening treatment for life once you’re a customer
These are just the main selling points of each company, though. If you’d like to learn more about these options and how they compare to each other, check out our full comparison review.