Braces are the most powerful, proven method to straighten teeth — no matter how extreme the case. But they aren’t ideal for everyone.
If you’re an adult considering orthodontic treatment, you might hesitate to wear such a visible appliance. Luckily, there are lots of discreet alternatives. But how do you know which low profile option is the right match for you?
That’s why we’re here! In this guide, we’ll review and rank the best alternatives to traditional braces so you can focus on correcting your smile.
Invisalign | #1
Invisalign was the first company to offer clear aligner treatment. Many other providers have thrown their hats in the ring since, but Invisalign has remained a household name. Let’s take a look at some of the main advantages and disadvantages of this treatment option.
- Discreet: Aesthetics are part of the reason Invisalign has been such a massive hit. Invisalign’s clear aligners are practically invisible.
- Experienced: Invisalign has been around for more than two decades and has treated over 12 million people worldwide; there’s no doubt they’ve encountered a case like yours before. They invented this technology, so you’re in good hands when you choose them.
- Comfort: Clear aligners have smooth surfaces that won’t dig into your lips and cheeks. Unfortunately we can’t say the same for braces, since the brackets tend to cause discomfort.
- Effective: Invisalign includes supplementary attachments to assist in complicated tooth shifts. Their SmartForce attachments are small, tooth colored buttons that are attached to the teeth to create additional pressure. These attachments are part of why Invisalign can treat nearly all of the same cases that braces can.
- No food restrictions: Unlike braces, there are no food restrictions with Invisalign. You won’t need to solemnly abstain from corn on the cob — simply remove your aligners when consuming anything besides water, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before putting them back in place.
- Cost: Invisalign’s cost ranges between $3,000-$8,000. So if you’re seeking alternatives to braces because of cost, Invisalign may not be the right fit.
ClearCorrect | #2
Though not nearly as well known as Invisalign, ClearCorrect has been providing in-office clear aligner treatments since 2006. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of ClearCorrect treatment:
- Discreet: ClearCorrect’s clear aligners will have a significantly lower profile than braces. Many people don’t even notice when someone is wearing them!
- Experience: ClearCorrect has over fifteen years of experience offering this kind of treatment. They’re the second largest clear aligner provider — they know what they’re talking about.
- Comfort: There’s no getting around the fact that clear aligners are much more comfortable than braces. These smooth plastic clear aligners won’t cause the abrasion and discomfort that braces will.
- Effective: ClearCorrect utilizes supplemental attachments to produce complex tooth shifts throughout your treatment. Braces can still treat the widest spectrum of cases, but ClearCorrect will be able to treat the vast majority of cases.
- No food restrictions: Unlike braces, clear aligners don’t have any food restrictions. You won’t need to break your caramel habit — just take out your aligners when consuming anything other than water, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before wearing them again.
- Cost: It varies doctor to doctor, but ClearCorrect typically costs between $4,000-$5,000. So if affordability is top of mind for you, this may not be the right fit for you.
Six Month Smiles | #3
Six Month Smiles offers both clear aligners and ceramic braces through local partnered doctors. Six Month Smiles has been changing smiles since 2007. Let’s take a closer look at their main advantages and disadvantages:
- Variety: With Six Months Smiles, you can work with your doctor to decide whether clear braces or clear aligners are the right fit for you.
- Short treatment lengths: Six Month Smiles isn’t bashful about their short treatment lengths — after all, it’s in the company’s name. Though 6 months is their most common treatment length, their average is 4-9 months. That’s quite a bit faster than the 18-24 month window for braces.
- Discreet: Both clear braces and clear aligners offer a very low profile treatment option. Clear aligners are a bit more disguised than clear braces, but both are discreet options.
- Cost: Six Month Smiles typically costs between $3,500-$5,000, which is usually higher than the cost of traditional braces.
- Treatable conditions: The clear aligners from Six Month Smiles aren’t able to treat as complex of conditions as other in-office brands because they don’t use supplemental attachments. Their braces are better equipped to tackle complex movements.
At-Home Clear Aligners
At-home clear aligners have taken the technology that Invisalign created, and adapted it for remote care. But is it the right treatment option for you? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of at-home clear aligner treatment:
- Discreet: Many people prefer their treatment to be under the radar, and braces make that difficult. Clear aligners provide a low profile treatment — they’re practically invisible!
- Affordable: At-home clear aligners are able to deliver safe treatments at a fraction of the cost of in-office options. Why? Less overhead. In-office options have to finance, well…an office! At-home clear aligners eliminate a significant amount of upfront cost to deliver an affordable treatment option. The average cost of at-home aligners usually cost around $1,900 — which is thousands less than braces treatment.
- Convenient: At-home clear aligner treatments take place from the comfort of your own home. You won’t need to attend frequent in-person appointments as you would with braces treatment. All of your treatment is overseen remotely, so it’s much easier to incorporate into a busy schedule.
- Flexible: Many at-home clear aligner providers offer a nighttime only form of treatment. Instead of the typical 22+ hours of daily aligner wear, this option requires only 10 hours of wear a day. Most people just pop in their aligners a couple hours before they go to bed and dream their way to a new smile.
- Short treatment lengths: At-home clear aligner treatments usually wrap up in about 6-9 months — which is practically the blink of an eye compared to the 18-24 month timeline for braces.
- No food restrictions: Unlike braces, at-home clear aligners don’t have any food restrictions. You won’t have to bid a tearful farewell to popcorn — just remove your aligners when consuming anything other than water, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before putting them back in.
- Treatable conditions: At-home clear aligners are best suited to correct mild to moderate conditions of crowding and spacing. So if your condition is more complex, then you’d be better off with an in-office option.
- Less one on one care: At-home clear aligners have a high level of oversight, but you won’t be chatting in real time with your doctor. If getting that kind of face time is important to you, then an in-office treatment like braces may be better suited for you.
- Insurance coverage: Although some insurance companies will contribute to at-home clear aligner treatments, you’re much likelier to receive coverage for an in-office option like braces.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of our top ranked at-home clear aligner providers:
Byte | #1
Byte is our favorite alternative to traditional braces. In fact, they’re our favorite at-home aligner company. And there’s a lot to love about them. Their claim to fame is their short treatment lengths; the average treatment wraps up in just four months. But short treatment timelines aren’t the only thing to love about Byte. They produce top-quality products and their Byte-for-Life guarantee ensures that you’ll love your new smile for the rest of your life.
Byte is quite different from traditional braces, however. Here are a few key ways they compare:
|Price: Byte has an affordable, one-size-fits-all price of $1,895 for all-day treatment, and $2,295 for nighttime treatment.
|Price: The average person spends $5,000 to $6,000 on braces, but the price can get as high as $10,000 for extremely complex cases.
|Financing: Byte offers a payment plan of $82 per month — provided you make a down payment of $249. Everyone qualifies no matter their credit score (note that nighttime financing is slightly different).
|Financing: With traditional braces, the financing plan you get will depend on your orthodontist. Most providers offer financing for treatment, although you might need to pass a credit check to qualify.
|Visibility: Byte’s clear aligners are nearly invisible to others. Most people won’t be able to tell you’re wearing them.
|Visibility: With traditional braces, you’ll probably hear a lot of “Hey, you got braces!” for the first few weeks. That’s because braces are pretty visible (unless you make an 18 month vow of silence, which we cannot recommend).
|Treatment length: Byte offers the industry’s shortest treatments — their typical treatment wraps up in just 4 months (5 months for nighttime treatments).
|Treatment length: The timetable for traditional braces varies from one person to another, but most people will wear them between 18 months to 2 years.
|Daily Care: With Byte, brushing and flossing are a breeze. Just pop out your aligners, clean up, and pop them back in. Byte even offers nighttime aligners that cut down your wear requirements to just 10 hours per night.
|Daily Care: The biggest frustration many people have with braces is how difficult they can make brushing and flossing; wires and brackets are hard to work around! Certain foods are off limits, too.
Traditional braces are a good option, especially if your alignment concerns are complex. For example, if a misshapen jaw is causing your misalignment, then braces are probably the best path to better health. There are some conditions that only a metal appliance can fix.
That said, braces aren’t for everyone. They can be quite pricey, and if your case is minor, the hassle of the wires and brackets can feel like more trouble than it’s worth. That’s where Byte comes in. If you have a mild condition and you’re craving a cheaper option that offers more convenience and flexibility than braces, look no further than Byte.
Candid | #2
One of traditional braces’ biggest advantages is the fact that they’re administered in person at your local orthodontist’s office. This type of hands-on treatment is adaptable and versatile. If your treatment requires any modifications, your orthodontist can make them on the fly.
Most at-home aligners don’t have that flexibility. But Candid is somewhat of an exception to this rule. Though Candid began as a fully remote provider, they’ve recently shifted to offering “CandidPro,” a hybrid at-home/in-office treatment. This treatment model strikes a nice balance between robust oversight of in-office options and the convenience of at-home treatment. Your treatment is administered by a local dentist in the Candid network, and overseen remotely via their CandidMonitoring program. Though most of your treatment takes place from the comfort of your own home, if any issues arise you can head to your local Candid dentist to make it right.
That said, treatment oversight is just one factor to consider. Here are several other important ways Candid and braces compare:
|Price: Candid doesn’t have one set sticker price, but you will pay at least $3,500. Your exact price will be determined by your dentist. Usually Candid will cost less than braces.
|Price: The average person spends $5,000 to $7,500 on braces, but sometimes it can run $10,000 or more.
|Financing: With Candid, the details of the financing available to you will be determined by your dentist. You may need to pass a credit check to qualify.
|Financing: With traditional braces, your financing plan will depend on your orthodontist’s arrangements, but most providers will offer financing for treatment. Typically these plans will require a credit check.
|Visibility: Candid’s clear aligners are nearly invisible to others. Most people won’t be able to tell you have them on.
|Visibility: Braces aren’t shy. They make themselves known whenever you open your mouth.
|Treatment length: Candid’s average treatment lasts between 6-9 months.
|Treatment length: Most people will wear their braces for 18 to 24 months.
|Treatment oversight: With Candid’s CandidMonitoring program, you’ll send photo updates to your dentist and the Candid team for review every 10-14 days.
|Treatment oversight: With traditional braces, you’ll have appointments every 4-8 weeks of your treatment.
|Daily Care: You’ll need to wear your Candid aligners nearly constantly, but you can take them out to eat and drink. Brushing and flossing are just as simple: pop out your aligners, clean up, and pop them back in.
|Daily Care: The biggest frustration many people have with braces is the fact that brushing and flossing are difficult; wires and brackets can be a struggle to work around! Certain foods must be avoided as well.
You might hesitate to jump into treatment with traditional braces, but that’s not to say braces don’t have their place. If your case is more severe or if your jawbone needs adjustments in addition to your teeth positions, then braces are the way to go. At-home clear aligners can’t fix more than mild to moderate crowding and spacing concerns.
Candid is our second favorite choice for at-home aligners. If you want a premium at-home aligner company that strikes a balance between convenience and hands-on expertise, then look no further than Candid.
AlignerCo | #3
For many people, the biggest barrier between themselves and the smile of their dreams is the cost of treatment. With traditional braces costing upwards of $5,000, many cannot make it fit within their budget.
At-home aligners are — thankfully — much cheaper than traditional braces, and AlignerCo leads the charge. In fact, their system is roughly $4,000 cheaper than even the most affordable braces. But price isn’t the only criteria to look at. Let’s talk over some of the other key similarities and differences:
|Price: AlignerCo has a budget-friendly price tag of $1,145 for daytime treatment and $1,345 for nighttime treatment.
|Price: Traditional braces cost $5,000 to $7,500 on average, but the price can get as high as $10,000.
|Visibility: AlignerCo’s clear aligners are nearly invisible to others. Most people won’t be able to tell you have them on.
|Visibility: Braces are tough to hide. People will notice that you’re wearing them.
|Financing: AlignerCo has two different plans: SmileFlex and SmileFlex Easy. SmileFlex requires a credit check; SmileFlex Easy swaps the credit check for a down payment. Either way, you’ll have 11-12 monthly payments starting at $95.
|Financing: With braces, your treatment provider will determine the details of your financing plan.
|Treatment length: With AlignerCo, daytime treatment wraps up between 6-11 months, and nighttime treatment averages between 8-12 months.
|Treatment length: Treatment times with braces vary, but most people will wear them for 18 to 24 months.
|Daily Care: You can remove your AlignerCo aligners when you eat and drink (or wear them only overnight if you opt for nighttime treatment), so you can eat whatever you want. Brushing and flossing won’t become more difficult.
|Daily Care: Braces can make brushing and flossing pretty difficult; wires and brackets are hard to work around! You’ll need to avoid certain foods, too.
Like all of the other alternatives we’ve listed in this guide, AlignerCo works best for patients whose cases are mild or moderate. They’re extremely budget-friendly, especially since there are two financing plans. You can access affordable care regardless of your credit.
Traditional braces may be pricier (and a bit harder to deal with), but they’re better equipped to handle tougher cases than AlignerCo. Plus, if you’re craving individualized attention and one-on-one care directly from your orthodontist, traditional braces are the way to go.
Smile Direct Club | #4
Braces have been around for hundreds of years. By comparison, at-home aligners are the new kid on the block. They first appeared on the scene in 2014, all thanks to Smile Direct Club.
Because they were the first to bring clear aligners directly to the consumer, Smile Direct Club won a large part of the at-home aligner market. As the biggest company, Smile Direct Club can offer some unique perks. For one thing, Smile Direct Club offers nighttime aligners. And for another, their SmileShops allow customers to have scans taken of their teeth for free.
Aside from the SmileShops, however, Smile Direct Club’s treatment isn’t administered in-person like traditional braces. Here are a few other important ways Smile Direct Club compares to traditional braces:
|Smile Direct Club:
|Price: Smile Direct Club charges the same price for their all day aligners and their nighttime only aligners ($2,050).
|Price: Braces typically cost between $5,000 and $7,500, but the price can run more than $10,000 if your case is complex.
|Visibility: Smile Direct Club’s clear aligners are nearly invisible to others. Most people won’t be able to tell that you’re wearing them.
|Visibility: When you get braces, people will notice. You’ll probably get some surprised comments, because braces are difficult to hide.
|Financing: Smile Direct Club offers every customer a payment plan of $89 per month provided you make a down payment of $250; no matter your credit.
|Financing: Financing plans for braces depend on your orthodontist’s policies. Most providers offer financing for treatment, although you may need to pass a credit check to qualify.
|Treatment length: Smile Direct Club has an average treatment length of 6 months (or 10 months for nighttime treatment).
|Treatment length: The timetable for traditional braces varies from one person to another, but most people will wear them for 18 months to 2 years.
|Daily Care: You can remove your aligners to eat and drink, as well as brush and floss. Smile Direct Club even offers nighttime aligners that cut down your wear requirements to just 10 hours per night.
|Daily Care: The biggest frustration most people have with braces is that wires and brackets are hard to work around! You have to relearn how to brush and floss. Certain foods are restricted, too.
Smile Direct Club isn’t our top-ranked at-home aligner service, but they’re near the top of the list for many shoppers. That’s not too surprising since they’ve made such a big name for themselves. In general, if you need an affordable option that’s relatively quick (or flexible if you want nighttime treatment), then Smile Direct Club is a good choice.
However, Smile Direct Club is fairly limited in the types of cases they can handle. Extremely complicated cases? They’re a no-go for Smile Direct Club. Traditional braces can tackle these cases. So if your teeth need a little extra help, we recommend that you book a consultation with your local orthodontist.
Which Traditional Braces Alternative Should You Choose?
We get it: making a decision between so many great options can get pretty overwhelming. However, all of these options are dependable, and you can confidently trust them with your smile.
Still, there are some we love more than most, and Byte and Candid are at the top of our list. Byte offers short treatment lengths, while Candid provides a premium ‘best of both worlds’ hybrid treatment option. For more information about our favorites, check out our in-depth reviews of Byte and Candid.
How can I know if I am suited for at-home aligner treatment?
When you complete the impressions or get an in-person scan, these are sent to the evaluators at the company you are working with. They will assess them and determine if you can be treated with their system. If not, they will let you know and typically refund any money spent on the impression kit or scans.
Are there certain conditions that will make me ineligible for at-home treatment?
If your orthodontic concerns are more severe than mild to moderate crowding and spacing, you will not be able to use mail-order aligners. Other conditions that can prevent or delay treatment include:
- Having wisdom teeth that need to be removed.
- Having had teeth removed in the last two months.
- Missing too many teeth.
- Having certain types of cosmetic dental work.
How do I choose between an impression kit and a scan if I want at-home treatment?
Not all companies offer both options, so you may not have a choice. If you do, choose scans if a location is close and you aren’t up for doing impressions yourself. Choose DIY impressions if scanning locations are too far away or you just prefer to handle it on your own.
What happens if I mess up my impressions?
This varies by company, but most will send you a new impression kit free of charge. Also, if they offer video support, we suggest you use it if you didn’t the first time around.
Are my teeth going to hurt during treatment?
With both braces and aligners, your teeth will be slightly sore after you start treatment and then after each adjustment or aligner switch. Braces tend to cause more discomfort since they also irritate the soft tissues of the mouth.
Do I need to have any office visits as part of treatment?
With braces, yes. Treatment must be closely monitored and the braces adjusted. With at-home aligners, there are no office visits that are a mandatory part of treatment. However, you should continue to see your general dentist every six months.
Can I use my HSA or FSA funds to pay for straightening my teeth?
This will vary depending on the type of treatment you choose and if it is classified as cosmetic. Speak with your administrator before starting treatment.
My treatment is done but I am not totally happy with my results. What can I do?
If you used traditional braces, talk to your dentist or orthodontist. If you straightened your teeth with at-home aligners, contact the company to see what they can do to help. Many will create a few more aligners to get your smile to where you want it to be.
Why are at-home aligners cheaper than braces?
There are a few reasons:
- The materials are cheaper.
- There are no office visits.
- The overhead costs are lower.
- Treatment wraps up in less time.
- Braces are typically used for more complex treatment.