Everyone has something they’re self-conscious about—and for a lot of adults, it’s their smile. But who wants to shell out thousands and thousands of pounds to get the smile of their dreams? Probably not very many of us!
Thankfully, online clear aligners are a great alternative: they give you a perfectly aligned smile at a fraction of the cost. And the best part? They don’t require any office visits, so they can easily fit into your busy schedule.
But there are an overwhelming number of providers to choose from, and it can be tough to sort through all the names and pick the option that’s best for your smile.
That’s where this guide comes in. We’ll cover everything there is to know about online clear aligners, from how they work to the 4 best providers in the UK. By the end, we hope you’ll have a clear idea of which aligner provider is right for you.
What Are “Online” Clear Aligners, Anyway?
Good question—let’s start with what regular clear aligners are. Aligners are clear plastic trays designed to perfectly match the shape of your teeth. By wearing them, you allow the plastic to exert force on your teeth, gradually shifting them into new positions. You swap out one aligner for a new one every 1-2 weeks. By the time you move to your last aligner, you should have the smile of your dreams.
That description fits a lot of brands, Invisalign included. But the brands we’ll cover in this guide are “online” clear aligners. Online aligners fall under the heading of teledentistry, which utilizes modern technology and software to administer and supervise dental treatments remotely. With most clear aligners, the entirety of treatment happens remotely—from step one to your aftercare retainers.
Instead of having regular check-ups at a dentist’s office, you’ll have virtual check-ins from the comfort of your own home. Some companies have an app you’ll use to track your progress, and other companies will ask you to send in photos via email. The important thing is that treatment stays convenient the whole way through.
One quick caveat: online clear aligners aren’t for everybody. Since they’re administered remotely, online clear aligner companies can only treat mild to moderate cases of misalignment. If your teeth are extremely crooked, you have a severe overbite, or some other complication with your smile, you might not be a good candidate for treatment.
The good news? All of the companies in this guide offer a guarantee: if you purchase an impression kit (or book an in-person scan, if applicable) and it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, they’ll refund the cost of the kit.
How We Rank Online Clear Aligners
With any of the aligner brands we’ve listed in this guide, you’ll get the same end result: the smile of your dreams. But no two aligners take the exact same approach to getting you that dream smile; there are subtle differences—hence our rankings!
When we evaluate a clear aligner brand, here are some of the questions we ask:
- How easy (or complicated) is the start-up process? The traditional start-up approach for online clear aligner brands is an impression kit, which is a workable option. But it’s not uncommon for customers to struggle with this process (if nothing else, the kits can be a bit messy and uncomfortable). Some companies offer in-person scans (the only face-to-face step of treatment) that use 3D scanning technology. Naturally, these are a lot easier. But the location of these clinics matter; if they’re too far away, the impression kit is still a more convenient option.
- How does the treatment process work? Are there monthly check-ins with an app, or by email? How long do you have to wear your aligners each day? Do you receive all of your aligners at once, or are they shipped in batches? All of these questions affect your routine mid-treatment, so they’re important to answer.
- How quickly does treatment end? Lots of clear aligners offer faster treatment timelines than traditional braces. But some clear aligners are faster than others. If you’re in a rush, you’ll prefer the brands that promise a quicker average treatment speed.
- How much does treatment cost? If you want a perfect smile, you better be prepared to drop some substantial pounds on your treatment (but still much less than you’d pay for braces). But some brands are far more affordable than others.
- How is their customer service? What are the satisfaction guarantees? While everyone hopes their treatment will go smoothly, there is the possibility that you’ll need to get some help along the way. The last thing you want is to feel that you can’t get help when you need it. Likewise, if you reach the end of your treatment and you’re not 100% satisfied, what happens? Often, a brand will help by sending new aligners (at no extra cost, ideally) to get you the results you want. But there are terms and conditions to meet in order to be eligible for that guarantee. And not all brands offer one.
With those questions in mind, let’s jump into our top clear aligners!
#1: Straight Teeth Direct
If you’re looking for a European clear aligner that balances excellent treatment quality with a fair price point, then Straight Teeth Direct could be a great choice for you. We give them our top pick because they’ll safely straighten your smile with solid oversight throughout treatment (still remote!) without charging you a hefty price tag.
Frankly, there’s a lot to love about Straight Teeth Direct:
- Start-up process: Straight Teeth Direct offers both in-person scans and impression kits, and each method costs the same amount. So you can keep things simple or DIY—whichever you prefer. The only downside? Their location for scans is in central London; unless you’re close, you’ll have to use the £42 impression kit instead.
- Treatment process: The day-to-day of Straight Teeth Direct’s treatment works pretty simply: you wear your aligners for 22 hours a day, only taking them out to eat or drink. But every month, you’ll have virtual check-ins through Straight Teeth Direct’s app. These check-ins are essential since Straight Teeth Direct sends your aligners in batches (typically about four batches). They will only send you your next aligners if your check-in looks good. Thankfully, those check-ins are simple, and can all be done through their app.
- Treatment speed: While everyone will have a slightly different experience because everyone’s smile is different, Straight Teeth Direct offers a fairly average treatment speed. Most customers wrap up treatment within 5 to 9 months.
- Treatment cost: Straight Teeth Direct offers a top-of-the-line treatment procedure, and their aligners are excellent quality. But thankfully, their price point isn’t excessive. A full treatment costs just £1350, regardless of how many aligners you need. They also include a free set of retainers. Three different financing plans are available if you’d rather not pay everything up front.
- Customer service & satisfaction guarantees: Straight Teeth Direct is notorious for their excellent customer service; a lot of online reviews rave about their customer service. Straight Teeth Direct also provides free replacements for lost or broken aligners, and if you reach the end of your treatment and you don’t have a visibly straighter smile, they’ll provide free refinements (additional aligners).
Another thing we like about Straight Teeth Direct is their Maintainer Plan. For just £139 per year, Straight Teeth Direct will send you a new set of retainers every six months. And they’ll also make up to 3 aligners for you to get your smile back on track if your teeth ever shift post-treatment. This is an excellent way to maintain the fantastic results you’ll get from Straight Teeth Direct.
Because of their all-around quality, it’s easy for us to give Straight Teeth Direct the #1 spot among UK clear aligner companies.
#2: Straight My Teeth
A lot of companies offer excellent treatment quality, but they do so at a price premium. And technically, there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a premium service. But not everyone has tons of money in their cosmetics budget. If that’s true for you, then look no further than Straight My Teeth. They’re easily the most affordable aligner option in the UK. But the price isn’t their only great feature:
- Start-up process: Straight My Teeth primarily offers impression kits to kick off treatments. That’s not the end of the world, but if you think you’ll struggle with the impression kits, you’ll want to look into other alternatives. That said, if you live near their one Smile Studio, you can get a 3D scan instead. This will also give you a slight discount on your treatment, but it’s limited to the one location.
- Treatment process: Straight My Teeth actually offers two different types of treatment: daytime and nighttime. With either, you’ll complete an impression kit and approve your proposed treatment plan. But with daytime aligners, you’ll wear your trays for 20-22 hours a day. NightOnly wearers will only have to wear their aligners overnight, as 8-10 hours is the recommended wear time.
- Treatment speed: Straight My Teeth offers pretty fast treatment times, especially for their daytime treatments. Wear your aligners all day, and you’ll probably finish within 4-6 months. Nighttime wear slows down treatment a tad, taking it up to 6-8 months. That said, they’re still pretty quick across the board.
- Treatment cost: We don’t think you’ll find a more affordable option for clear aligners than you’ll get with Straight My Teeth. The base price is £999 and £1149 for daytime and nighttime treatment respectively. Sales happen pretty frequently, too, often bringing their low prices down further to £674 for daytime treatment and £724 for NightOnly treatment. You’ll also get a free set of retainers with either of these plans. If you’d rather not pay everything up front, Straight My Teeth offers SmileFlex Easy, an installment plan for daytime aligners starting at £45 for 12 months after a £359 down payment. There is also a payment plan available for NightOnly treatment.
- Customer service & satisfaction guarantees: Though Straight My Teeth’s customer service team is reachable every day of the week, many reviewers of the company mention slow responses to their questions about their treatment. Their satisfaction guarantee isn’t as amazing as other companies; if you want a refinement at the end of treatment, you’ll have to pay £150.
Straight My Teeth offers a WorryFree Protection plan that provides you with a new retainer every six months, for six years. With WorryFree Protection, Straight My Teeth keeps your retainers on hand in case one is lost. That way you won’t have to wait for more to be manufactured, potentially giving your teeth an opportunity to sneak out of their hard earned positions. For six years of retainers, this package costs £459, which is considerably less expensive than the retainers sold by competitors (often £80 per set).
With Straight My Teeth, you’re sure to pay less than any of their competitors, and likely to enjoy a relatively short treatment time. Though their customer care team may not be perfect, their low prices more than make up for it in our opinion.
A lot of clear aligner companies charge the same price for their aligner kit, regardless of how many aligners you need. If you need lots of aligners, that’s a serious perk. But PlusDent doesn’t work that way. Instead, you’ll pay one of three price points based on how many aligners you need. There are other things to love about PlusDent, too:
- Start-up process: Unlike a lot of companies, PlusDent actually doesn’t offer impression kits; 3D scans are the only option. This means a dental professional handles all the tricky parts of the startup process for you, which is nice. PlusDent has several locations across the UK, but if you don’t live near one, or you’d rather handle impressions yourself, PlusDent won’t be right for you.
- Treatment process: With PlusDent, treatment is pretty simple. You’ll start by booking and attending your 3D scan. Then you get to review and approve your treatment plan. As soon as your aligners arrive (PlusDent ships them all at once), you’ll start wearing them for at least 22 hours a day. Every eight weeks, you’ll check in with your dentist using the PlusDent app.
- Treatment speed: PlusDent treats a pretty broad array of cases, but in general, most customers wear their aligners for 4 to 10 months. It all depends on the severity of your case, but that’s pretty standard for clear aligners.
- Treatment cost: You’ll pay one of three price points depending on how many aligners your condition requires. If you’re a candidate for the “Light” package, you’ll pay £1390. “Medium” cases pay £1890, and “Complex” cases pay £2190. A higher price point may not be ideal, but their pricing is straightforward. After you finish treatment, you’ll need to pay £99 for retainers (which they recommend replacing every 6-12 months). If you’re interested in financing, PlusDent offers flexible payment plans, such as 12- to 48-month payment options.
- Customer service & satisfaction guarantees: PlusDent is still growing their customer review base in the UK, but the few reviews we’ve found are pretty positive (and we’ll keep an eye on it). Their satisfaction guarantee is great, too: you can request a no-cost refinement as long as you’ve worn your aligners as prescribed and you ask for the refinement within 4 weeks of finishing your treatment.
As long as you live near one of PlusDent’s participating practices, they are a great option. You might spend a bit more than average, but that all depends on your smile. Either way, you’ll get simple treatment procedures with great dentist oversight throughout.
#4: Smile Direct Club
Smile Direct Club is one of the newer aligner brands in the UK, but they aren’t new to the clear aligner scene. In fact, they were the first at-home aligner company in the US, and now they’ve expanded to create a massive international reach. If you want to work with a well-established, recognized brand, look no further than Smile Direct Club. Granted, longevity isn’t the only thing to consider:
- Start-up process: Smile Direct Club gives you options when it comes to starting your treatment. You can visit one of their several SmileShops or pop-up shops when they come to town. If you do, you’ll get a free scan. Impression kits are always an option too, if you’d prefer to complete treatment entirely from home. This DIY approach typically costs £39, but frequently, Smile Direct Club will offer a promotion in which you’ll receive your impression kit for free (as long as you return it).
- Treatment process: Smile Direct offers both daytime and nighttime treatment, which require 22 hours and 10 hours of consecutive wear respectively. After you attend your scan or take your impressions, Smile Direct Club will design your treatment plan. Once they arrive at your doorstep (Smile Direct Club sends all your aligners at once) you can immediately start your treatment plan. Throughout treatment, you’ll have virtual check-ins using their Smile Check-ins software, powered by the Smile Direct app.
- Treatment speed: If you opt for daytime treatment, you can reasonably expect to finish treatment within 4-6 months. Nighttime treatment averages 10 months for most people (provided you wear them as prescribed).
- Treatment cost: One of the things we love about Smile Direct is that they charge the same amount for both daytime and nighttime treatment: £1539. That falls in the middle of the road for price points. And if you don’t want to pay the whole price up front, Smile Direct offers a payment plan with a £70.10 down payment and then 23 monthly payments of £70.09. Aftercare retainers will cost you £80 a set.
- Customer service & satisfaction guarantees: Historically, Smile Direct has been a bit lackluster in the support department. They’ll get the job done, but customers sometimes complain about delays when getting help. That said, Smile Direct offers a great Club Warranty: you have 30 days to request a reevaluation if you reach the end of treatment and you’re not satisfied with your results. If your request is approved, Smile Direct will help make your smile perfect.
Another nice perk: if you visit a SmileShop instead of using an impression kit, you’ll receive Bright On, Smile Direct’s premium whitening kit. The assistant will show you how to apply it safely and effectively; a SmileShop appointment is the only way to get whitening in tandem with your aligner kit. Who wouldn’t want to brighten and straighten their smile simultaneously?
Which Clear Aligner Is Right For Me?
Straight Teeth Direct and Straight My Teeth are definitely our top picks. With Straight Teeth Direct’s uncompromising commitment to quality and Straight My Teeth’s unbeatable price tag, it’s hard not to recommend them. And we’re confident that you’ll love your new smile with either choice.
But if you’re drawn to another option on this list, go for it! Everyone has different priorities for their smile, and it’s important to pick what works best for you. After all, you’ll be the one wearing the aligners day in, day out.
That said, if you’re wondering if your case might be too complex for these online clear aligners, then you may want to look into Invisalign instead. Invisalign gives the same results as these clear aligners. But thanks to in-person oversight and technology like SmartForce Attachments, elastics, and palatal expanders, Invisalign can treat virtually any case. They’re also a great option if you prefer working with your orthodontist in person.
- ✔ Excellent Reviews
- ✔ Convenient App
- ✔ Locally Produced Aligners
- – Lowest Prices
- – Nighttime Treatment Option
- – Good Customer Support
Frequently Asked Questions
How exactly does the company make my treatment plan from my scans or impressions?
Magic! Well, not really. Clear aligner companies use the moulds or images to create a 3D model of your smile. This model then gets input into a special software that helps predict exactly how much force needs to be exerted on each tooth, what order the teeth should move in, how much each tooth will move during each step, and so on. A dentist or orthodontist reviews the software’s predictions and makes any necessary adjustments. After that, your aligners are created.
Does clear aligner treatment hurt?
Clear aligner treatment will not be the most comfortable experience you’ve ever had. That said, most people do not find it extremely painful. It’s normal to experience soreness and tenderness when first starting treatment or after switching from one aligner to the next. Most customers find that this discomfort eases after a day or two (to the point that they don’t notice it anymore). But take heart: the discomfort is a good sign; it means that your aligners are working to shift your teeth into their desired positions. Our best advice to keep the discomfort to a minimum? Wear your aligners faithfully, and take an OTC pain reliever to take the edge off if you need it.
What should I do with an aligner when I move to the next step?
Do not throw your aligners away. Instead, store them in a safe, dry spot until you reach the end of your treatment and start wearing your retainers. It’s good to have the aligners on hand in case you ever lose an aligner or need to revisit a step.
What should I do if I lose an aligner?
First, put on your last aligner to stand in for the aligner you lost; the previous step will help keep your teeth from shifting back towards their original positions (teeth tend to move when you’re not wearing your aligners for long periods). Then, contact customer support right away. Depending on where you are in treatment and their company policies, they might arrange a replacement aligner or tell you to move on to the next one a bit early. Follow their instructions, and you’ll be back on track in no time.
What happens if I don’t wear the aligners the full 22 hours?
22 hours of aligner wear is the widely accepted standard to ensure that your teeth move in a safe, predictable manner. By wearing them that long over the course of a week, your teeth have time to adjust to their new positions and heal enough to be ready to move again during the next step. If you don’t wear them long enough, you run the risk of your teeth shifting back out of alignment, or they might not be healed enough to move to the next step safely. Of course, accidentally only wearing them for 20.5 hours one day of the week won’t ruin your smile, but it’s best to avoid that as much as you can.
Do I really need to use a retainer?
Even with the cheapest aligner on this list, treatment is still a significant investment. You’d hate that money to go to waste, right? Wearing your retainer ensures that your newly-perfected smile stays perfect, even years after treatment. If you don’t wear the retainer, your teeth will gradually shift back towards their original positions.
How often should I wear my retainer?
Every clear aligner company sets their own policies for retainer wear. That said, most companies have a similar schedule that requires you to wear the retainer full-time for about two weeks. After that, you should be able to wear your retainers at night only. The two weeks of full-time wear allows your soft tissues to heal in the proper positions. Wearing them at night indefinitely prevents your teeth from shifting back over time.
What are the chances that I’m not a good candidate for online clear aligners?
The majority of adults fall under the “mild to moderate” range of misalignments, making them good candidates for remote treatment. That said, some cases, such as extreme crowding, bite issues caused by the shape of the jaw itself, or severe spacing, are too tough for remote treatment to handle safely. Those patients should see an in-person orthodontist instead.
Additionally, some people can temporarily be rejected from treatment due to issues like cavities or gum disease. Basically, you must start treatment with a clean bill of oral health. If you have any of those problems, we recommend addressing them before purchasing an impression kit to save time and money.
Is remote clear aligner treatment safe?
Remote clear aligner treatment is perfectly safe provided you follow all the instructions given by your care provider: aligner wear requirements, oral hygiene procedures, and virtual check-ins (if applicable). You can compromise the safety and overall effectiveness of your treatment by deviating from the prescribed wear schedule.