Best Invisible Braces | Costs, Treatment Times & Reviews

You have more options than ever before to improve your smile at home.
By Courtney Schmidt, PharmD
October 29, 2020
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Your smile says a lot about you, and you aren’t alone if you desire a better one. Clear teeth aligners, often called invisible braces, are a popular choice for adults seeking straighter teeth. 

Greg Asatrian, DDS, a board certified orthodontist in Southern California, treats patients with both braces and clear dental aligners. “Clear aligners offer an advantage over traditional braces because they are aesthetically pleasing and removable. If you have to take a photo or take them off for whatever reason, you can, and it will be very hard to tell that you are undergoing orthodontic treatment,” says Asatrian. 

Invisalign paved the way for teeth straightening without the frustration of metal brackets and rubber bands and the aesthetic concerns that come with them. Now, there are many brands on the market that offer at-home teeth straightening at a fraction of the cost of traditional braces or Invisalign.

Traditional braces versus invisible braces

Braces can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 and may require 16 to 24 months of treatment time. Invisible braces provided by orthodontists, such as Invisalign, are comparable in price to traditional braces, with an average cost of $5,000 and treatment time of 12 to 24 months. At-home invisible braces offer treatment for $1,200 to $2,400 with an average treatment time of three to six months.

The 5 best invisible braces on the market today:

  1. Best overall (Editor's Choice): Byte
  2. Best whitening: Candid
  3. Best for convenience: SmileDirectClub
  4. Best for affordability: AlignerCo
  5. Best for complexity: Invisalign
Invisible Braces Price

$1,895

$2,400

$1,950

$1,145

$3,000 - $7,000

Are clear teeth aligners right for you?

It’s important to know that clear aligners are not right for everyone, and at-home treatment isn’t right for every situation. Invisible braces, especially invisible braces at home, do have certain limitations. Understanding these limitations is key to ensure you get the outcome you desire. 

Caroline Girard, DDS, specializes in cosmetic dentistry in Beverly Hills, California. “At-home aligners are a fantastic option for consumers hoping to improve the alignment of their front six top and bottom teeth,” says Girard. “I've seen excellent results for these mild cases. For anything more challenging, it's best to work with a dentist or orthodontist.” 

What you should look for when investing in invisible braces

Our editors researched dozens of brands to find the best invisible braces. Based on input from dentists and orthodontists, we considered these to be the top-notch qualities to look for in a company that offers treatment with clear aligners:

  • An in-depth screening to determine whether you’re a good candidate
  • Dentist or orthodontist-led treatment
  • A simple and straightforward treatment process
  • Consistent and effective follow-up during treatment
  • Willingness to assess and provide revisions during or after treatment if needed
  • Excellent customer service
  • Product guarantee
  • Positive customer reviews 

The treatment process

While each company’s methods vary a bit, you’ll follow a general process when treated with clear aligners.

The at-home option

For at-home treatment, you’ll purchase an impression kit, which ranges from $29.99 to $95. This will allow you to make a putty mold of your teeth to send back to the company. Most companies offer a money-back guarantee on your impression kit if you are not deemed a suitable candidate for their service. 

A few companies offer a retail storefront where you can receive a 3-D scan of your teeth that eliminates the need for an impression kit. This is a fast, easy service that’s usually free, and it’s a convenient option if you have a retail store near you. Many in the industry say a 3-D scan gives you better results for your treatment plan without the hassle of messing with putty. 

Dentists or orthodontists will then design your treatment plan. Some companies have dental technicians who are responsible for coming up with treatment plans, but none of those companies made our top picks. The company will usually send you a 3-D mock-up of what your smile will look like during and after treatment.

You will receive your custom-made aligners at your home, and you should wear them according to the company’s directions. For the best result, most brands recommend wearing your aligner 22 hours a day (unless you’re on a nighttime-only plan). You can take them out to eat, but that’s about it. You’ll get specific directions about how to clean and maintain your aligner, and you’ll change aligners each week. 

Companies have varying methods for monitoring your progress remotely, and this is one of the most important differentiators between them. For many people, treatment success will rely on the company’s willingness to revise a treatment plan if it isn’t working, and this is where many companies fall short. 

The in-person option

Invisalign and other companies like it that are offered through a dentist’s or orthodontist’s office follow a different process. 

You’ll go to your orthodontist for X-rays and a 3-D scan, and your treatment plan will be created by your doctor. You’ll return a few weeks later for your aligners, and your provider can adjust the aligners for a comfortable fit. You’ll then return to the orthodontist or dentist every few weeks for a new aligner. 

With in-person treatment, a common and almost routine part of the process is to assess whether revisions need to be made to your treatment plan. Unlike at-home options, this can be managed easily by your provider without having to go through a customer service representative.

The 5 best invisible braces brands

Editor's choice: Byte

VISIT SITE

Shortest treatment time; lifetime guarantee

Byte is our top pick for several reasons. The company offers the shortest treatment time—cutting treatment time in half—thanks to HyperByte technology, a method of using high-frequency vibration to increase the rate of tooth movement. Byte employs a unique approach to designing your smile with a method they call Smile Science. With this approach, Byte dentists and orthodontists design a treatment for you by taking your entire facial structure into account, not just your teeth. Byte stands behind its product with a lifetime guarantee you won’t find with any other aligner on the market. The company will provide additional treatment at no charge if your teeth ever move out of alignment after using Byte. Customers rave about the quality customer service they receive from the company all the way through their treatment process. In customer surveys conducted by Best Company, Byte customers rate their experience as four or five stars 97% of the time, demonstrating that Byte customers are the most satisfied of any at-home aligner company. 

Cost: $1,895

Average treatment time: 3 months

Impressions: Putty mold at home

Treatment: At home with remote monitoring

Nighttime-only option: Yes

Pros: Impression kit cost is refunded 100% if you don't qualify for treatment; board certified doctors and orthodontists oversee treatment; complimentary teeth whitening; retainer included; financing options

Cons: No physical locations

Read our full review of Byte here.

TO BUY: Byteme.com

 

Candid

Best whitening: Candid

VISIT SITE

Orthodontist-only team of providers

Candid offers a good product with plenty of extra perks. Using a combination of impressions, imaging, and photos to develop a custom treatment plan, Candid's diagnostic process looks beyond the cosmetic appearance of your smile to check for underlying oral health issues. When you purchase aligners, you'll also get complimentary teeth whitening foam, a carrying case, and all the equipment you'll need for remote monitoring. You'll also get ongoing remote access to an orthodontist-only team of dental providers, which is the gold standard of orthodontic care. Candid's remote monitoring capabilities are powered by the CandidApp™. The CandidApp allows you to scan images of your teeth, submit updates to Candid's orthodontists, live chat with your treatment team, track your progress, and access 3D previews of your new smile. This level of expert care, coupled with best-in-class financing options, has garnered Candid high customer satisfaction ratings overall. Customers often mention customer service specialists by name who've helped them through the purchasing process. While Health editors noted some complaints about Candid's customer service in the past, more recent reviews show customers now seem to be satisfied with the service. 

Cost: $2,400

Average treatment time: 6 months

Impressions: 3-D scan at retail location or putty mold at home

Treatment: At home with remote monitoring

Nighttime-only option: No

Pros: Complimentary teeth whitening, financing options available

Cons: Retainers cost an additional $99

TO BUY: Candidco.com

Best for convenience: SmileDirectClub

VISIT SITE

In-person and at-home treatment options available

SmileDirectClub is one of the most recognizable brands in at-home aligners. Since their inception in 2014, the company has served over 1 million people. SmileDirectClub offers a good product with a competitive price tag, and it includes lots of extra perks you don’t get with every company. Some customers have expressed frustration with their experience or their outcomes, but it is unknown at this time how this compares with other companies, since no one else on the market has treated a comparable volume of at-home patients. Of more than 1,500 customer reviews compiled by Best Company, 80% of customers ranked their experience as four or five stars. This is a smaller percentage of satisfied customers than Byte, Alignerco, or Invisalign, but it shows that a majority of patients have a positive experience. With over 300 retail stores throughout the nation, SmileDirectClub makes it easy to get a 3-D scan and get started on your journey to a better smile. Now, you can also receive care from SmileDirectClub through a dentist's office. There are more than 1,000 dental partners in the network, so there's likely to be one near you if you prefer this method of treatment. 

Cost: $1,950

Average treatment time: 4 to 6 months

Impressions: 3-D scan at retail location, your local dentist's office, or putty mold at home

Nighttime-only option: Yes

Pros: Complimentary teeth whitening, financing options

Cons: Retainers cost an additional $99

Read our full  review of SmileDirectClub here.

TO BUY: SmileDirectClub.com

Best for affordability: AlignerCo

VISIT SITE

AlignerCo offers a high-quality experience at a price point you won’t see anywhere else, and the company frequently offers savings on top of its already low price. Customers consistently report a greater degree of satisfaction with the company and the service they received than most of the other companies on the market. In Best Company’s consumer analysis, 91% of AlignerCo’s customers rank their service as four or five stars—high marks that are second only to Byte. This is an excellent, no-frills service that gets right to what you need—a better smile you can afford. 

Cost: $1,145

Average treatment time: 6–11 months

Impressions: Putty mold at home

Treatment: At home with remote monitoring

Nighttime-only option: Yes

Other pros: Financing options

Cons: Longer average treatment times than Byte and SmileDirectClub; no physical locations

TO BUY: Alignerco.com

Best for complexity: Invisalign

Since Invisalign is offered through a dentist’s or orthodontist’s office, you’ll be required to make frequent office visits throughout your treatment course. This is no longer the most convenient option now that at-home services are available. Not to mention, the cost is much higher. However, what you’re getting with this service is the ability to treat more complex dental problems. Invisalign employs SmartForce attachments, which are tooth-colored shapes attached to your teeth. These provide “handles,” which allow your teeth to be moved with the right amount of force in the right direction. This, combined with frequent in-person evaluation by your dental provider, will likely produce better outcomes for those with complicated orthodontic needs. According to Best Company customer reviews, Invisalign customers rate their experience as four or five stars 90% of the time. 

Cost: $3,000–$8,000 (variable)

Average treatment time: 12–18 months

Impression method: In-office 3-D scan and X-rays

Nighttime-only option: No

Other pros: N/A - specific to your dental provider

Cons: More expensive than other companies; longer average treatment times than all other companies reviewed; regular in-person appointments required to monitor progress

TO BUY: contact your dental provider

Final thoughts

In its advice to consumers seeking at-home teeth straightening, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) expresses concerns about this method of orthodontic care. The AAO maintains that every patient needs an in-person evaluation, which includes X-rays of teeth, jaw and skeletal structure, and an assessment of the health of their teeth and gums. Some providers feel the risks involved in orthodontic care are too great and cannot be managed remotely. 

However, many dentists and orthodontists say at-home aligner treatment is appropriate for mild cases of teeth straightening, and they point to examples of many positive outcomes. 

Henry Hackney, DMD, is a dentist in the Chicago area and director of content at Authority Dental, an evidence-based information resource on dental health. “At-home straightening kits are a convenient solution,” says Hackney. “However, it’s important to know when you can safely use them. They are great for improving minor issues in your smile, such as gaps or crooked teeth. If the problem is more complex, visit an orthodontist's office.”

“Before starting an at-home treatment, ensure that your mouth is in good condition: no cavities, gum disease, or troubles with wisdom teeth, says Hackney. “Keep visiting the dentist regularly and maintain excellent oral hygiene during the whole process.”

While it’s unclear how this issue will evolve over time, what is clear is that consumers are seeking better access to health and wellness care at a more affordable price than our traditional health care model has provided. The marketplace demands that companies look for new ways to meet the needs of their customers, and we’ll likely continue to see this evolution in all aspects of health care. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are clear braces?

The term "clear braces" can be confusing since it's used to refer to two different types of devices used to move your teeth. One type of clear braces is the traditional orthodontic tool made of ceramic, tooth-colored brackets connected by metal wires. However, many times when people say "clear braces," what they are referring to is actually a clear dental aligner, which is a transparent, fitted tray that fits in your mouth to move your teeth. These aligners are also called clear aligners, invisible aligners, or invisible braces. 

Do clear braces cost more than traditional metal braces? 

Clear ceramic braces are usually more expensive than traditional metal braces by about $1,000 to $2,000 overall, but these cost differences vary from one orthodontic provider to another. Some clear aligners such as Invisalign, which costs between $3,000 and $7,000, are more expensive than both metal and ceramic braces. At-home invisible aligners are less expensive than traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, or Invisalign. You can expect to pay between $1,200 and $2,400 for clear braces at home. 

Do clear braces take longer than traditional metal braces?

Traditional metal braces have an average treatment time of 12 to 24 months. Depending on your specific needs, treatment with clear aligners can require significantly less time, sometimes as little as three to four months. 

What are the differences between traditional metal braces and clear braces?

There are pros and cons for both metal braces and clear aligners. Traditional metal braces are placed directly on your teeth with wires and glue and can't be removed at all throughout the treatment period. Invisible aligners are clear trays that are custom-made from impression molds and fit snugly over your teeth. They can be removed while eating and drinking, and some treatment plans allow you to wear your aligners only at night. 

People who choose clear braces over metal braces generally do so because clear aligners are more aesthetically pleasing, are more comfortable, and can be removed if needed. However, some dental and orthodontic needs require traditional braces and aren't optimally treated with clear aligners. In that case, clear ceramic braces may be a good compromise. 

Do clear braces actually work?

Yes, hundreds of thousands of Americans have improved their smiles with at-home clear aligners. Clear aligners are best suited for those who need mild to moderate teeth straightening. People with more complex dental and orthodontic needs will be better served through an orthodontist's practice where metal or ceramic braces and other devices may be necessary. 

Dr. Courtney Schmidt is a clinical consultant pharmacist and health and wellness writer. Since completing her Pharm.D. at the University of Florida., Dr. Schmidt has worked in multiple clinical settings and has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Central Florida