Invisible aligners are a great option for people looking to straighten their teeth without traditional metal braces. We reveal what the top five choices have to offer.
- Most trusted: Invisalign
- Best for comprehensive care: Local orthodontist
- Most affordable: Byte
- Best for mild alignment: SmileDirectClub and Candid
If you didn’t grow up wearing braces but have finally decided to stop putting off some much needed teeth realignment, invisible braces might be the way to go.
Read on for the best options to find some invisible braces and how to start the process.
Invisible braces, also known as clear aligners, are a method of dental treatment that slowly shifts the position of your teeth over time, just like traditional metal braces. Made of clear plastic, aligners fit snugly around your teeth and are barely noticeable.
Because clear aligners are so inconspicuous, they’re especially popular with adults, who may feel tentative about wearing metal braces.
Most aligners are worn all day — at least 20 hours — and are removed only for eating and brushing. But there are night-only options, which involve wearing them at night and while you sleep, for at least 10 hours.
- Price: $3,000–$7,000
- Typical treatment window: 6+ months
- Insurance: Ask your Invisalign doctor when booking your consultation, call your benefits manager at work, or call your insurance company to find out if your insurance is accepted.
Invisalign might be the most well-known maker of invisible braces. A doctor will make a 3-D model of your teeth by scanning them with a sophisticated camera, typically the iTero Element scanner. The aligners are made of medical-grade polyurethane resin and are custom-trimmed to fit your teeth and gums.
Invisalign brought the concept of clear aligners to the mainstream, and many people still think it’s the only option on the market. These aligners are well-reviewed, use high-quality materials, and achieve good results, but they’re significantly more expensive than other aligner options.
- well-established with over 20 years of business
- no DIY teeth molds
- more expensive than other options
Best for comprehensive care
Your local orthodontist
- Price: $3,000–$8,000
- Typical treatment window: 6–12 months
- Insurance: Call the orthodontist’s office to find out if your insurance is accepted, or call your insurance company to find out if aligners are covered.
Working with a local orthodontist has many benefits: You can get regular in-person checkups (usually every 6 to 10 weeks) and a more thorough workup, including X-rays and photos. The process of getting aligners from a local orthodontist is similar to online and mail-order companies.
Everything is done in person. Your orthodontist can tell you whether aligners are right for your teeth and make other recommendations if not. Like most aligners, yours will likely be made out of a medical-grade plastic called polyurethane resin or may even be a well-known brand like Invisalign.
Your orthodontist will also be able to make small adjustments to your teeth tray after it’s made for fit or comfort. Regular checkups may involve extra costs, as some orthodontists include the checkup fees in the overall cost of aligners.
If you don’t have an orthodontist, check search engines and review sites, ask friends or family for recommendations, or ask a dentist for a referral.
- prompt care
- thorough exams and necessary tests
- regular checkups involve extra cost
- can get time-consuming and inconvenient
- Price: $1,895–$3,336
- Typical treatment window: 3–4 months (day) or 5 months (night)
- Insurance: Use this tool to find out if your dental insurance will cover part of the cost.
Byte offers the cheapest pricing and shortest treatment times of each company I researched. If you pick the all-day aligner plan without the protection plan, you’ll pay $1,895.
However, if you choose the at-night aligner plan with protection, your down payment will be $449, then 29 monthly fees of $99, for a total of $3,336. You’ll spread out your payments over 2-plus years, but you’ll still end up paying significantly more money.
The protection Plan costs $649 to $779 and includes 5 years of retainers, plus up to $2,000 in coverage for lost or stolen aligners.
To get started, purchase an impression kit, mail back your teeth impressions, and get your treatment plan. If you decide not to purchase a plan, the cost of the impression kit will be refunded.
- cheaper than most options
- shorter treatment time
- no long-term protection as with monthly plans
Best for mild alignment
For these options, and any aligners or braces, it’s best if you know the health of your teeth and gums. Even better if you have had a check-up recently or have a dentist you’re working with who can offer advice and support for your specific teeth.
- Price: $1,950–$2,386
- Typical treatment window: 4–6 months
- Insurance: Use this tool to find out if your dental insurance will cover part of the cost.
To get started with SmileDirectClub, you’ll need an impression of your teeth. You can get an in-person scan at one of their SmileShops, or mail in an impression kit you do at home. They turn these impressions into a 3-D model of your teeth, which a state-licensed dentist or orthodontist through SmileDirectClub will review, and then approve your treatment plan.
You can choose to wear your aligners 22 hours a day, or wear nighttime aligners for 10 hours per night. The aligners are made out of BPA-free plastic.
- offers different payment plans for convenience
- offers teeth scans in-store or with at-home kit
- needed, ongoing retainer usage after treatment can be costly
- Price: $2,400 one-time payment or $3,143 (36 monthly payments of $79 and $299 down payment)
- Typical treatment window: 6 months
- Pros: In-person consults and at-home starter kits are available. Candid has regular sales (for example, the Labor Day sale is $250 off aligners or $75 off the $95 starter kit).
- Cons: Founded in 2017, this relatively new company doesn’t yet have a long track record, and isn’t as well-known or trusted as older, more established brands.
- Insurance: Save up to $,1300 with in-network insurance; click here for details.
Candid provides options for many parts of the getting-your-aligners process. You can purchase your aligners with one $2,400 payment or spread out your payments over 3 years (though you’ll pay $3,143 total if you do it that way).
They also offer regular sales, so if you’re in no hurry, hold out for deals around Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They also let you choose either an in-person consultation with a doctor or a tooth impression kit for use at home. The aligners are made of a BPA-free, phthalate-free thermoplastic that is stain-resistant.
- offers in-person consultations
- home starter kits
- has regular discounts and other sales
- doesn’t yet have a long track record or strong trust like other options
Do invisible braces work?
Yes! Invisible aligners have been around for 20 years, with some
How do invisible aligners work? What do they do?
Invisible aligners slowly shift your teeth over time. You’ll get a set of multiple aligners, wearing each one for 7 to 14 days, and then graduating to the next size. The aligners are custom-made for your teeth and designed to slowly shift your teeth into a more desirable alignment.
How much do invisible braces cost?
Invisible braces can be a pricey investment, ranging from approximately $1,800 to $8,000. However, dental insurance or funds from a flexible savings account or health savings account may cover part of the cost.
How long is an average treatment with invisible braces?
Average treatment times range from about 3 months to 1 year. This time will vary based on your needs and how well you follow your treatment plan.
How many hours a day do you wear invisible braces?
For daytime aligners, you’ll need wear them for 20 to 22 hours a day. For night-only aligners, the requirement is about 10 hours a day. For daytime aligners, you only remove them to eat food, drink anything other than water, and brush or floss your teeth.
Who are invisible braces right for?
Aligners are best for people with mild to moderate spacing and crowding issues.
For more complicated cases, traditional metal braces are recommended.
For any kinds of braces, the time after the treatment period or after your braces are taken off is actually the most important. To keep your teeth in their new positions, you’ll likely need to wear a retainer for some portion of the day in the years after. Many people find this easier to do with plastic aligners since the retainer is the same as the aligner trays.
How can I know if they’ll work for me?
By asking your dentist or orthodontist, completing a risk-free consultation or impression kit from one of the above companies, and talking to co-workers, acquaintances, or friends who have used them.
No matter how you choose to get your invisible braces, you’re committing to daily use for 3 to 12 months, and the use of a retainer in the months after that. Make sure you’re ready for this daily commitment and that you trust the doctor and company you’re working with.
If you’re not sure which aligner option to go with, take advantage of risk-free trials. Schedule a few consultations, submit a few teeth impression kits, and pick the company that best fits your budget, your orthodontic needs, and your peace of mind. Good luck, and may your smile shine through.
Ash Fisher is a writer and comedian living with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. When she’s not having a wobbly-baby-deer day, she’s hiking with her corgi, Vincent. Learn more about her on her website.