Methodology - How We Rate Invisible Braces
Our brand partners are scored on a scale of up to 9.9, which is based on an algorithm that takes into consideration four parameters - Consumer Engagement, Customer Feedback, Brand Reputation, as well as Features and Benefits.
When reviewing brands of invisible aligners, we research the features and benefits of each brand, the value you get for the price of each teeth straightening kit, and the availability of reliable customer service.
What are Invisible Braces? (Teeth Aligners)
There are three main categories of braces:
Traditional metal braces are a system of brackets attached to each tooth. The brackets connect to each other with wire, which, when tightened, causes the teeth to move in the correct direction. Metal braces must be installed and maintained at an orthodontist’s office. Usually, patients visit the office once every four to eight weeks to have their wires tightened.
These work in the same way as traditional braces but are made out of a clear ceramic to match the color of your teeth. Like metal braces, treatment with clear braces require regular visits to an orthodontist’s office.
Clear aligners, also known as invisible braces, are a series of clear plastic trays that resemble mouth guards. They are worn on the top and bottom teeth to gradually move them into the correct position. Though they are not truly invisible, it is often difficult to tell when someone is wearing them.
Teeth Aligners vs. Metal Braces
There are several things to keep in mind when deciding whether to opt for traditional braces (made of clear or metallic materials) or aligners:
- Cosmetic appeal. Since aligners are difficult to see, they are an attractive option for those who are looking to subtly correct their teeth.
- Cost. The cost of traditional braces vary by region and by the severity of need for correction, but often fall in the $5-6,000 range. Treatment with teeth aligners can be as low as $895 with a fully-remote option like AlignerCo, or up to $5,000 in certain regions for an office-based option like Candid.
- Severity. Invisible aligners are ideal for many types of mild to moderate corrections, but if you have severe orthodontic issues, you’ll need to see an orthodontist for traditional metal or clear braces.
- Convenience. Many people find that aligners offer increased convenience, with the ability to remove them to eat and to clean the teeth. Traditional braces require regular office visits to tighten and maintain the braces, usually every 4-8 weeks. Most aligner brands do not require office visits: check-ins can be done remotely.
- Adherence. The convenience of removable teeth aligners can also backfire. The ability to remove the aligners means that they might not get worn for the required number of hours per day or night, which delays the ability to move to the next set of aligners and extends treatment times. Adherence issues can affect both teen and adult users.
How Do Teeth Aligners Work?
The process of teeth straightening with clear teeth aligners is relatively quick - on average about four to six months. To begin, you'll need to decide whether you want to opt for a fully remote service, or a company that uses some combination of virtual and office-based care. There are a variety of companies that use a 100% remote version, and several that require visits to a local office. Most websites offer a screening process to see if you might be a candidate for their product before you decide to buy an entire service or an impression kit.
Teeth Aligners - DIY Home Kits
Most of the companies we have reviewed offer an at-home impression kit to get you started with treatment. Some companies—Like AlignerCo—only offer this option. Impression kits are included with the price of treatment or sold separately if you don’t want to commit to the whole teeth straightening kit from the start.
The impression kit includes a tray and a putty-like substance to fill it with. You will gently bite down on the tray. The putty hardens after removal from your mouth. You’ll then send the mold to the aligner company so they can make your aligners. Most companies offer clear directions, online videos, and customer support to walk you through the impression process.
Clear Braces - In-Person Scans and Treatments
Several companies also offer the option to visit an office to get a 3D scan of your teeth, instead of a putty impression. SmileDirectClub and Strayt offer both options, while Candid only offers the in-person option. With a 3D scan, the orthodontist takes a picture using a special software system that maps the position of your teeth.
Whether you opt for at-home impressions or office scans, you'll need to wait for several weeks to receive your custom made series of teeth aligners. You’ll wear each pair of aligners for a specific amount of time, usually two or so.
With most companies, you have the option of choosing a wearing schedule: 20-22 hours per day for a quicker treatment time, or 8-10 hours per night with a longer treatment time. As you progress through your series of aligners, your teeth will move closer to their ideal positions.
After your treatment is finished and you're pleased with your results, you'll need to wear a retainer at night afterward, so your teeth don't move back to their original positions. Several companies include a first set of retainers in their treatment package. You’ll need to keep up with your retainers, and replace them every six months or so, to keep your teeth in line and maintain any money-back guarantees from the company.
Invisible Braces Cost and Treatment Times
Are Invisible Braces Right for You?
Aligners are used in a number of situations, and a professional orthodontist will be equipped to assess your situation to determine if you are a good candidate for this type of procedure. Some of the more commonly experienced dental problems that teeth aligners are used to correct include:
- Overly crowded teeth
- Widely spaced teeth
- Mild relapse after previous orthodontic treatment
- Simple bite irregularities
For more complex cases and severe dental irregularities, you’ll need to opt for traditional braces.
Most of the companies we’ve reviewed offer quizzes online to see if you are a good fit for their product. You can also contact the company through their website or call them to discuss your needs and concerns.
In some cases, the aligner company’s in-house doctors will review your impressions or 3D scan and discover that you are not a good candidate for correction with their product. In most of these cases, you’ll be able to receive a refund for anything you’ve paid so far.
Do Invisible Braces Work Faster?
The duration of treatment with any orthodontic solution varies greatly according to the needs of each patient. In general, you can get faster results with aligners than with traditional braces:
- Metal or clear braces: treatment times average 1-2 years
- Teeth aligners: treatment times average 4-8 months
With invisible aligners, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly. Not wearing them as directed means longer treatment times.
Maintenance and Cleaning of Invisible Braces
It’s important to maintain your aligners properly so they don’t degrade or cause bad breath or other problems. Each company provides instructions on how to maintain their aligners. Usually this involves soaking briefly in a cleaning substance--like vinegar, soap, or baking soda--and rinsing completely. Several companies sell special devices to clean and disinfect your aligners.
Natural Intelligence does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or your local emergency number immediately.