The Best Invisible Braces: Pros, Cons, and Reviews of Clear Aligners

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Best Overall

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Runner-up

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Fastest

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Best For Complicated Teeth

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Most Affordable

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Straightening your teeth used to mean unsightly and uncomfortable metal brackets, wires, and those dreadful rubber bands. Luckily, that's not the case any longer thanks to the invention of invisible braces.

In 2021, you can get invisible braces that straighten teeth in as little as six months — without the need for painful tightening of brackets, food limitations, or multiple orthodontist visits. That's a huge plus, especially during pandemic life.

Also called clear aligners or clear braces, this type of orthodontic treatment can help you achieve your straight-smile dreams faster and without a mouthful of metal. Check out the five best invisible braces brands you can choose from right now.

Your Invisible Braces Checklist

Consider the treatment process you need, the price point you're comfortable with, and other important factors before choosing the best clear aligners for your smile. Dentists and orthodontists agree these are the most crucial boxes to tick when deciding on an invisible braces brand:

An orthodontist- or dentist-led evaluation before treatment begins

An orthodontist- or dentist-led evaluation before treatment begins

A product guarantee

Regular care and check-ins by a professional

A mapped-out treatment plan that's easy to understand and easy to stick to

A post-treatment assessment in case you need further care

A clear and communicative team that values your experience

Raving reviews from people who have completed their own teeth-straightening treatment

The Best Invisible Aligners

Best Overall: SmileDirectClub

Perhaps the most popular brand of invisible braces, SmileDirectClub is also one of the best. SmileDirectClub is the best overall brand of clear aligners because of the sheer volume of customers and favorable reviews for the brand, demonstrating that it offers a good product with good outcomes.

SmileDirectClub has treated more than 1 million cases of misaligned teeth and shows no signs of slowing down.

Three Treatment Options

SmileDirectClub offers three ways to go about your treatment, making it one of the most flexible brands in the industry:

  • Mail-order aligners for a 100% at-home experience

  • An in-person consultation at a SmileShop followed by at-home treatment

  • Visiting an in-network dentist

You can also choose from two aligner schedules: Wear them for 22 hours per day or for just 10 hours consecutively at night. One major perk of SmileDirectClub? You receive all of your aligners at once, instead of having to wait for your next set and potentially experiencing shipping delays.

As for financing, SmileDirectClub accepts FSA and HSA accounts and offers payment plans. Your insurance may cover up to half of the total cost, too.

Cost: $1,950 plus $59 for the impression kit

Average treatment time: Four to six months

Impression method: Putty kit at home or 3-D image at an in-person SmileShop location

Treatment method: Mail order or through a licensed dentist

Nighttime-only option: Yes

In-person option: Yes

Pros: High volume of successful treatment reviews; fun extra perks like teeth whitening

Cons: Some past complaints about treatment outcome; retainers are an additional cost

Get started at SmileDirectClub.com.

SmileDirectClub product
SmileDirectClub product

Runner-Up: Candid

Candid is right up there with SmileDirectClub in terms of quality — and it's getting up there in the number of cases it's treated, too. The company has serviced tens of thousands of customers, according to its website.

Candid vs. Other Brands

While Candid is a great product, it fell to second place for a few reasons. Candid doesn't offer a nighttime-only option yet, which is becoming standard across clear aligner brands. Also, the Candid post-treatment guarantee is lukewarm compared to that of SmileDirectClub and others on this list.

Why Customers Love Candid

But Candid does make up for those downfalls in many ways. First, the company only works with orthodontists, not dentists like most other brands. Candid makes it very clear that orthodontists are the only professionals truly licensed and qualified to treat issues like overbites, crossbites, and crowded teeth.

Customer reviews show that Candid has phenomenal customer service and that treatment is simple, straightforward, and generally not a pain (what more can you really ask of the teeth-straightening process?).

Also, the remote monitoring system is the most robust of all clear aligner brands (the only treatment plan more thorough is Invisalign, but that's not remote). With your aligners, Candid sends a device that allows you to transmit images of your teeth to the orthodontist assigned to your case. This makes the process more streamlined and can even speed up your treatment. Candid is also the only brand to offer professional-grade Philips Zoom Whitening.

Candid does offer payment plans that could let you pay as low as $65 per month, although like the other brands covered here, a payment plan will end up costing you more in the long run. You can use your FSA or HSA to pay for Candid clear aligners, and your insurance may partially cover the cost.

Cost: $1,895 plus $95 for impression kit (free at Candid Studios)

Average treatment time: Six months

Impression method: At-home putty mold or 3-D image at Candid Studio

Treatment method: Mail order only

Nighttime-only option: No

In-person option: Yes, for the impression only

Pros: Impression kit cost is refundable if you're not a candidate; offers payment plans; only works with orthodontists; offers professional-grade Philips Zoom Whitening

Cons: No night-time option, retainers cost an additional $99

Get started at CandidCo.com.

Candid product
Candid product

Fastest Clear Aligners: Byte

If your main concern is how fast you can straighten your teeth, definitely check out Byte. The average treatment time for Byte customers is just three to four months. If you want to wear your aligners at night only, treatment time jumps up to five or six months, which is still pretty good (and comparable to the treatment timelines of other aligner brands).

Thanks to HyperByte technology, Byte invisible aligners cut treatment time in half compared to other popular brands. HyperByte is an FDA-cleared "aligner seating technology" that ensures your aligners stay where they're supposed to be.

How It Works

For five minutes a day (or 10 minutes with night-only aligners), you simply place the device in your mouth and let it emit high-frequency vibrations to speed up your treatment. It's included in the cost of your treatment — at a $900 value.

In addition to super-fast teeth straightening, Byte also includes teeth whitening gel and medical-grade retainers in your treatment cost. By the end, you'll have the most dazzling smile in your circle.

Byte accepts one-time payments and offers payment plans. You can also pay with your FSA or HSA. While Byte doesn't accept insurance up front, it does provide insurance experts to help you submit claims for reimbursement. Byte also accepts CareCredit and Splitit for payment.

Cost: $1,895 plus $95 for the impression kit (refundable if you don't qualify for treatment)

Average treatment time: Three to four months or five to six months for the night-only option

Impression method: Putty mold at home

Treatment method: Mail order

Nighttime-only option: Yes

In-person option: No

Pros: Retainers included in the cost; lifetime guarantee; accepts FSA and HSA

Cons: No in-person locations

Get started at ByteMe.com.

Byte product
Byte product

Best for Complicated Teeth: Invisalign

Mail-order invisible braces can fix lots of problems but not all problems. If your smile requires something a bit more heavy duty, consider opting for Invisalign, which is only offered through licensed dentists and orthodontists.

Invisalign is one of the most well-known brands of clear aligners and has been around since 1998. But Invisalign has fallen out of favor for many people due to quicker, less expensive clear aligner options on the market. Invisalign treatment takes at least a year on average, and the cost is comparable to traditional braces.

Invisalign vs. Other Brands

Those downfalls are well worth it for people with complicated orthodontic issues that require a regular cadence of in-person, professional supervision and monitoring. Dentists and orthodontists must go through specialized training to become licensed to provide Invisalign. Because of this, customers know they're getting top-of-the-line treatment.

Clear Aligner Attachments

The reason Invisalign can treat more cases than other clear aligners? Invisalign offers attachments, which allow the aligners to tug your teeth into place with more force than aligners from other brands. Not all Invisalign customers require attachments, but they are certainly the ticket to straightening complex teeth without metal brackets.

Financing for Invisalign will depend largely on the dental or orthodontic practice you go to, as well as basic factors like how long your treatment will take. If you're interested in Invisalign, talk to your provider about cost and payment options.

Cost: $3,000+ (depends on provider and teeth condition)

Average treatment time: 12 to 18 months

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

Treatment method: Clear aligners at home with regular in-person visits

Nighttime-only option: No

In-person option: In-person visits required

Pros: Safely treats complex teeth issues; offered through specially trained doctors

Cons: Longer treatment time; more expensive

Get started at Invisalign.com or by contacting your orthodontist.

Invisalign product
Invisalign product

Most Affordable: AlignerCo

AlignerCo is one of the newer companies in the clear braces arena, but it's quickly made a name for itself. While the brand doesn't have the customer volume of SmileDirectClub, Invisalign, or Byte, the reviews it has received so far are mostly positive.

As the company gains more customers, it'll be easier to see a complete picture, but for now, AlignerCo is worth checking out if you need a more affordable invisible braces option.

The $1,145 price point includes your impression kit, aligners, one set of retainers, and access to a dental team. AlignerCo often runs a sale on its already-low price, too.

Financial Options with AlignerCo

It's clear that AlignerCo values straight teeth for everyone. To make the product even more accessible, the company offers financing plans without a credit check, so everyone qualifies. The bottom line: If you want a high-quality product and a glowing smile for a low price point, go with AlignerCo.

Cost: $1,145

Average treatment time: 6 to 11 months

Impression method: At-home putty mold

Treatment method: Mail order only

Nighttime-only option: Yes

In-person option: Impression-only service at SmileStudios

Pros: No surprise fees; low price point; financing options

Cons: No in-person locations; longer average treatment time than other brands

Get started at AlignerCo.com.

AlignerCo product
AlignerCo product

Who Should Get Invisible Braces?

Anyone with minor to moderate orthodontic problems can benefit from invisible aligners, especially people who have cosmetic-only concerns. All of the invisible braces brands in this guide can fix crooked teeth, gapped teeth, crowded teeth, and some minor cases of rotated teeth, underbite, overbite, and open bite. If you're not sure whether your teeth are a good fit for invisible braces, consult an orthodontist. (Related: The Best Teeth Whitening Kit for a Brighter, Whiter Smile)

Invisible Braces vs. Traditional Braces

Though clear teeth aligners have several advantages over traditional braces, there are also many benefits of choosing metal braces. For starters, invisible aligners are not recommended for major orthodontic issues, including significant overbite, underbite, and crossbite. If you have one or more missing teeth, you may need traditional braces.

On top of those complex orthodontic situations, metal braces might be best for people who aren't great at sticking to their oral health routine. If you can't remember to put your aligners back in after dinner, for instance, you won't get the results you desire. (Related: How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth)

Finally, metal braces have more force than clear aligners, and they are better positioned to help you achieve a near-perfect set of teeth.

Are Invisible Braces Safe for Your Teeth?

One common concern about clear aligners is that they can potentially cause damage to your teeth or jaw structure. In the past, some buyers of invisible braces filed complaints about painful problems related to their treatment, such as migraines caused by an improper bite.

It's important to remember that invisible braces aren't a good fit for everyone. Pre-treatment research and/or a consultation with an orthodontist will help you determine whether you're at risk for problems caused by clear aligners. Those with major orthodontic issues should pursue traditional braces for proper treatment. (Related: TikTokers Are Using Magic Erasers to Whiten Their Teeth - But Is There Any Way That's Safe?)

Additionally, if you're checking in with your assigned dentist or orthodontist throughout the duration of your treatment, you should be able to catch any potential problems and stop treatment before things worsen. Always check in with your provider if something feels wrong.

How Much Do Invisible Braces Cost?

The cost of clear aligners varies by brand, but in general, they tend to be less expensive than metal braces. There is one exception to that rule: Aligners offered exclusively through orthodontists, such as Invisalign, cost more than mail-order aligners and typically run close to the price of regular braces.

Amanda Capritto, CPT, CHC, CF-L1 is a health and wellness writer as well as a certified personal trainer, health coach, and CrossFit enthusiast. In addition to writing about health, she loves to write about travel, fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in well-known digital publications such as CNET, LIVESTRONG, Verywell, SlickDeals, Health Journal, THE WELL, and more.