Millions of Americans each year rely on tooth alignment treatments to improve their bite for practical and cosmetic reasons. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, about one in five of them are adults.
However, braces tend to become expensive. Not only that, but traditional braces are also frustrating in terms of appearance, levels of discomfort, and the inconvenience of having to avoid certain foods we love. On top of that, many Americans are too busy to accommodate frequent visits to a doctor’s office to get treatment.
Thankfully, in 2021, you now have numerous options for invisible braces. These clear aligner treatments can remove a lot of the inconveniences and frustrations of traditional braces. With many providers, you don’t even need to visit a doctor’s office anymore. So how does all of this work, and what are your best options?
Our research team has tested all of the major providers and compared their services. Here in this guide, we’ll tell you all about the best invisible braces of 2021, along with the pros and cons, to help you choose which option is right for you.
For those in a hurry, here is a quick summary of our findings.
Summary of our recommendations for best invisible braces:
Byte manages to be one of the more affordable options without sacrificing quality. It also has the shortest average treatment length.
Byte delivers high-caliber customer care before, during, and after treatment (with a lifetime guarantee). For high quality, faster treatment times (thanks to HyperByte), and competitive pricing, Byte is an unbeatable value right now.
Current Deals: $100 off your aligners and 70% off your impression kit
Read on as we explain our rationale and share all of the pertinent details of the providers who rose to the top in our estimation.
- Why you should trust us
- What are invisible braces?
- How do invisible braces work?
- At-home vs office-based care
- Overall best invisible braces: Byte
- Best invisible braces for tight budgets: ALIGNERCO
- Best for orthodontist-only service: Candid
- Best invisible braces for more severe correction
- Invisible braces for teenagers
- What about the biggest names in invisible braces?
- What criteria do we use to evaluate home health products and services?
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
This guide, like all medical-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for medical accuracy. Additionally, we extensively test, experience, and order from each medical service we review. We try our best to give you unbiased, marketing-jargon-free descriptions of all the at-home health services evaluated based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.
Here’s a handy chart summarizing the invisible braces providers we examined.
|Company||At-home vs Office-based||Typical duration||Price||Type of doctors||BPA-free||Min age|
|Byte||Home||2-4 months||$1,895||Orthodontists & Dentists||
|ALIGNERCO||Home||6-11 months||$1,145||Orthodontists & Dentists||
|Smile Direct Club||Home||4-10 months||$1,895||Orthodontists & Dentists||
|Invisalign||Office||3-18 months||$3,000 - $8,000||Orthodontists & Dentists||
|ClearCorrect||Office||6-18 months||$2,500 - $5,500||Orthodontists & Dentists||
|Uniform Teeth||Office||6-12 months||$2,500 - $5,000||Orthodontists||
Though there are several types of inconspicuous or “invisible” braces – ceramic, lingual, and clear aligners – the most popular choice has become clear aligners. They’re the focus of this guide because it’s gotten to the point where “invisible aligners” and “invisible braces” are synonymous.
These invisible braces are a set of plastic aligner trays (sometimes called retainers or just trays) that a company creates for you in a series based on your starting dental impressions – how your teeth rest right now – and the ultimate goal for how your teeth will align when treatment concludes.
While some people may be allergic to the plastic in the trays, high-quality companies ensure that they are BPA-free to avoid health concerns
Invisible braces vs traditional braces
When comparing your set of options for tooth alignment, invisible braces are different from traditional braces in ways that are both cosmetic and more profound.
Invisible braces are, as the name suggests, much more discreet than traditional braces.
With traditional braces, there are foods you should avoid. Many crunchy snacks like pretzels, nuts, and popcorn are problematic. Certain candies are obvious no-nos. But other, less obvious foods can cause problems too if you try to eat them in basic ways you’d normally eat. The list includes raw vegetables, sandwiches, and even salads. Invisible braces, by contrast, are removed before each meal, which leaves you to enjoy all the foods you love and eat them however you please.
Dental hygiene is easier
Removing your invisible braces before brushing your teeth (and cleaning your aligners) also makes it easier to clean your teeth, as compared to traditional braces that can’t be removed during cleaning.
Level of discomfort
Invisible braces work by causing very small changes in the alignment of your teeth, using a series of trays. The gradual nature of the treatment path reduces discomfort.
Invisible braces present you with serious cost-saving opportunities. You can easily spend thousands of dollars more with traditional braces… though, as we’ll explain in a moment, this isn’t always a fair comparison.
Duration of your treatment
Many people who wear invisible braces complete treatment faster than those who wear traditional braces. But, again, this isn’t the fairest comparison to make.
Severity of your bite issues
Here’s why the cost and duration comparisons aren’t the most enlightening: invisible braces are usually not an option for anybody with severe malocclusion. (“Malocclusion” is the fancy dental term for a bad bite.) Instead, the invisible braces are best for those with mild or moderate bite problems. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect cost and duration to be the same for people with severe bite problems as they are for those with mild issues. If you want to pursue invisible braces, all of the good companies (like those in this guide) include a review process at the outset, during which trained professionals examine impressions of your teeth to determine if you’re a suitable candidate.
The treatment process with invisible braces involves a sequence of trays worn for specific periods of time and in a predetermined order. The result is an orchestrated realignment of your teeth in small increments. (If invisible braces worked any other way, they would cause much more discomfort than they do.)
You could think of your invisible braces treatment as a journey starting at point A and ending at point B. You won’t be relying on just one aligner tray to get from point A to point B. Invisible braces involve a series of trays that you’ll wear in a specific order.
This is because each tray will subtly adjust your bite a little more. Tray 1 begins the progress toward your final destination. Tray 2 will pick up the progress where your first tray left off. The progress will continue gradually through the whole series of ordered trays until you conclude with your final tray. This tray – or a very similar tray provided to you by the invisible braces company – will become your nighttime retainer.
Whether you opt for an at-home (teledentistry) or office-based experience with your invisible braces, here’s what you can expect from the process:
Step 1: Provide impressions of your teeth
This is the starting point of your treatment with invisible braces. It serves two purposes:
Your impressions help the dental experts at the company determine whether you can be treated using invisible braces; some alignment problems are too significant for aligners to fix.
Your impressions give the doctors the information that they need to map out your series of trays, from the starting tray (very close to your impressions) to the final tray (which will be the furthest removed from your initial impressions, making the finishing touches in adjusting your bite).
If you’re using an at-home invisible braces service, then you’ll buy your impressions kit upfront to take your impressions. These kits all hover around the same general price (just shy of $100) regardless of the company you choose. Don’t worry, though – if a company determines that your dental issue can’t be fixed with invisible braces, then you’ll get a full refund for the price of the impressions kit.
Step 2: Review and approve your treatment path
At this point, as long as you’re a suitable candidate for invisible braces, the doctors will present you with how your teeth will appear when treatment is finished. If you approve of this path in scope, cost, and outcome, then you’re all set!
Step 3: Receive your trays and begin treatment
You’ll be provided with a set of invisible aligners with information about the specific order in which you’ll need to wear them. Each tray will be worn for a varying number of weeks. You’ll need to wear these invisible braces for their specified period of time and in the specified order.
The aligners are intended to be worn at all times of the day and night except for meals and when cleaning your teeth and trays. This translates to 20+ hours every day.
Periodically, doctors will reach out to discuss your progress with you, as well as any concerns or questions you have. These check-ins are meant to ensure that your treatment is proceeding as planned and that nothing is threatening the success or the treatment timeline. Depending on the company you chose, you’ll be working either with dentists or orthodontists. The frequency of these check-ins also varies from company to company.
Step 4: Treatment ends and you adopt a nighttime retainer
At the conclusion of treatment – which takes a varying number of months depending on the company’s approach and the nature of your tooth issues – you won’t have to wear invisible braces at all while you’re awake. However, you will need to wear a nighttime retainer. This retainer preserves your new bite in the form that the final tray helped you achieve.
But you must wear it essentially for as long as you want your new alignment to remain ideal. If you stop wearing your nighttime retainer, your teeth could gradually slip back out of proper alignment.
While the general process of invisible braces may be consistent whether you opt for teledentistry (at-home care) or a more traditional, office-based path, there are significant differences. Based on our testing and analysis, your choice here boils down to several major considerations.
Nothing could be more convenient than treatment that doesn’t require you to leave your home. You can get great invisible braces without visiting a doctor’s office, saving lots of time.
Because of the lack of office- and staffing-related expenses, at-home treatments are typically less expensive than office-based invisible braces.
Severity of alignment issues
Invisible braces might not even be an option for you if you are dealing with severe bite issues. But when issues are significant, yet not too severe as to require traditional braces or dental surgery, office-based treatment paths are likely your better choice. In-person care enables the dental professional to use “buttons” – small, discreet anchors placed on your teeth – that, in conjunction with the aligners, can help solve tougher alignment problems. The level of attention that in-person care provides is difficult to replace fully in a remote plan.
Some at-home invisible braces companies are not covered by insurance. This used to be a bigger differentiator than it is today because, thankfully, two of our top picks – Byte (our best overall) and Candid – enable your insurance to cover up to 50% of treatment costs, if you have insurance that covers orthodontia. And if you have an FSA, too, you can reduce cost at Byte by $500 more.
- Significantly shorter average treatment time
- Top-notch customer service during treatment
- Complimentary teeth whitening
- Ages 12 and older can use Byte (as long as all baby teeth are gone)
- Price is very competitive
- “Byte for Life” guarantee gives you access to additional Byte treatment at zero cost in the future, if your smile ever moves out of alignment after treatment
- Night-only option available
- Insurance can cover a large portion of cost
- It can take around 6 weeks to get started
- Like other invisible braces, this isn’t a good option for severe alignment issues
Byte is our overall top choice of invisible braces in 2021. We believe it will be, for most people, the best invisible braces you can buy. Byte also happens to accomplish the fastest average treatment times while still being one of the more affordable options. Unlike some competitors, Byte accommodates patients ages 12 and up, as long as they’ve lost their baby teeth, which is great news for families with teenagers.
Byte is refreshingly unique in the growing and highly competitive field of companies providing at-home invisible braces. It does indeed result in faster treatment times, though your speed depends on:
- The severity of your malocclusion (bad bite)
- Your adherence to the 22 hours per day that you must wear the aligners
- Your discipline in using the HyperByte device
Like ALIGNERCO and many other companies, Byte’s team of dental experts includes both orthodontists and dentists. At Byte, orthodontists are the professionals who design and direct your treatment plan, since their specialized training in tooth alignment makes them the most qualified to do so. But unlike other teledentistry providers, Byte’s services include the FDA-cleared HyperByte device that emits high-frequency vibrations into your mouth to speed the treatment process and reduce discomfort.
HyperByte and the length of treatment
High-frequency vibration (HFV) isn’t a brand-new application in orthodontia, and a clinical study confirms that it results in faster treatment times (while also improving bone density post-treatment). An HFV device like HyperByte would commonly cost orthodontic patients nearly $1,000 by itself, but Byte includes it as a standard component in treatment.
Depending on your treatment plan (regular or night-only), you’ll put the HyperByte in your mouth for 5-10 minutes per day to see faster progress. HyperByte technology can cut your treatment time in half if you use it each day as specified in your plan.
To achieve the fastest treatment times as advertised by the company, you have to wear your invisible braces for 22 hours each day. That leaves 2 hours to do your eating and cleaning, which is typical of clear aligner treatments.
In our testing and analysis of Byte and the competition, we are convinced that Byte’s value, service, guarantee, and treatment times make it an unbeatable value right now. the patient experience at Byte is fantastic before, during, and after treatment.
- If Byte determines that you’re a candidate for clear aligners based on your impressions, the company gives you a 3D presentation of how your treatment will unfold, helping you visualize how your smile will look after treatment as compared to the present.
- During treatment, Byte keeps your communication channels wide open. If you have questions, you can talk with the company via your patient portal and using video chat, email, text, or phone call.
- The high quality of service doesn’t end when treatment ends, either. Byte gives you a lifetime guarantee that you’ll remain happy with your smile. If your teeth shift out of alignment at any time in the future, Byte will give you new treatment for free.
- The most affordable invisible braces
- At-home treatment path is very convenient
- Suitable for teens ages 13 and up
- NightOnly option for those who really don’t want to wear braces while awake
- The service relies on dentists in addition to orthodontists
- A little slower in starting your treatment (requiring about 5-7 weeks from sign-up)
For people with mild to moderate bite issues and a tight budget, ALIGNERCO is likely your ideal solution. ALIGNERCO’s invisible braces save you lots of money not just compared to office-based or traditional braces, but also compared to other at-home invisible braces.
If you’re on a tight budget or have multiple teens who’ll need braces, ALIGNERCO’s prices cannot be beat.
ALIGNERCO saves you thousands of dollars over traditional braces and in-office experiences. The company saves you hundreds of dollars compared to other at-home invisible braces.
We were also impressed that the company gives you the option of relying on exclusively nighttime invisible braces. However, at $1,345, the NightOnly option will cost you a couple hundred dollars more than ALIGNERCO’s regular invisible braces. And besides, part of the appeal of invisible braces is that you can wear them throughout the day without people even knowing.
ALIGNERCO’s invisible braces are also available for teenagers. For many families, particularly those with more than one child and a tight budget, you can save thousands on each teen’s braces when compared to Invisalign Teen braces.
With the lower price, however, come a few tradeoffs. ALIGNERCO’s average treatment duration is longer than Byte’s but basically on par with other competitors. There is no lifetime guarantee, though you can seek refinement of your bite for an additional $200 following treatment, if it’s ever necessary.
Nonetheless, we’re impressed by the company and its very affordable service. For more information, visit our full ALIGNERCO review.
- Less expensive than office-based options
- Orthodontists, not dentists, determine your treatment plan
- More frequent check-ins with the orthodontist
- 100% at-home teledentistry treatment
- Treatment includes complimentary whitening
- Not the cheapest at-home option
- Not the fastest average treatment duration
- Not for teens younger than age 17
Candid is our choice for those who want a treatment plan that relies only on orthodontists.
At a price of $2,400, you can find less expensive invisible braces. And with an average treatment duration of 6 months (though it can stretch to a year when alignment issues are more serious), you can find faster treatment paths also. Candid excels by providing excellent quality in its service.
The company relies only on experienced orthodontists – the best people to help guide you. These orthodontists will check in on you every two weeks during your treatment. Compare that to Smiles Direct, for instance, where the doctor reaches out only every 90 days and may not be an orthodontist. The value of this highly qualified attention makes Candid tough to beat.
There was a time when Candid required you to visit a Candid Studio to create a 3D model of your teeth. You still have that option, which we appreciate, but that requirement definitely was inconvenient for some people who lived far away from any Candid Studio.
Now, Candid has created an at-home impressions kit, which you can use to facilitate the creation of your 3D model without having to leave home at all. The option of completing treatment without visiting an office factored into our judgment of the company and its services. By introducing this option, Candid has removed one of its prior downsides, bringing it to the same level of convenience as other at-home providers and making for a significant improvement in the customer experience.
Primarily intended for adults, Candid’s invisible braces aren’t an option for teenagers except when the teen:
- Is 17-18 years of age
- Has lost all baby teeth
- Has parental consent for the treatment
For more information, visit our full Candid review.
When everything is handled from home, you have unparalleled convenience and can enjoy much lower costs. For most people – people with mild to moderate issues – at-home treatment today is the best solution.
But, as we described earlier, there are inherent advantages and disadvantages of choosing at-home invisible braces treatment or office-based treatment. One of the tradeoffs is that at-home care still can’t fully rival the level and nature of care you can receive from an orthodontist during an in-person visit. This can become an issue – and, in some cases, a dealbreaker – if your teeth alignment issues are severe. In those cases, nothing replaces an actual in-person examination.
When you make the commitment to office-based care, you open the door to the use of “buttons” in conjunction with your aligners. These “buttons” – tiny, very discreet nubs affixed to your teeth – allow an orthodontist to promote more significant movement using the aligners. Buttons aren’t an option with at-home care. They can help solve problems that the tray alone couldn’t solve.
For serious tooth misalignment issues, invisible braces might not even be an option for you. But if they are, your best bet will still be office-based care. And for that, we recommend Uniform Teeth. Why? It comes down to 2 major considerations:
For serious issues, you are better served by a doctor who specializes exclusively in alignment. Orthodontists receive special training that dentists do not. With other options like Invisalign, you might see an orthodontist or a dentist. Uniform Teeth only works with orthodontists, ensuring you have the best-trained professional partnering with you.
Uniform Teeth will cost you less than other office-based options like Invisalign.
Invisible braces are typically an option for teenagers as well as adults. In fact, some orthodontists are now using invisible braces with children, even those who haven’t lost their baby teeth, in some cases. Some top companies impose a minimum age requirement, while all of the at-home providers require that the patient have his or her permanent teeth.
Many of the advantages of invisible braces for teens are clear (no pun intended):
They’re virtually invisible, making unfortunate teasing or self-consciousness unlikely.
You can eat whatever you want. Maintenance of the trays is the top priority, but invisible braces have a lower impact on your dietary life. Growing teens love to eat.
Invisible braces are less painful than traditional braces.
Because they’re removed from the mouth during everyday brushing and flossing, invisible braces make oral hygiene easier for teens.
But there are a couple of reasons why invisible braces can sometimes be better for adults than for teens:
Losing the aligners
Teens are famous for misplacing things. (Some adults never outgrow this tendency, by the way.) Lost aligners can cause the cost of invisible braces to grow pretty rapidly.
The aligners only work if you wear them for the required number of hours each day. The more you cheat on those hours – taking a longer lunch break or forgetting to put them back in your mouth while you’re busy hanging out with friends – the longer the treatment will require. Lack of discipline can derail treatment, something that isn’t a concern with traditional braces.
You might wonder why we don’t recommend Invisalign or Smile Direct Club more highly than other competitors. We simply don’t believe those two giants in the industry are likely to be your ideal options in 2021.
Invisalign doesn’t offer an at-home treatment option and is basically the priciest choice for invisible braces. We believe you’re paying a higher price just for the recognizable name.
Smile Direct Club isn’t a recommendation of ours either. Why?
- With Byte, you could experience the same high degree of convenience and quality for the same price, while very likely completing your treatment faster.
- If keeping costs low is more of a priority than speed, then you’re better off with ALIGNERCO. The doctors are just as qualified but you’ll save hundreds of dollars.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. For most online healthcare services (also known as telemedicine or telehealth services), we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: Are the doctors on the service licensed to practice in the US? Are the physicians board-certified in the relevant practice areas? Do they have a high-quality medical review board with oversight? Are their treatment options FDA-approved?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the test provider offer discounts or free services to our readers?
Customer support: How well does the healthcare provider help you choose the best treatment? How clearly are the options presented? How well does the healthcare company help you understand options and get treatment if necessary?
Privacy: Are all treatments sent in discreet packaging? Will your data be stored securely? Could your data ever be shared without your permission?
Speed: How fast will you receive your treatment from the moment you click “buy?” Are doctors and medical professionals responsive to your questions and needs when you are messaging them? Are the waiting times stated by the company accurate and consistent?