A Buyer's Guide to Invisible Braces
Invisible braces companies have flooded the market since the expiration of Invisalign’s product patent. When comparing providers, you’ll find most companies offer a similar technology with differences in the aligner material, treatment price, accessories offered, treatment process, expert certifications, and satisfaction guarantees.
When searching for an invisible braces company, we recommend reading expert and customer reviews to better understand the pros and cons of each company. You can also compare prices to see which company offers the best cash price and financing options.
However, before you start narrowing down possible options, you should first determine if you’re a good candidate for invisible braces.
Are Invisible Braces Right for Me?
Invisible braces aren’t for everyone. Some orthodontic issues require metal or ceramic braces to fix major alignment issues. For example, if you have a large gap in your teeth, invisible braces can’t always close the gap. According to The Orthodontists, invisible braces can only reliably close up to 6mm of space per arch (top and bottom teeth).
You should also visit your dentist to assess the health of your teeth and gums before starting treatment. Complete any necessary dental care work before starting the invisible braces process. Even a minor filling could change the fit of your teeth aligners and require a treatment adjustment.
Clear Aligners vs. Other Types of Braces
Since the development of traditional braces in the early 1800s, other types of braces have entered the market. All braces and aligners are designed with the same purpose in mind of straightening your teeth over time, but before you decide on a specific type of braces, you may want to understand the difference between the four options: traditional, ceramic, lingual, and invisible braces.
Traditional Metal Braces
Traditional metal braces are composed of two basic components. A metal bracket is applied to the teeth and a bendable metal wire is then threaded through the brackets to apply pressure on the teeth. In the past, metal braces were extremely noticeable and made it difficult to navigate simple day-to-day activities like playing sports and eating certain foods.
New technology has made the metal braces smaller, less conspicuous, not as painful, and more efficient. This style is often popular among teenagers. However, there is still a slight stigma around metal braces and many adults opt for other options.
Ceramic braces or “clear braces” used to be a popular alternative to conventional braces as they are made from a ceramic material that is the same color and texture as your teeth. Popular among an older generation because of their discreet look, clear ceramic braces were once in high demand.
Presently, ceramic braces are still offered by some orthodontists; however, they generally are more expensive, stain more easily, and are more brittle compared to metal braces.
Lingual braces (also called inside braces) are attached to the back of the teeth allowing them to be less obvious than both the metal and ceramic braces. Orthodontists use scanned images of the insides of the teeth to create a unique, computer-generated bracket that is attached to the insides of the upper and lower teeth.
Lingual braces tend to be more expensive than traditional braces and can cause a temporary lisp because of close proximity to the tongue.
Invisible braces are a more inconspicuous way of straightening your teeth. The braces themselves aren’t exactly braces; instead, they are made from medical-grade plastic using a 3D scan of your teeth.
Invisible braces are trays that gradually shift your teeth into place. The trays are made from a putty mold — either taken by you or a dental professional. Upon receiving the impressions of your teeth, a licensed dentist or orthodontist will send a series of aligner trays that will be changed every few weeks. The aligners are custom-designed to steadily adjust your teeth over a certain amount of time.
Pros and Cons of Invisible Braces
Invisible braces work great for some people, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. Here are the pros and cons to using invisible braces.
Affordable — Affordability is one of the top advantages to choosing an at-home invisible braces plan. You can save thousands of dollars by choosing an at-home invisible braces treatment over traditional braces. Invisible braces companies have lowered treatment costs while still maintaining high quality processes and results.
While you’re not required to visit an orthodontist’s office, reputable invisible braces companies will still ensure your treatment plan is reviewed by certified orthodontists, giving you the same quality of treatment of traditional braces but for a more affordable price.
Extremely Discreet — Invisible braces are just as their name suggests: invisible (at least as close as you can get). Many invisible aligner users have even commented on how most people they interact with don’t even realize they’re wearing them.
Many adults shy away from traditional braces because they feel they look awkward and gawky, whereas clear aligners are fitted to your teeth, allowing you to smile and laugh without feeling self-conscious.
Removable — Unlike metal, ceramic, and lingual braces, invisible braces are removable. Users can take them out when eating, teeth brushing, and flossing. Traditional braces are notorious for restricting one's diet as those with braces are told to avoid popcorn, gum, pretzels, apples, and more.
There are no diet restrictions with invisible aligners.
Easy to Clean — Invisible aligners aren’t hard to clean like conventional braces; however, this doesn’t mean they can’t be cleaned. Over time, the trays can become clouded or slightly discolored and will need to be cleaned. Luckily for you, it shouldn’t take longer than two minutes. Using a toothbrush, simply clean them with soap and water or baking soda and water. Some companies, like byte, even include a free aligner cleaner in their aligner package.
Comfortable — One of the biggest complaints with metal braces is how uncomfortable they are. Wires and brackets are known to cause small nicks, and there are many horror stories of playing sports with braces. Wearing aligners is much more comfortable as the clear plastic is smooth with no sharp edges.
Convenient (At-Home Treatment) — An article by Forbes revealed that only 30 percent of millennials visit the dentist each year. Why? Well, the ADA discovered that millennials are not getting dental insurance through their employer, as more than 69 percent of health plans don’t include dental insurance, so millennials are opting to not go to the dentist at all.
Perhaps one of the best perks about the invisible aligner industry is that many companies — such as byte, Smilelove, and Smile Direct Club — give you the option to get straighter teeth while never having to visit the dentist.
Requires Diligence — Although there are some invisible braces companies that offer longer treatment options for consumers who only want to wear their aligners at night (such as byte’s byte at Night™ option) Invisible braces require consumers to wear them for a minimum of 22 hours a day. This means after you remove them when eating and brushing your teeth, you’ll need to remember to put them back in when you’re done.
This can get annoying, especially when you’re at a restaurant and have to take out your aligners. Additionally, you’re supposed to brush your teeth after each meal before putting the aligners back in your mouth — meaning you’ll have to brush your teeth several times a day.
Causes Some Discomfort — Some consumers mention sore mouths and occasional aches and pains when wearing invisible braces. That being said, straightening your teeth requires the readjustment of your teeth, and a little discomfort is normal. You will experience discomfort with any type of braces you choose. You can use a pain reliever to help minimize the pain while your teeth adjust to your aligners.
Only Treats Minor to Moderate Alignment Issues — Unfortunately, some orthodontic conditions require metal or ceramic braces. Some of these complex issues that may affect eligibility include severe overbite, rotated teeth, large gaps, and extreme tooth shapes.
However, as the industry advances, new technologies are emerging to reduce the current limitations of invisible braces. If you’re curious to see if invisible aligners will work for you, we suggest taking our invisible braces quiz or ordering an impression kit and getting the opinion of a licensed dentist and orthodontist.
Cost of Invisible Braces
The cost of your invisible braces largely depends on the extent of alignment your teeth need and how many aligners you’ll need throughout the treatment. The average price for invisible braces is between $3,500 and $8,000. However, you’ll need to talk with your dentist or orthodontist to get a better estimate of the final price based on your current teeth alignment.
If you choose to purchase invisible aligners online, you could be paying a lot less — especially if you pay the entire amount upfront.
- byte, Smilelove, and Smile Direct Club charge $1,895 for their aligners.
- SnapCorrect charges $1,749.
- EasySmile charges $1,880.
This price doesn’t include the cost of the impression kit, which will vary depending on which company you choose, but when compared to other invisible aligner companies, these are competitively priced.
The Invisible Braces Process: What to Expect
Impression Kit or Scan
Before starting your treatment, your invisible braces provider will need to take an impression or 3D scan of your teeth. When you order an at-home impression kit, you’ll receive all the supplies you need to create multiple molds of your teeth. These molds along with pictures of your teeth are sent back to the company to access your eligibility for invisible aligners.
Invisalign requires an in-person consultation to perform a 3D scan. Other providers may give you the option of attending a nearby location or ordering a diy impression kit. Once the company has approved you for treatment, you can expect to receive your set of aligners in the next few weeks.
Whether you choose an in-person treatment or at-home care, you’ll be given a stack of aligners identified by stages or steps. Each stage will slightly move your teeth until you achieve a straighter smile. You can expect some initial discomfort as your teeth begin to shift with the first set of aligners. However, this discomfort can usually be treated with common pain relievers.
You should plan on wearing your aligners for 22 hours a day unless otherwise directed by your provider. byte offers a byte at Night™ kit for those who want to wear aligners only at night.
Some at-home care kits also come with cleaning solutions to help keep your aligners fresh. Continue to wear your aligners as directed until you arrive at your final step. If at any time you notice that your aligners aren’t fitting properly, you should contact your orthodontist or your clear aligner provider.
Wearing Your Retainers
Once you’re finished with treatment, you’ll receive a set of retainers. You’ll want to wear your retainers for 22 hours a day for the first 3–6 months. Your newly positioned teeth need time to set as your jaw hardens again. Your retainers will ensure that your teeth do not continue to shift and alter your perfected smile.
After 6 months, you should continue to wear your aligners during the night. Your teeth will be more set in place around a year after your treatment. You may be able to reduce the amount of time you wear your retainers to 3–5 days a week. However, you should continue to wear your retainers even years after your treatment to ensure lifelong results. If you quit wearing your retainers, you run the risk of needing invisible braces treatment all over again.