How Invisible Braces Work
The Basics of Invisible Braces
If you’ve been thinking about ways to straighten your teeth, you’ve probably already heard the term “invisible braces.” Sometimes called “teeth aligners” or “clear aligners,” they’re a great alternative to traditional braces.
Invisible braces work in a method similar to metal or ceramic braces, but the treatment can be a little more intensive. Over time, a series of trays (usually 18-30) slowly shift teeth into their correct positions.
Just like traditional braces, some types of invisible braces require the care of an orthodontist, but others do not. Costs can also vary from much more expensive than traditional braces to much less; however, it will depend on your specific situation and which company you choose.
Before you make the commitment, make sure that you’ve learned all you can about the options that are available to you. There’s much more to consider than you may realize.
Typical Types of Issues That Can Be Treated by Invisible Braces
Overcrowded teeth Teeth that have been forced out of alignment by pushing together
Crooked teeth Teeth are incorrectly aligned relative to each other
Underbite The lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw when the back teeth are closed
Overbite The upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth when the jaw is closed
Gaps between teeth Excess space between two or more teeth
Open bite The upper and lower teeth do not meet when biting down
Crossbite Misalignment that causes upper or lower teeth to fit inside one another
Types of Issues That Cannot Be Treated by Invisible Braces
Large gaps More than ¼ inch (six millimeters) between teeth
Tooth shape Small, rounded teeth and teeth with severe points may not work with aligners
Intrusion When a part of a tooth moves into a bone
Extrusion A tooth that has displaced itself out of its socket
Excessive midline movement A deviation from the midline of more than two millimeters
Types of Invisible Braces
- All-day: Clear aligners for teeth that are designed for all-day wear can be taken out for eating and cleaning, but that’s about it. For the best results, they must be worn approximately 20-22 hours per day.
- Nighttime only: Nighttime only aligners don’t work quite as quickly as all-day aligners, but they’re a convenient option for those who don’t need extreme changes. Still, they must be worn for at least 10 hours per day.
Invisible Braces Require Different Care than Traditional Braces
Invisible braces can be just as effective as traditional braces, but they require a different level of care. While you’re able to clean traditional braces when you brush, clear aligners must be removed and cleaned a few times per day.
Additionally, a person using clear aligners will go through 18-30 tray changes during the course of treatment. With traditional braces, an orthodontist does adjustments along the way, leaving you with little else to worry about.
Pros and Cons of Invisible Braces
Who Are Invisible Braces a Good Choice For?
At-home braces kits are great for those who have hectic schedules or those who can think of better ways to spend time than at the orthodontist. Even if you had braces when you were younger and you’re now experiencing teeth shifting, invisible aligners offer an alternative to the cumbersome braces you remember wearing as a kid. They’re also great for people who are self-conscious about their smiles and would rather not draw more attention to the fact that they have braces.
How Does the Cost of Invisible Braces Compare to Traditional Braces?
The cost of invisible aligners and traditional braces will, of course, depend on the level of treatment your situation needs. Traditional metal braces start around $3,000, and ceramic braces can be a bit more pricey.
When it comes to clear aligners, there are several options on the market. Many of them boast a full-treatment cost of approximately $2000 — much less than metal braces. While Invisalign is likely the most well-known option for invisible braces, it is also the most expensive — running up to $7,000.
Compare Our Featured Picks
Smile Direct Club
Founded in 2014, Smile Direct Club is a teledentistry company that designs and ships invisible braces to you. After taking an imprint of your current bite—either through the mail or one of their in-person locations—they send a sequence of at-home aligners right to your door. Most customers see results in about 60 days, and the company’s nighttime only alternative keeps things easy for lots of different lifestyles.
Smile Direct Club is nearly entirely remote and everyone’s smile is different, so it’s extra important that their live chat and 24/7 customer service phone line are available to make sure you get help when you need it. Additionally, their product fits comfortably on your teeth and is easy to remove. Designed to correct mild to moderate issues, Smile Direct Club delivers what it promises and provides everything you need to make little tweaks to your smile without shelling out big bucks for traditional orthodonture. Read the full review.
Byte provides at-home dental alignment options for people looking to correct minor issues with their smiles. After sending them an impression of your bite, the company then mails you a sequence of invisible retainers designed to show improvements in two to four months. The process is entirely remote, making Byte’s invisible braces a great option for people hoping to avoid lengthy visits to the orthodontist for small imperfections.
Byte has an edge over some competitors—namely that their exclusive HyperByte treatment can cut alignment times in half. They also have a handy tool on their site to help you figure out if your insurance will help with your invisible aligners. Byte’s other additional services—such as teeth whitening—and inventive approaches help them stand out in the at-home tooth alignment market. Read the full review.
Candid is a leader in the invisible braces market, promising to straighten out your smile and correct mild to moderate alignment issues in just six months. Their retainer methodology is overseen by licensed orthodontists, and—true their name—Candid does not make wild promises. Likewise, they remind their customers that this technology is new and are upfront about possible limitations.
While they are primarily a teledentistry company, they do have some physical offices and options for in-person diagnostics. One area where customers may notice room for improvement is Candid’s customer service, which has no live video or text-based option for communication. Candid remains a strong option with an emphasis on input from experts and flexibility for you. Read the full review.
Will my insurance cover invisible braces?
Although very few insurance companies will cover the total cost of clear aligners for teeth, many will pay a percentage. Every dental insurance company is different, so it’s best to check your policy’s coverage.
Do I need to visit my dentist first?
It’s always good to start any dental routine with a visit to the dentist, but not all invisible aligners require visiting the dentist before you start treatment. Several affordable teeth aligners begin with an at-home kit, and you’ll never need to see a dentist.
Can I get invisible braces with a payment plan?
Even if your dental insurance doesn’t cover your braces kit, there are several ways to pay. From in-house financing to health savings accounts, most companies offer some sort of payment plan.
Do invisible braces take a long time?
In a sense, the amount of time it takes for invisible braces to fix your teeth depends on you. Generally speaking, treatment can take between six and 12 months, but you have to wear them for the recommended amount of time (up to 22 hours per day). Wearing them less can prolong treatment time.
Can I eat while I’m wearing invisible braces?
Unlike traditional braces, invisible braces allow you to eat anything you want. They can be removed for any meal, snack, or special occasion; however, you shouldn’t leave them in while eating. You can drink water while they’re still in, though.
How Much Does Invisalign Cost?
Since Invisalign works with your orthodontist, treatment is quite a bit more expensive than aligners created by Byte or Smile Direct Club. Over Invisalign’s course of treatment, a patient will be fitted for up to 30 different trays and need to visit the orthodontist approximately every six weeks.
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Too Long, Didn’t Read?
If you’re looking for a way to fix your teeth at home, invisible braces might be a good option. Several at-home treatments make it easy to fit your schedule and your budget while giving you the smile you’ve always wanted.
Both traditional braces and clear aligners have advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to know how each of them works before you make a decision. No matter which one you choose, braces are a big commitment. After you inform yourself about the ins and outs of each, you’ll be ready to take the next step.