Invisalign is probably the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “clear aligners,” but it’s hardly the only choice anymore. More and more at-home clear aligner companies are popping up, promising straighter teeth for a lot less money.
On the surface, at-home clear aligners and Invisaligners look pretty similar—they’re both transparent, plastic trays that gradually shift your teeth into place. But they’re actually quite different when it comes to price, process, and the types of smiles they treat.
Invisalign is the OG—it’s been around for decades and has fixed millions of mouths. But it’s also expensive. And time consuming, requiring myriad checkups. At-home clear aligners, on the other hand, cost about 60% less and claim to straighten teeth faster, without the hassle of multiple dentist visits. However, they’re not for everyone, especially more complex cases. Many at-home aligners eliminate in-person exams altogether, which can lead to ill-fitting trays, lackluster results, or even long term damage.
So what’s the right choice? Ultimately, you have to decide what’s right for you. To help make that a little easier, we’re breaking down the pros and cons of at-home clear aligners vs. Invisalign.
The Case for At-Home Clear Aligners
One of the biggest selling points of at-home clear aligners is price. Whereas Invisalign ranges from $3,000 to $8,000, most at-home clear aligners cost just $1,900. The reason? Few to no pricey dentist visits.
Most at-home clear aligner companies (SmileDirectClub, Candid, Byte) send you a DIY kit in the mail, which you use to take putty-mold impressions of your teeth. In some cases, you may also be able to go into a store for a digital scan. Others, like Dandy, have you see a local dentist for a pre-treatment checkup, X-rays, and 3D scan.
Then, they use remote dentists or orthodontists to create your treatment virtually and ship all your aligners, all at once, directly to you. This cuts down on not only costs but also time (no spending precious OOO hours in the dentist’s chair).
Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. A lot of dentists and orthodontists say putty-mold impressions are outdated and inaccurate, especially when they’re done by the patients themselves. The American Dental Association also recommends that all orthodontic work begin with an in-person evaluation by a professional (makes sense, given that moving teeth is a medical procedure).
Because they bypass the dental chair, most at-home clear aligners can treat only very mild cases. In fact, many straighten just your visible teeth (called the “social six”), which may make your smile look better but can mess up your bite in the process. This is also why at-home aligner companies have such fast turnaround times and usually aren’t covered by insurance.
However, not all at-home clear aligners are created equal. By partnering with local dentists and U.S.-based orthodontists, companies like Dandy are able to ensure healthy bites and take on bigger fixes while still keeping costs low. In-person, pre-treatment visits mean your full mouth—teeth, gums, bones—is taken into account and that any necessary procedures (fillings, root canals, IPR) are taken care of before you begin.
The Pros of At-Home Clear Aligners
- Cheaper (most cost around $1,900)
- Faster (takes 6 to 18 months on average)
- Fewer doctor visits
- Aligners get shipped to you in one box
The Cons of At-Home Clear Aligners
- DIY impression molds are messy and prone to error
- Less doctor supervision
- Most can treat only mild cases
- Not usually covered by insurance
The Case for Invisalign
Invisalign has a more hands-on approach: You begin by seeing an Invisalign-certified dentist or orthodontist, who takes a 3D scan of your mouth and creates your treatment plan. Then, every six to eight weeks, you go back in to pick up your aligners. Your doctor will also check on your progress and make sure the trays fit properly.
Because a dentist or orthodontist is directly involved in your treatment, Invisalign is able to take on more complex cases like overbites and underbites and may even be covered by your dental insurance. But it’s also the reason Invisalign’s price tag is so high. You’re paying not only for the aligners but also for all those time-consuming office visits. Invisalign also takes longer, though that’s partly because it tends to handle more complicated treatments than at-home aligners.
The Pros of Invisalign
- 3D digital scans
- In-person doctor supervision
- Can treat more complex cases
- May be covered by insurance
The Cons of Invisalign
- Expensive ($3,000-$8,000)
- Takes 18 months to 3 years on average
- Requires multiple dentist visits
- Aligners have to be picked up every 6-8 weeks
Which Clear Aligners Company Is Right for You
Choosing a clear aligners company comes down to what you can afford, how complex your case is, and how hands-on you want your treatment to be.
Invisalign has a proven track record and can be a great option if you have the time and money. However, not everyone can afford to spend $8,000 and three years to get the perfect smile.
Going with a cheaper at-home clear aligner treatment may seem like a good idea, especially if you’re strapped for cash, but it can also cost you in the long run. If your mouth isn’t healthy or you’re dealing with difficult teeth, not seeing a doctor upfront can lead to jaw pain, a bad bite, or even tooth loss.
Instead, look for an at-home clear aligners company that includes in-person, professional supervision. With Dandy, you get the best of both worlds: top-notch care from carefully vetted local dentists, an affordable price tag ($1,900 for simple cases, $2,600 for more complex ones), and the convenience of an at-home aligner (no unnecessary dentist visits).