Straight teeth in just six months: that’s the claim that has flooded billboards and brick walls in big cities, promising busy people they can get the smile of their dreams.
If that sounds too good to be true, it might be – for some people. While invisible braces certainly work for many people, the rising popularity and promise of convenience has made people in need of truly traditional orthodontic treatments turn to mail-order aligners.
In this guide, check out the different brands of invisible braces available, how they work, and whether you really need to see an orthodontist before spending a few thousand dollars on Invisalign-style dental trays. Spoiler alert ̵
What are invisible braces?
“Invisible braces” is the common language for what are actually called “clear aligners”. It’s also common for people to refer to all clear aligners as Invisalign, a brand name that has become a common term, such as Windex and Kleenex.
Invisible braces do the same thing as traditional metal braces – adjust the teeth slowly to straighten them and fix biting problems – except they are clear, made of plastic, and removable. You can take them off to eat and brush your teeth, and you never cut the inside of your cheek with a sharp metal brace (something all suspenders know all too well).
Most direct-to-consumer clear aligners use a mail order printing kit. You send the impression set back to the company, where dentists or orthodontists analyze it and create your custom set of transparent aligners based on the analysis of your teeth.
Where can you get clear mail order aligners?
In a world where you can, take one even , it should come as no surprise that several invisible mail-order brackets now exist. Here are five places to get clear aligners without visiting an orthodontist.
- Cost: $ 1,950 or $ 89 / month for 24 months
- Length: six to 18 months
- Insurance: Accepts FSA, HSA and CareCredit
- Method: Receive a 3D analysis of the teeth at a physical “SmileShop” or have the impression set sent to your home.
- Cost: $ 2,400 or $ 99 / month for 24 months
- Length: six to eleven months
- Insurance: Accepts FSA, HSA and insurance with an orthodontic benefit code D8040 for remote treatment.
- Method: Visit a personal Candid Studio to get fit for your aligners or order the $ 95 Starter Kit to record your impressions – fully refundable if the orthodontist team decides you’re not a good candidate for clear aligners.
- Cost: $ 1,895 or $ 83 / month for 24 months
- Length: Five months on average. You can opt for the Hyperbyte – a vibration frequency tool that supposedly pushes your teeth into place faster – for an average treatment time of 3 months.
- Insurance: Accepts FSA, HSA, CareCredit and eligible dental insurance policies.
- Method: Buy the impression kit (fully refundable if you are not a good candidate), return your impressions and wait for Byte to ship your aligners.
- Cost: $ 1,895 (no payment plans)
- Length: six to eight months
- Insurance: Accepts HSA and FSA; ask your insurance company for code D8040.
- Method: Order your kit, return your impressions for review, and wait for your aligners to arrive in the mail. Holders and a whitening kit are also included.
- Cost: $ 1,749 or payment plan options with Affirm
- Length: three to 18 months
- Insurance: Accepts FSA and eligible insurance.
- Method: Take an online assessment, complete an impression set at home and have your aligners shipped to your door.
What about Invisalign?
You might be wondering why Invisalign, arguably the most popular clear aligner provider, isn’t on this list. That’s because Invisalign is not a direct-to-consumer company, so you need to go through an orthodontist to be suitable for and treated with Invisalign. With Invisalign, you also need to attend periodic checkups with your orthodontist.
Those are downsides if you’re purely looking for clear mail order aligners that will help you complete treatment at home, but the Invisalign route offers some advantages.
For example, regular visits to an orthodontist will make sure your clear aligners are working as they should and that you are on track for straighter teeth. Your orthodontist can also check for new problems, such as an opening created by the aligners or erosion of the gums.
Who Should Get Clear Aligners?
Speaking of seeing an orthodontist, clear aligners aren’t for everyone and they can’t treat everything. Most clear aligners can treat overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite, small gaps and crowded teeth to some extent.
If you have a severe case of one of these conditions, such as an opening that is larger than two millimeters, your orthodontist may recommend traditional braces. Other situations where clear aligners may not be right for you include:
- Tooth rotation: If your tooth is rotated due to crowding, clear aligners may not be able to rotate the tooth into position.
- Intrusion: Clear aligners cannot fix a tooth stuck in the jaw bone.
- Extrusion: A tooth that sits high on the bone and is larger than other teeth cannot be fixed with invisible braces.
- Deformed teeth: If you have teeth that are rounded, pointed, or pin-down, clear aligners may not fit properly.
- Midline movement: If your teeth don’t match the imaginary line that intersects your face (your midline), clear aligners may not correct the misalignment if it’s more than two millimeters on either side.
If you have any of the above conditions, it is best to consult with an orthodontist before trying any brand of clear aligners. Even if you don’t have (or don’t think you have) any of these orthodontic complications, it is still worth seeing a professional before starting treatment. An orthodontist can discover problems you cannot recognize, which is why it is best to be personally evaluated before using aligners at home.
You may have a now imperceptible condition that can be made worse by clear aligners; something that only a trained specialist can inform you about during a personal appointment. For example, the orthodontists who make your mail order clear aligners cannot see and assess the health of support structures, such as your jawbone and gums. They also cannot see underlying gum disease, which can be made worse by any kind of orthodontic treatment.
“ Better safe than sorry ” certainly sounds when we talk about the long-term health of your pearly whites: Your orthodontist will say you are ready to send you on your way, or they will recommend other treatments to be safe, on a healthy way to achieve straight teeth and a good bite.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.