Are clear braces right for you? If you're looking at the types of braces available for yourself or your child and you want something less noticeable than metal, chances are you're considering fixed clear braces or removable aligners (invisible braces).
Both are a popular choice for adults and teens who want to straighten their teeth discreetly, and both are very effective at producing good results.
Here we offer a comprehensive guide to answer the following questions and more:
- What's the difference between clear and traditional braces?
- What about clear aligners like Invisalign?
- How do they work?
- Which brands are available in the UK?
- How much are clear braces in the UK?
- What are the pros and cons of invisible and clear braces?
We hope this information helps you make the right decision about orthodontic work for yourself or braces for your child.
Table of contents
Clear braces vs. invisible braces
Let's begin by clarifying what we're talking about here. ‘Clear braces' are like conventional metal braces but with clear brackets (and sometimes tooth-coloured wires). Many people also include clear (or ‘invisible') aligner braces in this category, since they also are made from clear material.
Both types of brace do an effective job of straightening misaligned teeth in an inconspicuous way. The differences occur in the way they work, how they look, what it's like to wear them and how much they cost.
We will look at some of the most popular brands of clear brace in the UK, including Damon Clear and Clearsmile, so you can understand the differences between each one. We have also included information about clear invisible braces like Invisalign so you can easily compare the two options.
Other than the fact that both options are constructed with clear/light coloured materials, there aren’t many similarities between clear braces and
clear removable aligners like Invisalign. They’re different products and different ways of fixing misaligned teeth.
Clear braces are simply traditional braces with wires except they’re less noticeable. Aligners are plastic trays that you can take in and out to eat, brush
or attend an event like an important business meeting.
Products like Invisalign are less noticeable than clear braces because there are no brackets or wires.
When making a decision between clear braces and Invisalign, start at the beginning and think about whether you’re interested in traditional braces or removable aligners. With aligners, the patient is responsible for wearing them 20 hours a day to achieve optimum movement.
Braces on the other hand are attached and cannot be removed. Determine if you would prefer to be in control of your aligner wear or let the braces do their work. In addition, keep in mind aligners are not always the best treatment option in severe cases of teeth misalignment.
Dr. Clarke Stevens, Braces Omaha
Who can wear these braces?
Teeth straightening with braces is often most effective in the teenage years when the teeth and jaw are still developing. This doesn't mean you can't wear braces later in life; in fact, many adults also undergo orthodontic treatment with great results.
One thing that may limit your choice of braces is the severity of your case. For example, Invisalign braces can treat 90% of orthodontic cases but in the other 10% where teeth very are badly misaligned, braces that use a wire and bracket system might be the only option.
Tooth-coloured ceramic braces are another option for people who want a subtle way to straighten their teeth. The choice between clear and tooth-coloured braces may come down to the natural colour of your teeth.
People with naturally bright, light teeth usually find that transparent braces are the least noticeable option. For people with darker tooth shades, the tooth-coloured ceramic material can be a more natural match. Apart from this, these two types of brace function in the same way.
How do clear aligners work?
Aligner systems are a completely different solution for straightening teeth. They consist of a series of clear plastic aligners (or ‘trays') which fit snugly over the teeth. Trays are custom made for each patient from dental scans or impressions. Every two weeks or so the patient must switch to a new tray, and bit by bit they shift the teeth to the desired position.
Treatment with invisible braces typically takes between 9 and 18 months, although for mild cases it can be between 4 and 6 months.
One big benefit of clear aligners is they can be removed – although only for 2-4 hours per day. This allows the wearer to eat what they like and clean their teeth as normal. They are also far less noticeable than any kind of fixed braces – even those with clear brackets – so are an excellent solution for people who want to straighten their teeth discreetly.
Aligners can present some inconveniences, though. If you have removable braces you should clean your teeth after eating or drinking anything other than water, otherwise, bacteria gets trapped inside the trays and increases your chance of dental caries and gum disease.
They also require the wearer to have some willpower – if you lack this, fixed braces may be the better choice!
There are many brands of teeth aligner in the UK, all offering discreet teeth straightening.
The cost of clear aligners ranges from £1,300 to £5,500, depending on the brand you choose and your treatment length. Our guide to the best UK teeth aligners has more information about costs, treatment types, and the practicalities of wearing them.
How do clear fixed braces work?
Just as with conventional metal braces, clear brace brackets are attached to each tooth and then connected with a wire. This system is effective at treating all kinds of tooth misalignment.
Through careful placement of the brackets your orthodontist can manipulate your teeth in all directions to pull them into proper alignment. Treatment usually takes 18-24 months, although some brands offer faster treatment thanks to the technology they use.
The following video shows a time-lapse of one patient's success with clear fixed braces:
Traditional fixed brace systems require an orthodontist to tighten and adjust the wire regularly. Users often report sore teeth for a day or two after each tightening.
On the other hand, newer self-ligating systems use advanced technology wire which automatically adjusts gradually during the course of treatment. This results in a more comfortable experience for the wearer and reduces the number of checkups needed.
What are clear braces made of?
Clear brace brackets are made from clear ceramic material or plastic polycarbonate. Most systems use a metal wire to connect the clear brackets, but patients may have the choice of a white archwire. These are generally more expensive but have the benefit of making the braces far less obvious, especially from a distance.
While wearing clear ceramic braces you will need to take extra care to keep your teeth clean, especially the places that are hard to reach with normal brushing.
Although they can be a little uncomfortable at first, most wearers soon get used to their braces and don't experience any ongoing discomfort. There is the possibility for mouth sores while the cheeks and gums adapt to the new fittings, but using braces wax will help reduce abrasion.
According to a 2018 report from the British Orthodontic Society, almost all orthodontists in the UK offer traditional metal braces, while upwards of 75% offer clear aesthetic brackets as an alternative. A similar number supplies clear aligners, so whichever option you choose, it shouldn't be too hard to find an orthodontist to treat you.
Brands of clear braces in the UK
UK clear aligner brands: In-office
If you're leaning towards getting clear aligners, there are two ways you can go about it. The traditional route is via a dentist, but you may also be eligible for direct-to-consumer aligners, which cut out dental visits and are therefore much cheaper. Let's look at the brands you can get in a dental office first.
Invisalign is the leading brand of aligners around the world. The American company behind the braces, Align Technology, was the first to develop a clear aligner brace back in 1999. Since then, they have brought out a range of products to suit different needs.
The Invisalign system uses some of the industry's most advanced technology, including the iTero® digital scanning system, which creates a 3D image of your mouth to help plan predictable treatment. Using their app, you can monitor your progress online besides in-person visits.
All of this technology means that Invisalign can treat up to 90% of orthodontic cases, but it also means they are towards the higher end in terms of price.
ClearCorrect is another brand of clear invisible brace available in both the US and UK. Designed and manufactured in Texas, they function in much the same way as Invisalign aligners.
It's recommended that you wear the trays for at least 22 hours a day for optimum results. Learn more about ClearCorrect and how it differs from other brands in our separate guide.
Smilelign is a UK-based company that offers clear aligner braces. They work with a large network of dentists across the country and provide treatment in-office.
One of their unique selling points is that they provide pre-aligners that fit your teeth in their current position and let you feel what it's like wearing them. However, this service comes with a fee; usually £150 to £200 on top of your treatment fee. Our Smilelign review explains more.
UK clear aligner brands: Direct-to-consumer
Since clear aligners don't require regular dentist visits for tightening and adjustments, it's possible to carry out the process remotely via online monitoring. Several companies in the UK offer aligners via a direct service like this.
The main benefit of choosing one of these brands is the cost. They are much cheaper than other brands like Invisalign, and some include retainers and teeth whitening in their packages.
They could also be a good choice for people who can't get to a dentist easily or have a dental phobia.
That said, we would always recommend that you visit a dentist for a general checkup before commencing any of these treatments. If you have untreated cavities or gum problems, aligners could make them worse.
- Free scans at 17 UK SmileShop locations
- Nighttime aligners available
- Lifetime Smile Guarantee™
- £1,639 or £69.43/month + free teeth whitening
SmileDirectClub has been offering aligner treatment at home for over 8 years, making them one of the most experienced companies in this market.
Treatment takes 4-6 months on average, or 10 months for nighttime-only aligners. Their UK-based customer care is available 24/7 should you need to reach out at any time.
There are several ways you can get started:
- Take a smile assessment to see if you're eligible
- Order a home impression kit
- Visit a SmileShop for free scans (17 UK locations)
Every aligner package comes with free bright on™ teeth whitening, so you can whiten your teeth while you straighten them!
- Free retainers and whitening
- Nighttime aligners available
- 0% interest finance options
£1,395£1,295 or £83.33/month
NewSmile is a Canadian company that brought its clear aligners to the UK market in 2022. NewSmile aligners are made from the clearest material and the company offers excellent service at the best price.
They don't have any physical locations, so you'll need to purchase an aligner kit to get started. One of their Impression Specialists will guide you through the process on a video call when you're ready.
NewSmile aligners are very affordable, costing just £1,395 (currently discounted to £1,295). But even better, this price includes whitening foam to use in your aligners, plus your first set of retainers!
Choose their daytime package for treatment in 4-6 months, or nighttime aligners for a more discreet treatment that takes 8-10 months. Both options come with 0% interest payment plans available.
SmileDirectClub is a well-known and affordable at-home clear aligner brand. They have a network of 17 SmileShops across the UK, which are physical locations that you can visit for a free 3D scan. Alternatively, you can order a teeth impression kit to do at home.
Whichever option you choose, you will receive your aligners in the post around 4-5 weeks later. Every week or two you switch to a new pair of aligners, as they gradually move your teeth to their new position. Once your treatment is finished, you can use SmileDirectClub retainers to keep your smile in place.
SmileDirectClub can keep their prices low because their team of dentists and orthodontists monitors your progress online, via an app. The cost of their aligner package is £1,639, with finance available. Treatment takes 4-6 months on average.
They also have the option of nighttime-only aligners, which you wear for just 10 hours per day. These will extend your treatment time to around 10 months, but you can keep your treatment a complete secret.
Read our full guide to SmileDirectClub here.
NewSmile aligners came to the UK in 2022, having operated successfully in Canada and the US for several years. They offer one of the best value packages on the market: just £1,295 for all your aligners, one set of retainers, and a teeth whitening kit.
NewSmile also let you pick between daytime and nighttime wear, and they have 0% finance plans available.
There are no physical locations, so you will need to take your teeth impressions at home. You can book a video call with one of their specialists if you need help with this process. Once you start wearing your aligners, you use their app to track your progress with your assigned dentist or orthodontist.
More information is available in our full NewSmile review.
Fixed clear braces brands
Here are some of the main brands offering fixed-bracket clear braces in the UK:
3M Clarity ADVANCED
Clarity ADVANCED clear braces from 3M are designed to be stain-resistant, so you don't need to restrict your food and drink choices to avoid discolouration.
The brace brackets have rounded corners and a low profile to reduce the chances of irritation to the inside of the mouth. Comfort is certainly a top consideration when it comes to choosing the right braces for you.
Although you're probably choosing clear braces to make them less noticeable, these ones do come with the option to wear your clear braces with coloured bands if you fancy a splash of colour for a change.
This is one example of a self-ligating brace – one which ‘tightens' itself. This has several benefits over the traditional system:
- The adjustment process happens continuously over time so is more comfortable than adjustments in stages
- The sliding mechanism means less pressure on teeth
- Fewer dental checkups are needed
- They are easier to keep clean as they don't use elastics
- Available without any visible metal parts
All of these perks come at a cost, of course, but it's a price that many patients are willing to pay for the convenience, discreetness and comfort offered by Damon braces.
Here you can see the process of having their braces fitted:
Radiance Braces are made by American Orthodontics and are extremely strong since they are made of sapphire (the next strongest thing to diamond). They have a glass-like appearance, making them the clearest braces available on the market. In fact, they're actually rather alluring as far as braces go. This is definitely a luxury option though, as they are one of the most expensive brands of braces available.
Brands that offer both aligners and clear braces
Quick Straight Teeth
This is one of the UK brands that offer express treatment. Quick Straight Teeth use aligners or clear braces to get fast results in around six months. However, they only work on the front six to eight teeth so aren't suitable if you have a more complicated bite problem.
Price-wise, QST costs around the same as Invisalign Lite, possibly more. But if you opt for the clear fixed braces, it'll probably work out cheaper than some other brands.
Six Month Smiles
Six Month Smiles is very similar to Quick Straight Teeth because it offers both aligners or clear braces depending on the complexity of the case. This brand also promises to straighten teeth over a treatment time scale of six months.
UK-based company Clearsmile provide both a fixed brace and an aligner system for teeth straightening.
Their fixed brace is self-ligating so offers similar benefits as the Damon system. The archwire used in Clearsmile braces is coated white by default.
The aligner treatment focuses on the front 10 teeth only, so isn't suitable for patients whose back teeth need to be re-aligned. This type of treatment can take just 4-12 months to complete.
Choosing a brand
Many orthodontists prefer to work with one or two particular brands, so you're unlikely to find a dental clinic offering this full range of choices. There are many other brands available that we haven't listed here. Remember that more established companies like Invisalign have had more time to refine the technology used in their products – newer companies won't necessarily have the same level of experience.
It's a good idea to ask your dentist or orthodontist why they recommend a certain brand. They may have a preference based on costs, performance, service from the company, technology, and a number of other factors. If you're not happy with the one they use, or think they are putting their own profits above your personal needs, you can always look around for an alternative.
How much do clear braces cost in the UK?
In the UK, clear braces cost between £2,000 and £5,500 for most people, with the average treatment being around £2,500 – £3,500. However, a lot depends on the length of your treatment and the type of braces you choose.
The cost of clear fixed braces is typically higher than their all-metal counterparts because of the materials and technology used. Because of the higher cost of clear braces vs. metal braces, some patients may opt for cheaper metal brackets on the lower teeth, which are less visible, and clear brackets on the upper teeth.
Before we look at what different kinds of invisible and clear braces cost, keep in mind that prices can vary greatly from one dentist to another. The price charged will also depend on your location and the length and complexity of your treatment.
Of course, if you opt for one of the at-home aligner brands we mentioned, you'll know the cost of your treatment up-front.
Can you get clear or invisible braces on the NHS?
No, the only braces offered on the NHS are traditional metal braces. They are also generally only available to under-18s, although occasionally adults are given NHS orthodontic treatment.
If you want clear braces – fixed or removable – you'll need to pay for them privately.
Clear and Invisible braces costs (private)
So, how much are invisible braces, and what do fixed clear bracket braces cost with a private dentist in the UK?
We have already talked about some of the main brands available, and below you can see approximate prices for these clear braces and aligners. With the exception of at-home aligners, which have a fixed price, you'll need to visit a dentist to know the exact cost for the treatment you need.
Fixed brace or removable aligner?
£3,200 - £5,500
£2,500 - £5,000
Removable aligner (in-office)
£2,000 - £5,500
Removable aligner (in-office)
£1,800 - £4,500
Removable aligner (in-office)
£1,500 - £4,500
Smile Direct Club
Removable aligner (at-home)
£1,639 (see full pricing here)
Straight My Teeth
Removable aligner (at-home)
£1,295 (see full pricing here)
Prices correct at time of writing but subject to change.
Although this table gives an idea of clear brace prices in the UK, it's definitely worth shopping around to get quotes from a few different dental clinics. Ask your dentist if they offer an interest-free payment plan to help you spread the cost of your treatment.
How to take care of clear braces
If you opt for clear fixed braces you'll need to take some extra precautions while you're wearing them.
Your orthodontist will show you how to clean your clear braces and teeth properly. This will take some extra time each day as braces contain so many nooks and crannies where food can get stuck, leading to a build-up of bacteria.
If possible, you should clean your teeth and braces straight after eating. If this isn't possible, at least rinse very well with water. To floss below the archwire it will help to use a water flosser, floss threader or interdental cleaner.
What not to eat with clear braces
Your dentist will also tell you which foods are best avoided while wearing braces, in order to keep both your braces and teeth in good condition. These might include:
- Hard foods like nuts, biscuits and ice
- Chewy foods like sweets, cereal bars, bagels and chewing gum
- Crunchy foods like apples, raw carrots, crusty bread and crisps
- Acidic foods like pickles, vinaigrette dressings and fruit juices
Although clear brace brackets shouldn't stain too easily, clear or white elastics can become discoloured from the foods and drinks you consume. You should therefore minimise your intake of things like red wine, curries and tomato sauces. When you do consume foods that are likely to stain, you can rinse your mouth soon afterwards to reduce the risk.
Habits like nail biting or pencil chewing can also cause damage to the wires or fittings. Since the ceramic material used in clear brackets is more brittle than metal, it's crucial that you follow your dentist's instructions.
Did you know that it's just as important to look after your teeth carefully after your braces come off?
After spending all that money on braces and having gone through the inconvenience of wearing them, you finally have that smile you'd been dreaming of. You can look after your teeth by:
- Brushing twice a day and flossing at least daily
- Using an electric toothbrush
- Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash between brushing
- Visiting your dentist regularly
- Wearing your retainer as advised (see below)
- Cleaning your retainer daily
Most patients will want to have a thorough dental cleaning when their clear braces treatment is over, to remove any plaque or stains that has built up around the brackets.
Wearing a retainer
As with any tooth straightening treatment, you'll probably have to wear a retainer every night (and perhaps during the day at first) for as long as you want your teeth to remain in their new position. Even after years of being held in place by braces and a retainer, left to their own devices they can soon revert to their previous wonky state.
There are two types of retainer: removable and fixed. Fixed (or ‘bonded') retainers consist of a thin wire inconspicuously attached behind the front 4-8 teeth to stop them moving out of position. These need to be cleaned with the same attention as fixed braces.
Removable retainers come in two styles:
- Wire retainers wrap around the teeth and are secured with an acrylic plate
- Clear retainers look like aligner braces, the difference being that they don't need changing every two weeks
Removable retainers are much easier to clean and allow the wearer to eat and brush their teeth as normal. However, there is the potential for them to be lost or damaged.
This can get expensive over the years, since dentists charge anywhere between £100 and £300 for wire retainers (such as Hawley retainers) and £70 to £150 for clear retainers (such as Essix retainers).
Both types of removable retainer will need to be replaced at some point anyway. If you look after them well they can last for five years or more.
Your dentist will be able to advise you whether a fixed, wire, or clear retainer would be most appropriate for preserving the new position of your teeth.
Summary: pros and cons of clear braces
If you're considering clear braces vs. metal, it's really a matter of price vs. aesthetics. With clear vs. invisible braces, though, the decision may be more complicated. Here's a summary of the information given in this article so you can more easily decide between invisible and clear braces, including at-home aligners.
Type of brace
Invisible (removable aligner)
Less noticeable from a distance than all-metal braces
Very hard to spot
£2,500 - £5,500
£1,300 - £5,500
Length of treatment
18-24 months; from 12 months with self-ligating braces; 4-12 months with ClearSmile (front teeth only)
Frequency of checkups
Every 4-6 weeks; every 6-10 weeks with self-ligating braces
Every 2-6 weeks or check in from home with remote solutions
Avoid certain foods which may damage braces
Removed to eat; no restrictions on what can be eaten
Extra care to clean braces and floss teeth
Teeth must be cleaned after eating or drinking anything except water
Uncomfortable at first and after tightening
Usually a comfortable and natural fit
No need for willpower; can't be lost
Can be removed for important events or occasions
On balance, adults and teens looking for a way to straighten their teeth without it being noticeable will probably find that clear aligners are the most suitable, efficient and convenient option. Not only are they very hard to spot; they are also removable and usually cost less or the same as fixed ceramic braces.
Looking at some reviews of Invisalign treatment should help you understand more about the pros and cons of wearing aligners.
If you're still unsure which type of brace is right for you, take a look at our full article on orthodontics for adults and teens. Here you'll be able to find out more about:
- Alternative styles of brace including lingual hidden braces
- How they compare in terms of price and appearance
- What it's like to wear braces as a teenager or adult
- How to take care of your braces
Our goal at Dentaly.org is to give you all the information you need to make the right decisions when it comes to your oral healthcare. We hope you found this article helpful!
How much are clear braces in the UK?
The cost of clear braces in the UK is between £2,000 and £5,500 for the majority of patients. Prices depend on how much movement your teeth need and which system you choose. You'll need to visit a dentist or orthodontist to find out more.
How much are invisible braces in the UK?
Invisible braces often cost slightly less than clear fixed braces, and the cost of getting aligners at home is considerably lower. Expect to pay £1,300 – £5,500 for invisible braces in the UK.
How much more expensive are clear braces vs metal?
Clear braces are usually more expensive than metal because of the materials they use. The cost difference can be a few hundred pounds up to £1000 – maybe more. It's up to each dentist to set their own prices.
Clear aligners can be quite competitively priced compared to metal or coloured braces, especially for shorter treatments for mild correction.
Which braces are better: clear or metal?
This is a matter of balancing aesthetics with cost. Clear braces won't really feel any different in your mouth or do a better job of straightening your teeth, but they will make you feel less self-conscious about it. If that's something that matters to you, then perhaps clear braces are better.
Which is better: Invisalign or clear braces?
This will depend on how much movement your teeth need, as well as your preferences in terms of convenience, eating restrictions, cleaning regime and appearance.
Clear aligners are removable and hard to notice, so if these things are important to you, consider Invisalign or another type of aligner. Some people find fixed clear braces more convenient since they don't have to be removed for eating and cleaning, but they are more fiddly to clean around.
How do you keep clear braces white?
Clear braces elastics are more likely to stain than the brackets themselves. To keep clear braces white, rinse your mouth soon after consuming any foods and drinks that are likely to stain. These include coffee, tea, red wine, tomato sauces and curries. Also follow your dentist's instructions for cleaning your braces and your teeth properly.
National Center for Biotechnology Information: Evaluation of root length following treatment with clear aligners and two different fixed orthodontic appliances. A pilot study. Consulted 24th April 2019
British Orthodontic Society: I don't want to wear the metal braces, what are my options? Consulted 24th April 2019
British Orthodontic Society: Clear Aligners. Consulted 24th April 2019
Evidence-Based Dentistry: Are clear aligners as effective as conventional fixed appliances? Consulted 14th December 2020
Prices stated are indicative only and are based on publicised treatment prices at dental clinics across the UK.