Are you looking at ways to straighten teeth at home? Whether for financial reasons, or because you'd rather avoid regular visits to a dentist right now, there is a way to do this in the form of home teeth straightening kits, which use clear aligners.
However, there are some important things to consider before you go ahead with any kind of teeth straightening at home.
We're going to look at the pros and cons of DIY teeth straightening kits vs visiting a dentist for orthodontic treatment. We'll also review some of the biggest home aligner brands in the US so you can decide which (if any) is right for you.
Table of contents
- 1 Types of clear aligners
- 2 How can you get teeth aligners at home?
- 3 Pros and cons of using an at-home teeth straightening kit in the US
- 4 Best at-home teeth aligners in the US
- 5 How to straighten teeth without braces at home
- 6 Benefits of teeth straightening
- 7 Do you need braces?
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 FAQs
Types of clear aligners
There are two main types of clear aligners, with some hybrid options in between. The main types are:
- In-office aligners: The most popular example of this type of aligner is Invisalign. For this type of treatment, you visit a dentist or orthodontist regularly and in person.
- At-home aligners: These are aligners that you order online, and you don't need a consultation with a dentist or orthodontist in-office to get started. Nor do you need to visit a dentist in-person for checkups. All monitoring is done remotely.
The hybrid types may require an initial in-person consultation with a dentist, or even a couple of in-person checkups throughout treatment.
How can you get teeth aligners at home?
In case you're unfamiliar with this concept, let's take a quick look at how it works. Clear aligners, or ‘invisible braces', are removable plastic trays made to fit over your teeth and apply pressure.
You change to a new set of aligners at regular intervals during your treatment, and each one shifts your teeth a little further until they are properly aligned. The best-known brand is Invisalign, which is administered by a dentist in-office.
Online teeth straightening kits have been available in the US for several years, but the COVID pandemic has really increased the demand for them. They offered people a way to straighten teeth at home while dentists were closed for long periods.
Even now that most practices have re-opened, many patients are reluctant to make regular visits to what could be seen as a high-risk environment (but be assured that dentists are taking every precaution to keep their clinics safe).
How to straighten teeth at home
Different brands work in slightly different ways, but here are the basic steps for getting teeth aligners at home:
- You order an impression kit online (or visit a physical location to get a 3D scan taken).
- Using this kit, you make your own teeth impressions at home and mail them to a lab.
- A dentist reviews your impressions (or scans) and determines whether you are eligible for treatment.
- If yes, you receive a treatment plan and a preview of how your smile will look after teeth straightening.
- You receive your full set of aligners in the mail, with instructions on how long to wear each set.
- During your treatment, you check-in online so your dentist can monitor progress against your treatment plan.
- Once treatment is complete, you wear retainers to keep your teeth in their new position.
You don't have any face-to-face contact with a dentist, which is one obvious drawback of this kind of treatment (unless, perhaps, you have a dental phobia). But this is also what makes the price so much cheaper than in-office alternatives. Ultimately, you'll have to decide what matters most to you.
You can watch the video below to get a better idea of what it's like using a teeth straightening kit in the US. Dai chose Candid and is really happy with her new smile!
Please note as you watch the video that Candid is currently undergoing changes in its treatment plan. They are transitioning to a model that includes a network of dentists that patients will visit in person.
Pros and cons of using an at-home teeth straightening kit in the US
Clear aligners offer many benefits over traditional fixed metal or clear braces:
- They are practically invisible
- They can be removed for 2-4 hours per day
- You can clean your teeth as normal
- There are no restrictions on what you can eat (as long as you remove your aligners first)
On the downside, wearing aligners does require some willpower. It can be inconvenient having to remove them every time you eat or drink anything except water—and brush your teeth afterwards. And the fact that they are removable means they can be lost. No risk of that with metal braces!
All of these things apply whether you straighten your teeth at home by buying teeth aligners over-the-counter, or visit a dentist for your treatment.
Are clear aligners as effective as traditional braces?
Well, in-office brands like Invisalign can treat around 90% of orthodontic cases. This makes them a very effective alternative to traditional braces for the majority of people. (Read more about Invisalign vs braces). But when it comes to teeth straightening at home, online aligner kits are only suitable for mild to moderate cases.
You can get a good idea of whether you're eligible with a quick online assessment. But you won't know for sure until a dentist has assessed your dental impressions or scans.
Other things that differ when you straighten teeth at home include:
- You won't see a dentist in person (which you may see as a good or bad thing!)
- You'll check in regularly using an app rather than visiting a dental practice.
- You have to take your own teeth impressions for your invisible aligners at home (unless you choose a brand with physical locations).
- If you have any problems, your first port of call will be a customer service team.
- You'll pay hundreds, and maybe even thousands less for a home teeth straightening kit than with in-office braces.
While researching brands, be sure to check not just their ‘before and after' results, but also reviews of their customer care. If you get stuck taking your teeth impressions or your aligners don't seem to fit properly, it's good to know you can easily get in touch with someone for assistance.
Is it safe to straighten teeth at home?
Overall, yes, it is perfectly safe to use a home teeth straightening kit with remote supervision from a dentist or orthodontist. However, there are some caveats to this.
Firstly, we recommend that you have a dental checkup before beginning to straighten teeth at home. This is because if you have any untreated dental caries or gum disease, you probably shouldn't be wearing teeth aligners. Your dentist can help you with these problems before you proceed with aligner therapy.
Secondly, even with the best hands-on supervision, teeth don't always move as expected during orthodontic treatment. And while the technology used for remote monitoring is very sophisticated, it's not quite the same as having a dentist examining your teeth face-to-face.
The main risk here is that you will get to the end of your treatment and find your teeth aren't still quite as you wanted. In this case, it should be possible to make some extra adjustments, but you may be asked to pay extra for these.
Best at-home teeth aligners in the US
By this point, you have probably heard of Smile Direct Club, and perhaps a few other brands offering teeth aligners online in the US.
Smile Direct Club is one of the biggest and has been operating for some time in the US. However, their frustrating customer service and questionable business practices mean they aren't top of our recommended brands. You can read some Smile Direct Club reviews to learn more.
Several other brands like Smilelove have run into financial difficulties recently, leaving many customers stranded halfway through their treatment. Some brands, like Inman Aligners, work well but only straighten the front few teeth. Read more about Inman Aligners here.
That's why we most recommend tried and true brands like Byte, ALIGNERCO, and NewSmile, as these consistently receive good reviews and work with certified dentists and orthodontists. You can have a look at the comparison table below to see which is the best teeth straightening kit for you.
- Complete treatment 100% remotely
- Amazing customer service
- Nighttime-only option
- $1,395 or $83/month
NewSmile aligners are made from the clearest Essix plastic and come with a daytime or nighttime-only option to suit you. For just $1,395 you'll receive everything you need to straighten and whiten your teeth – and maintain your new smile:
- Home impression kit
- Full aligner treatment
- Free whitening
- First set of retainers
- A full refund if you're not a good fit
NewSmile go above and beyond to provide a great experience to all their customers, beginning with a live video call to help you with your teeth impressions. Mail these back, and they'll send a 3D Treatment Preview for you to approve before going ahead.
- Complete treatment 100% remotely
- 6 month average treatment time
- Nighttime-only option
- $1,145 or $95/month
If you're looking for the best value aligner package, here it is! For just $1,145 you'll get:
- Impression kit
- Full aligner treatment course
- Free teeth whitening kit
- Your first set of retainers
In short, everything needed to straighten your teeth remotely and keep them looking great, with a full money-back guarantee if you're not a suitable candidate.
This low price doesn't mean you're compromising on quality of care, though. ALIGNERCO just choose not to put so much into marketing, and they pass on the savings to their customers. They are also known for their responsive and helpful customer care, which is important when you're doing things from home.
Plus, if you're in New York, you can visit their SmileStudio for a free consultation and help taking your impressions.
Nighttime-only aligners are also available for anyone who doesn't want to wear aligners during the day.
- 3-4 month average treatment time
- Assessed and planned by orthodontists
- Includes whitening and first retainers
- $1,895 or $83/month
Byte's HyperByte technology uses High Frequency Vibration to help your teeth move faster and with minimal discomfort. Their average treatment time is just 3-4 months, compared to 6 months for most others.
Treatment includes your first set of retainers. You'll also get their BrightByte 3-in-1 foam to whiten your teeth, clean your aligners and freshen your breath. And their Byte-for-life guarantee means you'll get free adjustments if your teeth start to move again.
Begin by ordering an impression kit so their orthodontists can assess whether you're a good match.
Top aligner brands
- ALIGNERCO: This is the most affordable option at just over $1,000 with discounts routinely available. They do have a physical location in New York and may expand in the future. There you can get help and take 3D scans of your teeth instead of making impressions. ALIGNERCO also offers a nighttime-only option.
- Byte: You may want to choose Byte if you don't mind paying a bit more for faster treatment time and less discomfort. That's because their HyperByte technology uses sonic vibrations to do just that. Plus they also offer a nighttime-only option.
- NewSmile: Choose NewSmile for the clearest brand of aligners. They are also known for their stellar customer service and the convenience of their nighttime option.
Our article about Invisalign alternatives in the US has more details about the different brands and how to choose between them.
How to straighten teeth without braces at home
If you simply want to avoid conventional fixed braces, then removable braces and home kits for teeth straightening are a great alternative. They are discreet, and there isn't the same risk of long-term damage to your teeth from decalcification.
You may have seen people trying to close gaps in teeth using elastic bands or other DIY teeth straightening methods. We don't advise trying anything like do it yourself teeth straightening without the supervision of a dentist or orthodontist, as you risk doing some serious damage to your teeth.
Benefits of teeth straightening
If you're still not sure if you actually want to straighten your teeth, at-home, in office or otherwise, have a look at the two main arguments in favor of teeth straightening:
- Improved aesthetics: The most obvious benefit of straightening your teeth is that your smile will adhere to the societal norms of beauty. This may boost your self-esteem, but remember not to get too caught up in how things look!
- Better oral health: Having misaligned teeth can actually negatively impact the health of your teeth. It can be harder to properly clean teeth that are overlapping or crowded, and a misaligned bite can cause wear and tear on your tooth enamel.
Do you need braces?
You might need traditional metal braces instead of clear aligners if you have a more severe case. At-home aligners typically can only treat mild cases of malocclusion, and in some cases moderate cases.
To straighten severely aligned teeth, you need to first consult in person with an orthodontist, who will then create a very precise, specialized plan for your straightening treatment that could last for 2+ years. It might even involve jaw surgery or headgear.
Clear aligner brands that are quality and trustworthy will let you know if you aren't a good candidate for this type of treatment. That's why it's important to do your research before deciding on a brand, making sure to choose a reputable company, like those mentioned in this article.
Do you need to straighten your teeth?
Your teeth and your bite should be relatively aligned, but that doesn't mean they need to be perfect for you to have a healthy and beautiful smile.
Many people with slightly crooked or misaligned teeth don't need braces. If you think you might need braces for medical reasons, you should consult with an orthodontist. If treatment is medically necessary, it might even be partially covered by your health insurance.
For a smile with slight imperfections, chances are you don't need braces. Just clean your teeth regularly, and maybe do a whitening treatment if you want a brighter effect.
But ultimately, a healthy smile is more important than a perfectly straight smile.
So if your orthodontist says your teeth are fine the way they are, and you don't really want to go through straightening treatment, what should you do?
Embrace your imperfections because they make you unique, keep up your oral hygiene, and smile wide because you're beautiful!
Now you know how to straighten your teeth at home safely—and the things to consider before embarking on this type of treatment. Here's a quick summary of the options we've mentioned:
Home teeth straightening kits
Fixed metal braces
Mild to moderate movement
90% of cases
Full range of cases
Remote, via online check-in
In person every 4–6 weeks
In person every 4–6 weeks
If you are set on remotely monitored clear aligner therapy, be sure to choose a reputable brand that you feel you can trust to support you throughout the process.
We also recommend you visit a dentist to check your oral health before using a home teeth straightening kit.
Do at-home teeth straightening kits work?
Kits for at-home teeth aligners do work, as long as you choose a reputable brand that works with certified dentists and orthodontists to plan and monitor your treatment. Not everyone is a good candidate for at-home straightening because this sort of remote treatment for clear aligners at home is only suitable for mild to moderate cases of crooked teeth and bite misalignment.
Can you order teeth-straightening kits online?
You can order teeth-straightening kits online. In fact, this treatment is becoming more and more popular as technology advances. However, not everyone is a good candidate for teeth-straightening kits. Once you take the impressions of your teeth (which you either purchase beforehand, or they come with your kit) the aligner brand you choose will let you know if you're eligible to get straight teeth at home with at-home clear aligners.
Who has the best and cheapest at-home aligners?
The best at-home aligner brand for one person may not be the best for another. That being said, have a look at the comparison chart above to compare prices and special features of the best brands. Invisible teeth aligners at home aren't for everyone, but if you have mild malocclusion, you may be a good candidate.
Evidence-Based Dentistry: Are clear aligners as effective as conventional fixed appliances? Consulted 29th March 2021.
BMC Oral Health: A comparison of treatment effectiveness between clear aligner and fixed appliance therapies. Consulted 29th March 2021.