Invisalign created the first clear aligners, but do they remain the best today?
If you’re looking into getting clear aligners, you might have noticed there’s a wide range of options on the market. Clear aligners have come a long way since Invisalign completely shifted orthodontics by making it possible to straighten your teeth comfortably, discreetly, and confidently. Despite the increased competition, Invisalign is still one of the most recognizable creators of aligners, and many claim they’re definitely the best out there. How true is this claim?
Since it’s often confusing or overwhelming to sift through the different types of aligners and finding objective reviews on the pros and cons of each brand is even harder, you might find it difficult to answer this question. As a result, we’ve chosen to break down the factors of each of the main producers of clear aligners — Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and Smile Direct — and let you decide which aligner you trust the most to straighten your teeth.
If you’re on a budget, one of your immediate concerns when you begin looking into clear aligners is likely the cost of treatment. Invisalign is one of the most expensive clear aligner systems dentists use, followed by ClearCorrect, which is slightly less expensive, and Smile Direct, which is one of the least expensive. It’s difficult to provide exact figures for each company, however, because it’s very dependent on how long you’ll need to undergo treatment and how difficult your dental issues are to correct. The good news is most insurance companies will pay for a portion of your treatment, usually up to a certain dollar or percentage amount, so how much your insurance will cover is also an important factor.
All clear aligners are incredibly convenient when it comes to your daily routine because they’re removable, which allows you to simply pop them out to eat, drink, or carry out your usual oral hygiene routine. You don’t have to avoid certain foods or navigate past the wires of traditional braces to brush and floss your teeth. Similarly to traditional braces, however, both Invisalign and ClearCorrect require you to visit your dentist at least every six weeks; this allows your dentist to ensure your teeth are moving the way they’re supposed to.
On the other hand, Smile Direct is done completely from the comfort of your home, which keeps costs low and adds an extra layer of convenience. While taking impressions of your teeth at home isn’t always convenient because it can be a tricky and frustrating process, the rest of the treatment is. Your aligners are sent directly to you, with no necessary dental appointments during any part of the process. Instead, SmileDirect assigns you a provider who will virtually check in with you every 90 days and can answer your questions at any time. This approach certainly isn’t without its drawbacks, but its convenience is a plus for many patients.
On paper, Invisalign and ClearCorrect are very comparable regarding the oral health issues they can resolve. While there are severe cases that can only be treated with traditional braces, Invisalign and ClearCorrect are designed to resolve nearly any issue that traditional braces can, including overbites, underbites, crooked or overcrowded teeth, gaps between teeth, open bites, and crossbites. Smile Direct is more limited and can only resolve minor to moderate dental issues, including gaps between teeth, rotation, some crowding, and a limited amount of bite correction. Additionally, Smile Direct’s at-home treatment may be convenient, but it makes it less effective because there’s no way for a dentist to regularly examine your teeth and ensure they’re moving the way they should.
Experience often tells a deeper story than what’s on paper, however, and Dr. Alhadef has plenty of it. Throughout his career, he’s used several different brands of clear aligners, giving him in-depth experience with the process and effectiveness of more than just Invisalign. In his experience, Invisalign shifts teeth, while other aligners tilt them. Additionally, while many clear aligners appear to straighten teeth the same way, Dr. Alhadef says teeth shifted by other brands don’t stay in place as long as teeth that were shifted by Invisalign. This is why Dr. Alhadef has chosen to provide Invisalign over other clear aligners, but many people do experience effective, long-lasting results from other brands.
Clear aligners are designed with comfort in mind; the smooth plastic won’t chafe or cut the inside of your mouth like traditional braces can, and they’re shaped to fit around your teeth and gumline perfectly. As a result, you can be fairly certain that all clear aligners will be comfortable. The aligners are made from slightly different materials, though, which impacts the way they feel and fit in your mouth. Invisalign is made from a special, patented material called SmartTrack, while ClearCorrect is made from the same plastic Invisalign used 10 years ago.
Most sources tend to agree that Invisalign holds a slight edge when it comes to comfort since SmartTrack ensures the aligners fit better and are easier to take on and off. SmartTrack is a slightly thicker material than the plastic used in ClearCorrect, which many patients find more comfortable, though some argue the thinner plastic of ClearCorrect makes them even less visible on your teeth. Smile Direct aligners are made of a similar plastic to ClearCorrect, so it’s thinner, but it may not fit quite as well due to the impression process used.
Durability of Clear Aligners
You need to be careful with all clear aligners because they can stain, scratch, or even lose their shape if you don’t care for them properly; this is true no matter which brand of aligner you decide to use. While the slightly thicker material of Invisalign may make them a bit more visible on your teeth, it also gives them added durability. The thinner plastic of ClearCorrect and Smile Direct is more likely to crack or become damaged, which can add to your treatment time if you need to switch to a previous set of aligners while you wait for a replacement to be made.
Length of Treatment
The length of your treatment will depend heavily upon the severity of your case and what dental issues need to be resolved, so you’ll need to wait for your consultation to figure out exactly how long your treatment will take. However, the average treatment times of each brand of aligner can give you an idea of which treatments are generally faster. Smile Direct is the fastest treatment, taking an average of six months to complete. This short timeline is due, in part, to the aligners’ inability to solve the range or severity of dental issues Invisalign and ClearCorrect can. In contrast, Invisalign takes an average of 12 to 18 months to complete, mostly because it corrects more complicated issues than ClearCorrect.
While the wide range of options can seem confusing or overwhelming when you’re first starting the research process, the variety of clear aligners on the market is a good thing; it keeps prices competitive and ensures you’ll be able to find a treatment that fits all of your needs. Once you’ve chosen a treatment, you’ll be well on your way toward a straight, confident smile.