Which are the best clear aligners?

Let’s first be upfront about what this is… it’s an article about which clear aligners are the best written by a clear aligner company. We get it. There’s no way that it will be impartial, right? We’ve done our best to provide an honest, objective resource for anyone that is evaluating clear aligner options. Though we may not be optimally positioned for impartiality, we are subject matter experts and we do want to help educate people about their options.

In evaluating which clear aligners are “best” it is important to first acknowledge that everyone has their own unique values hierarchy. What is important to one person may be unimportant to someone else. In this article we’ll evaluate different aligner companies on a range of different parameters. We’ll leave it to the reader to determine which of those parameters are most important to them. Here are the parameters we’ll look at:

  • History & Leadership – How much are orthodontists influencing the business decisions?
  • Impression methodology – Digital scan or impression kit?
  • Case acceptance – Do they turn down cases that aren't good candidates for at-home treatment?
  • Price - What do they charge relative to the level of service they provide?
  • Financing options - What payment options are available?
  • Treatment design - Is an orthodontist reviewing the treatment plan?
  • Manufacturing process and aligner materials - Do they use the best thermoplastics available?
  • Average treatment times - How long does treatment take?

There are now dozens of companies that offer clear aligners via at-home (teledentistry) models. We obviously can’t evaluate them all in this article so we’re going to focus on the more prominent brands out there, in alphabetical order:

  • Byte
  • Candid
  • SmileLove (no longer in business)
  • Smile Direct Club
  • SnapCorrect
  • Strayt

 

BYTE:

Overview: Byte is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. We think Byte has done an admirable job of creating an edgy brand identity reinforced by celebrity endorsements, Hollywood media, and social influencers.

History & Leadership: Incorporated in 2017, Byte is a DBA of Straight Smile LLC. Co-founder and cosmetic dentist Dr Jon Marashi is front-and-center as a figurehead in the company’s marketing efforts. Company President, Neeraj Gunsagar, comes from a background in private equity and venture capital. Head of Finance, Sepideh Abbasi, comes from a background in software and technology. SCORE 8/10

Impression methodology: Byte only offers impression kits in the mail. Because we feel strongly that impressions should be done by someone with training to ensure accuracy, we consider this to be a second-tier method for taking impressions. However, we do think that Byte’s impression kit is the best one on the market in terms of presentation and ease of use. So we give them the max possible score for a company that only offers kits. SCORE 6/10

Case acceptance rates: No information is published on Byte’s case acceptance rate. So we’ll assume they don’t accept cases that are not appropriate for this type of treatment. SCORE 10/10

Price: $1990 when you pay upfront (including kit) or $2,519 (including kit) when you opt for the payment plan. We think this price is high considering that there are other kit-in-the-mail companies that cost in the range of $1200 to $1400. SCORE 4/10

Financing options: One 25 month option available. 100% approval. Cost to finance is $529. SCORE 8/10

Treatment design: Byte tries to justify their higher price point with differentiating treatment technologies. Namely “Smile Science” treatment design and the “Hyperbyte” high-frequency vibration device. Both are gimmicks. Like most of the clear aligner treatments, treatment design is primarily done by laboratory technicians working within software parameters. SCORE: 8/10

Manufacturing process and aligner materials: Based on media coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, Byte recently started doing their own aligner fabrication. Previously, Byte’s design and fabrication was performed by ClearCorrect. If Byte has recently taken over manufacturing their own aligners, it is reasonable to think they may experience a learning curve in doing so. SCORE 8/10

Average treatment times: Byte promotes the “Hyperbyte” HFV device as something that speeds up treatment duration. There are credible studies that HFV can help teeth to move, but that doesn’t mean it speeds up the treatment duration. Teeth still need time to move in a healthy and stable way. Byte’s average treatment time is not demonstrably different than competitors. SCORE 10/10

Customer Service: Byte has excellent customer service. SCORE 10/10

 

Of all the companies that offer an impression kit in the mail, we think Byte is the one that is likely to provide the best overall experience. However, they are also the most expensive. We feel that having a digital scan performed by a professional is a superior process than a DIY impression kit.

Overall Value Score: 71/90 (79%)

 

CANDID

 

Overview: Candid is headquartered in New York, NY. Candid has been moderately successful at branding themselves as a high-end alternative to Smile Direct Club, offering a growing number of studio locations (currently 24) at which customers can receive a digital scan to begin the process.

History & Leadership: Incorporated in 2017, Candid is co-founded by a group of relatively young entrepreneurs that partnered with orthodontist Dr C. Lynn Hurst. Led by CEO Nick Greenfield, we like that they have an orthodontist involved with the direction of the company.  SCORE 10/10

Impression methodology: Candid offers both impression kits in the mail and a studio experience in certain major cities. Candid’s impression kit is well designed, as is their studio environment. We think there is subtle hypocrisy in promoting a service as being more convenient than in-office alternatives but still asking people to come to their studio (office) to be scanned. SCORE 8/10

Case acceptance rates: Again, we don’t have any data on this but we expect that Candid is more selective about who it treats than Smile Direct Club, for example, because of the influence of orthodontists within the company SCORE 10/10

Price: At $2400, Candid is the most expensive of the at-home offerings. Their payment plan option (if you qualify) totals $2775. SCORE 2/10

Financing options: 24 month financing available for those that qualify. Cost to finance is $375. SCORE 5/10

Treatment design: We don’t know the specific details of Candid’s treatment design process, but we like the fact that orthodontists are involved in the process. Their newly-introduced “remote monitoring” device is reassuring for customers and helps ensure the quality of the monitoring process. SCORE: 10/10

Manufacturing process and aligner materials: Unknown. Based on customer experience reviews we give them a 9 out of 10. SCORE 9/10

Average treatment times: Typical for this type of at-home treatment.  SCORE 10/10

Customer Service: Candid has excellent customer service. SCORE 10/10

We think that Candid is doing a lot of things well. If affordability isn’t as important for you and you live near a Candid Studio, we think they’re a great option. As you consider the $2400-$2775 price tag, keep in mind that it is getting up toward the price of some in-office treatments without offering some the enhanced treatment techniques that can provided with in-office treatment like IPR and attachments.  

Overall Value Score: 74/90 (82%)

 

SMILELOVE

Unfortunately, SmileLove appears to no longer be in business at the time of writing. We applaud SmileLove for their low-price leadership in the industry. They helped to make limited orthodontic care more accessible to those that wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford it. Though we think the self-impression kit is a second-tier methodology, we also think SmileLove priced their service appropriately for the level of service.

 

SMILE DIRECT CLUB

Overview: Headquartered in Nashville, TN, Smile Direct Club (SDC) pioneered the direct-to-consumer clear aligner industry. They are the most recognizable name in the industry. SDC’s October 2018 IPO was not received well by the market for a variety of reasons.  

History & Leadership: Founded in 2014 by Jordan Katzman and Alex Fenkell, SDC identified a void in the orthodontic market. They recognized a clear (pun intended) demand for limited orthodontic treatment that was more convenient and affordable that traditional options. Jordan’s father, David, was instrumental in the growth of the company and now serves as the post-IPO CEO. SDC embraced the roll of industry disruptor and ruffled some feathers in the process. The company arguably took the disruptor role too far with some of their case acceptance procedures and standard of care protocols. We respect their entrepreneurial leadership, but would like to see orthodontic professionals more involved in the company decision making process. SCORE 8/10

Impression methodology: SDC has invested heavily in a large network of Smile Shops to make digital scans more accessible. Digital scans give much more reliable results and are much easier on the patient that DIY impression kits. The scan appointment also serves as a chance for the company to enact their well-scripted sales processes. As with Candid, we think there is subtle hypocrisy in promoting a service as being more convenient than in-office alternatives while encouraging people to come to their studio (office) to be scanned. SCORE 9/10

Case acceptance rates: SDC has touted that fact that they are able to treat 97% of customers. The reality is that they should only be treating about 70% of cases using their at-home model. Because SDC has been very liberal in their case acceptance policies, they have had some disastrous outcomes that have created negative press for the entire industry. SCORE 4/10

Price: Either $1895 upfront payment or $2290 on a 24 month payment plan. This is a good price considering they offer convenient digital scans. Smile Direct remains among the best value offerings in the market. SCORE 8/10

Financing options: $85/month for 24 months after a $250 down payment. Total of $2290. 100% approval. SCORE 9/10

Treatment design: Through their early partnership with Align technologies (makers of Invisalign) SDC had access to industry-leading treatment design software at the time. Our concern is that treatment plans are often presented to customers within minutes of getting scanned. This means that there has not been oversight or vetting of the plan by an orthodontist first. Though orthodontic design software has come a long way, it still requires the oversight of a trained orthodontist. We have seen many cases in which the treatments are far too aggressive and unrealistic. SCORE: 5/10

Manufacturing process and aligner materials: SDC has recently made large investments in their own manufacturing facility. SDC aligners used to be manufactured by Align technologies. SCORE 9/10

Average treatment times: Typical for this type of at-home treatment.  SCORE 10/10

Customer Service: There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there about poor customer service from Smile Direct Club. Our experience was mediocre. SCORE 5/10

We have to give credit where credit is due. SDC is responsible for making clear aligner therapy more accessible to more people throughout the world. We do think that they sometimes let their aggressive entrepreneurial spirit get in the way of essential clinical prudence, and in so doing have created some unnecessary regulatory challenges.

Overall Value Score: 67/90 (74%)

 

SNAPCORRECT

Overview: Headquartered in Vancouver, WA, SnapCorrect differentiates themselves on the transparency of their aligners. Unlike other companies that use 3D-printed models in their manufacturing process, SnapCorrect only uses physical molds which results in a clearer aligner.

History & Leadership: Founded in 2017 by Luis Lajous, a serial entrepreneur. There is no public information about orthodontists involved in the companies leadership. SCORE 7/10

Impression methodology: Like Byte, SnapCorrect only offers self-impression kits in the mail. SCORE 5/10

Case acceptance rates: We have no reason to believe that SnapCorrect is treating cases that are too complex for at-home care. SCORE 8/10

Customer Service: A few of SnapCorrect’s verified reviews claim that the customer service was non-responsive, but there are also many positive comments about the customer service. SCORE 7/10

Price: $1798 (including impression kit). SCORE 6/10

Financing options: Customers can apply for financing through Affirm with 10-30% APR. SCORE 5/10

Treatment design: based on customer reviews, SnapCorrect has a satisfactory treatment design process. SCORE: 8/10

Manufacturing process and aligner materials: SnapCorrect is on the only at-home clear aligner companies that does not use 3D printing in their process. Though more labor intensive, it does result in a clearer aligner. It should be noted that difference in aligner clarity are obvious when holding an aligner in your hand, but much less obvious when the aligner is in the mouth.  SCORE 9/10

Average treatment times: Typical for this type of at-home treatment.  SCORE 10/10

SnapCorrect has a legitimate point in differentiation in their manufacturing process. Because we think the self-impression kit in the mail is a second-tier service, we think SnapCorrect’s price is on the high side for the level of service they are providing.

Overall Value Score: 65/90 (81%)

 

STRAYT

Overview: Headquartered in Phoenix, AZ, Strayt is truly expanding access to care with their mobile digital scan service. No travel. No traffic. No finding parking. No cost.

History & Leadership: Founded in 2019, Strayt is relative newcomer to the teledentistry space. What sets Strayt apart is that is 100% orthodontist owned, so clinical priorities always supersede business objectives. SCORE 9/10

Impression methodology: Like Candid and SDC, Strayt recognizes that digital scanning is the superior method. It is easier for the patient and the results are more reliably accurate. Unlike Candid and SDC, Strayt provides ultimate access and convenience by performing scans at home or work. Strayt also offers self-impression kits in the mail for those that still prefer that method or are not in range of a mobile scanning unit. SCORE 10/10

Case acceptance rates: Strayt rejects between 30% and 40% of the cases it sees for reasons ranging from periodontal health to case complexity. SCORE 10/10

Customer Service: Strayt’s customer service reviews are perfect, but we acknowledge that the sample size is smaller than many of the other companies. SCORE 9/10

Price: $1848 includes the on-site scan consultation. Strayt has the lowest cost of all the companies that offer digital scanning to begin treatment. SCORE 9/10

Financing options: Strayt offers two financing options. Both have 100% acceptance. 12 months @ $154/month after $199 down. 24 months @ $87/month after $250 down. SCORE 9/10

Treatment design: Like the other companies, Strayt uses state-of-the-art software to design the movements of the teeth. Unlike other companies, each treatment plan is overseen by an orthodontist, then peer reviewed by a different orthodontist before it is sent to the doctor of record for final approval.  SCORE: 10/10

Manufacturing process and aligner materials: Strayt aligners are manufactured using Essix thermoplastics. Essix is a proven premium thermosplastic material distributed by Dentsply Sirona.  SCORE 9/10

Average treatment times: Typical for this type of at-home treatment.  SCORE 10/10

While others talk about access and convenience, Strayt delivers it (literally). Strayt offers the lowest prices and most flexible financing options of the three companies that offer digital scanning and is the only company that provides on-site scan consultations.

Overall Value Score: 85/90 (94%)

Is Strayt Right For Me?

Clear aligners are the perfect orthodontic solution for many people. But if your teeth require complex or extreme movements, traditional braces may still be your best option. We can help you determine which path is right for you. There’s no risk when you book a scan appointment because the scan is free! Take the assessment to get started.

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