Invisalign case

Invisalign vs At-home Aligners

We weigh up the differences between Invisalign and at home options

If you’re only just starting out on your research into clear aligner treatment, chances are you’ve heard of Invisalign but not realized other providers are available.

Invisalign were the first major manufacturer of clear aligners, and they have the largest customer base in the US. But that doesn’t always mean they’re the best. Here we’ve compared Invisalign with at-home clear aligners to show you the differences, so that you can make your mind up.

It’s worth clarifying that, when we refer to “at-home” aligners, we mean those that you can manage yourself without needing to visit a dentist or orthodontist (unless you choose to). The key first difference is that Invisalign will require you to visit their clinics, whilst at-home aligner providers offer options for those who would rather do everything remotely. This comparison guide looks at the pros and cons of these approaches across some key measurements.

Affordability

Invisalign’s treatment is a lot more hands-on than at-home clear aligners, which means more visits to their clinics in order for your progression to be monitored. It also means the latest tech, both in creating your original scans and in manufacturing your aligners themselves. All of this does come at a premium cost. Prices vary depending on the severity of the treatment required but you should expect to pay between $3,000 and $8,000 for your Invisalign treatment.

At-home aligners are, comparatively, significantly cheaper. Different providers offer different levels of service but the cheapest is available for around $1,200, plus the $50 cost of the home impression kit. The most expensive treatment shouldn’t exceed around $2,800. Depending on what sort of service you’re looking for, you could save literally thousands of dollars by choosing the right at-home aligner provider, as long as you are comfortable with managing the treatment yourself and only providing updates via photos online.

With both Invisalign and at-home aligners, you’re able to spread the cost with a finance plan. You can also usually pay for some of your treatment using your dental insurance, or an FSA or HSA fund.

Affordability winner: From a purely financial position, at-home aligners are the best. Even if you choose one of the more expensive providers, and opt for a finance plan that spreads the cost and adds interest, you will still likely be paying less than the entry-level fee for Invisalign.

Effectiveness

Invisalign’s large customer base gives it advantages when it comes to effectiveness of treatment. The success of the brand has allowed Invisalign to invest in the latest technologies to ensure their aligners are the most effective and deliver the best results. Yet, having said that, they still believe that the average treatment time for their customers is between 12 and 18 months.

At-home providers vary, but some claim to offer a complete course of treatment in as little as 4 months. Of course, this will depend on the condition of your mouth, with an average that instead tends to fall somewhere around the 12 month mark. Again, it could be shorter, or it could be longer.

One key thing here is that Invisalign’s latest tech allows it to resolve some alignment issues that at-home services cannot. Plus, with constant monitoring, you’ll know you’ll get the best treatment since aligners can be adjusted if required. Yet, for many thousands of customers who only need mild to moderate corrections, at-home aligners are more than sufficient for their needs.

Effectiveness winner: We’ll give this to at-home aligners but really it depends on your situation. If you have more moderate alignment issues, Invisalign might be a safer bet despite the longer treatment times. Yet if your teeth only have mild problems, you could be treated a lot more quickly with an at-home provider.

Reassurance

Because Invisalign’s treatment involves trips to their clinics to monitor your treatment, you can rest assured that you’ll always get a great customer experience and your smile will look fantastic at the conclusion of your treatment. They’ll be able to make adjustments to your aligner plan, and make new ones, if you aren’t seeing the desired effects during the time you’re scheduled to wear aligners with them, and their innovative tech will ensure you have the most accurate screenings possible.

You might not always get that reassurance from at-home aligners. You will have the option, with some providers, of live chatting with orthodontists to discuss your progress but for some of the cheaper providers, you’ll be limited to uploading photos which may not tell the full story.

However, most at-home aligners will offer some form of guarantee. Reach the end of your treatment plan without your smile looking fantastic and you may be entitled to continued aligner treatment at no extra charge. The only drawback here is that you’ll need to be able to prove that you’ve followed the guidelines set out throughout the months you’ve been wearing them – always for 22 hours a day, with regular updates provided.

Reassurance winner: Invisalign will be more reassuring to most customers due to that hands-on, in-person service even if it is less convenient. However, the guarantees provided by at-home aligner providers means you shouldn’t discount them, nor do you need to worry that they won’t be effective. Plus, with both Invisalign and at-home aligners, customer service is excellent so you can always get your questions answered.

Availability

Invisalign aligners are generally offered by dentists and orthodontists but they also have their own specialized clinics across the US. There are thousands of locations available, so you’ll never have to travel far to start your Invisalign journey.

But you will need to travel – which you don’t necessarily have to with at-home aligners. Some do allow you to visit a clinic if you want a 3D scan but otherwise everything is sent straight to your home. Your impression kit, aligners and retainer are all shipped directly to you with most providers operating in all 50 states.

Availability winner: Because you don’t need to go anywhere, the winner is at-home aligners – any American can easily have their treatment without needing to leave the house. Invisalign is still very convenient so don’t worry if that’s your preferred option.

Additional Services and Options

Because Invisalign is primarily offered through your dentist or orthodontist, additional services and treatment options are decided by them. You may be offered professional whitening, or more in-depth cleaning, but they will all form part of your normal dental treatments (and will potentially come at a high additional cost).

At-home aligner providers aren’t left in the dust here – many providers have extra services to help you during your treatment. For example, byte will provide you with a vibration tool that will soften your gums to speed up your treatment, while several providers offer whitening gel to be used at the same time as your treatment to boost your smile.

Additional services winner: This one goes to Invisalign but not because of Invisalign themselves. Their service is excellent but generally your aligners will be provided by your orthodontist and so it’s your orthodontist’s additional services that give you the broadest choice. But, at-home aligners are still worth checking out – read our guides to each provider to find out more.

Age Limits

Something to consider is the lower age limit for treatment. Invisalign’s policy is that they don’t have a specific age, so as long as your have all of your permanent teeth (which is usually around 12 or 13 years old, but it could be as young as 11) you are eligible for treatment. Of course, adolescents will require formal consent from their parents or guardians.

With at-home aligners it’s a little less clear, as it varies by provider. One or two mirror the Invisalign policy whereas for others, you must wait until 14. And there are some which instead ask you to wait until your wisdom teeth have fully matured which may be even into your early twenties.

Age limit winner: If you’re considering alignment treatment for your child, speak to your dentist or orthodontist first for recommendations. They might suggest you need to wait regardless. However, if they then tell you that your child is eligible for Invisalign, feel free to revisit our guides to find out which providers permit at-home aligners for children. When you compare options, you may find at-home aligners to be a much more affordable solution.

The Verdict

In terms of whether Invisalign or at-home aligners are better will purely depend on what you’re looking for. Invisalign have, undoubtedly, the most experience in the field of clear aligner treatment and with their incredible research, innovation and tech you can be sure of getting the absolute best service.

But that doesn’t mean at-home aligner providers don’t also offer good service – often at a fraction of the price. Your treatment could be faster too if you choose an at-home aligner, and the convenience of managing everything from your home might be most important to you.

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