What is the difference between at-home clear aligners and regular braces?

You might have heard of companies that advertise “at-home” orthodontics that is monitored by a doctor. There are many companies out there that advertise this way, including Smile Direct Club, Candid, Byte, SmileLove, and many more. Some of these companies have gained so much popularity that they have received massive investments to advertise on major TV networks.

So are these at-home products the same as treatment by an orthodontist? Do orthodontists just charge more because you have doctor visits and there is a higher overhead? Can these products achieve the same results and save you 60%?

The answer is a resounding NO! I cringe every time I see an ad that says their treatment is 3x faster or 60% less than braces.

At-home companies advertise under the false premise that their average treatment time is 4-6 months, whereas orthodontists’ average treatment time is 18 months. So, 3x faster based strictly on their average treatment time. What they don’t tell you is the complexity of the cases being treated. In my practice, I have patients who finish in 4-6 months as well. The cases that finish in 4-6 months are very simple. These patients also do not pay the full fee for a longer case. In fact, one of my patients who needed minor treatment was charged $1,800 – with braces. So to say that at-home kits are CHEAPER than braces is completely untrue. In some cases, braces are actually less expensive than using a kit that provides no local doctor who can guide your treatment and assure you an excellent result.

If I only offered treatment that averaged 4-6 months, much like these at-home companies, I wouldn’t be able to address the bite and make sure that the teeth are not only straight but functionally ideal. The fact is that most patients who have never had orthodontic treatment before need more time to get their bite lined up along with getting their teeth straight. In fact, if you look at many of the paid influencers of at-home kits, a good number of them had braces at an earlier age and just stopped wearing retainers.

So, do braces cost double what these at-home kits offer? NO. Do braces take 3x as long to straighten your teeth? NO. If all you want is a couple of teeth straightened, most likely your orthodontist offers a plan for cosmetic alignment without fixing everything about your bite at a fee similar to an at-home kit, as long as doing so will not negatively affect your bite in the long run. Fees are calculated based on treatment time. If your case is simple, it will cost less. If your case takes longer, it will cost more. Advertising that at-home kits are faster and cheaper than braces in general is really misleading and I would consider false advertising. Don’t fall for it! See your local orthodontist. Dr. Cheapsmiles (world-renown cheap at-home clear aligner doctor) offers no guarantees that your bite will be comfortable using an at-home kit!

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