So you want to get straighter teeth but you’re a full grown adult and the thought of a mouthful of metal is as scary as that girl who climbed out of the TV in The Ring? (Remember The Ring??) Or, worse, you already wore braces for the majority of your youth, weren’t diligent with your post-treatment retainers, and now you’re struggling with teeth that have shifted and the accompanying PTSD from those brace-faced years? No? Just me on that last one? Well lucky for all of us, there are finally some choices besides the traditional wire braces of yore.
Up until about 25-ish years ago, we were living in the dark ages when it came to options for straightening our teeth. It was hideous metal braces worn for 2+ years at a time; then a little while after that, it was hideous clear (ceramic) braces, a marked aesthetic improvement but certainly not comfort-wise (I had clear braces for almost 3 years so I can attest firsthand that they weren’t all that).
When Invisalign hit the scene in the late ‘90s, there was nothing like it. People were ecstatic to break free from the torture of metal braces–raw cheeks, rubber bands, food getting caught in the darkest depths of your mouth, popped wires, painful ulcers, etc. Invisalign changed the game by offering a wire-free, removable alternative to braces that worked more quickly and comfortably while still tackling the toughest teeth and jaw alignment issues. Invisalign paved the way for all of the clear aligners on the market today, including Byte, a relative industry newcomer that debuted in 2018 but that is already making waves for its remarkable technological innovations.
In this post, I will be doing a side-by-side comparison of Byte and Invisalign. Both are great clear aligner alternatives to traditional braces, but that might be where the similarities end.
Comparing Byte to other at-home aligners companies like SmileDirectClub, Candid, or AlignerCo is kind of like comparing one apple varietal to another–Honey Crisp vs. Golden Delicious vs. Ambrosia (my personal favorite). But comparing Byte (also my personal favorite, but of aligners, not apples, though how cute that their name fits perfectly with this whole apple thing!) to Invisalign, is really more like that old saying “comparing apples to oranges.” Sure, they’re both fruit, but they grow in different climates, in different seasons, and look/taste/feel/smell nothing like each other. And when you throw in the curveball of my unequivocal preference for Byte At-Night (Byte’s nighttime only aligners), this fruit salad gets much more complex.
With that cumbersome analogy in mind, let’s jump right into the Byte vs. Invisalign ring and see who emerges the victor! I ask that you proceed with the caveat that Invisalign can correct much more severe dental issues than Byte, so in some instances, Byte may not actually be a viable option.
The respective start-up processes for Byte and Invisalign could not be more different.
Whether you choose Byte All-Day or Byte At-Night, you never have to leave the comfort of your home (or your underwear) to start your treatment. You order a DIY impression kit through Byte’s website that is delivered right to your doorstep, then you play around with some putty, and send your impressions back to Byte HQ (you don’t have to leave home for that part either, as self-addressed return packaging is included and a Byte agent will schedule a convenient USPS pick-up for you).
If you’re like me and concerned you might mess up this crucial first step, Byte agents are available to walk you through the impression process. If Byte assesses your impressions and deems that you are not, in fact, a good candidate for treatment, you will receive a full refund for the cost of the kit. The Byte start-up is easy, low-risk, and quite convenient.
With Invisalign, you are working directly with real-life medical professionals in real life. That means researching which orthodontists and dentists in your area are qualified providers of Invisalign (since administering Invisalign requires specific training and certification, even for orthodontists), picking one you like, scheduling an initial consultation with him/her, taking time out of your day or off of work to get yourself to his/her office, sitting in the waiting room of said office for said initial consultation…it’s just..a lot…compared to Byte’s much more relaxed-but-still-effective approach.
However, with Invisalign, once you get past the typical rigamarole of an in-person visit, you will receive a full mouth scan with their iTero Element 3-D scanner, which takes 6,000 images per scan, making it infinitely more precise than impressions. In fact, Invisalign’s website literally says, “no gross teeth molds here,” and, I mean, you can’t be mad at them for throwing shade at these at-home aligner newbies who haven’t paid their dues in the industry that they basically founded.
Byte is, hands-down, the industry leader when it comes to treatment speed. I don’t know if there is some official award for this, but Byte would definitely win it. Whether you go the All-Day or At-Night route, Byte delivers the fastest treatment times of all its competitors (almost half the industry standard). And the reason Byte can boast such rapid timelines? Enter: HyperByte, the revolutionary aligner seating technology available only through Byte.
This magical little device is worn in conjunction with your aligners for 5 minutes a day (for Byte All-Day) or 10 minutes a day (for Byte At-Night). HyperByte uses HFV (High Frequency Vibrations), a vibration-based therapy of soft micropulses that transmit through the roots of the teeth to the surrounding bone, resulting in better aligner traction, less discomfort, more accurate teeth movement, and, of course, expedited treatment times.
On average, thanks to HyperByte, Byte All-Day’s timeline is a speedy 3-4 months (at 20-22 hours of wear per day), while Byte At-Night is not far behind at 4-6 months (at a mere 10 hours of wear per day). And, while valued at $699+ retail, HyperByte is included for free in every treatment plan, so you’re getting much more for your money with Byte.
In stark contrast to Byte, we have Invisalign coming in at a whopping 12-16 months (minimum!), which is an eternity nowadays, especially when you’re wearing aligners for pretty much every moment you’re awake each day. Not to mention the accounts I found of people saying they had to continue to wear their aligners long past their prescribed treatment’s “end” (what Invisalign calls a “refinement period”). So basically Invisalign will create another whole set of aligners to tackle any stubborn teeth, after your initial ones are complete, which honestly seems a bit strange since it’s all technically “treatment” until, well, it’s not.
Some users expressed feelings of hopelessness, that there would be no end in sight. I’m not even an Invisalign client and I feel their pain! Invisalign’s timeline is slightly better (and I use that term loosely) compared to traditional braces, but it’s not even in the same ballpark as Byte, or really any of the other at-home aligner companies. Even if you elect to go with Byte At-Night (again, my preference), your perfect smile is still being delivered in more than half the time of Invisalign and at half the daily wear time.
I feel somewhat torn in this category because, on the one hand, if you like never ever having to step foot in a doctor’s office, Byte’s your BFF. Everything, including the initial impressions, is done remotely. But if you find value in having a doctor look at your teeth up-close-and-personal and don’t mind having to schedule appointments and take time out of your schedule every few weeks to go to them, then Invisalign is for you.
Personally, I find a sense of security in having an orthodontist get right up in there to make sure my teeth are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, even if it is annoying to have to go to office visits and make dumb small talk.
All that said, Byte takes first place for convenience, especially as we are all living through the COVID-19 pandemic and this unprecedented time of social-distancing. Being able to successfully monitor treatment virtually is a safer option than visits to a doctor’s office where your mouth is agape the whole time.
Invisalign utilizes small enamel attachments that adhere to individual teeth to help them move more effectively, and the number of attachments depends on the severity of the teeth correction. Some users reported that the more attachments you have, the more Invisalign looks like clear braces (without the aligners in, the attachments are barely visible, as they are “tooth-colored”).
I read one account of a woman who initially was told she only needed 2 attachments, then, over the course of treatment to correct her open bite, she ended up with 20, which sounds like a nightmare to me. Was it a bad orthodontist or a really thorough orthodontist?? I’m dying to know! So much for the “Invis” part of Invisalign when you could end up looking like you’re wearing clear braces anyway.
On top of that, the attachments stain very easily, something you would never have to worry about with Byte, since there are no attachments involved. So you’re brushing your teeth A LOT, all day long, in an effort to combat any stains or food particles getting trapped on these attachments, which can also affect teeth movement, not to mention some gnarly breath.
As I mentioned, I would be using Byte At-Night, which is made of a heavier clear plastic than Byte’s daytime version that is specially designed to maximize power and efficacy with less wear-time (did I mention only 10 hours per night?!) Byte also includes their heavy-duty whitening kit to be used while you’re wearing your aligners, which is smart and highly convenient. Might as well get some pearly whites while you’re straightening them, right?
Invisalign does not offer a whitening option, and instead advises the use of whitening toothpaste or kits to be used only during those precious 2 hours a day you’re permitted to not wear their product. But if you have attachments, don’t even think about whitening until after your whole treatment plan is complete (cool!) Many have reported their teeth looking dingy throughout the straightening process (probably due to the gradual discoloration and staining of the attachments), so basically you are stuck with yellow teeth that you can’t really do anything about for a year or more (even cooler!)
As I have mentioned previously in this post, with Invisalign, you are dealing directly with dental professionals in-person, in real life, who are trained to deal with Invisalign. Both orthodontists and dentists have to obtain certification to administer Invisalign, which begs the question: if you have the choice, and you’re going to have to go to appointments anyway, why not choose an orthodontist, someone whose entire training centers specifically around teeth and jaw alignment?
I may be biased from years of hearing my mom complain about how “we’re not paying all this money just to have Dr. #@!>* clean your teeth!” So, you know, that made me realize that orthodontists do more, or at least know more, than dentists when it comes to this stuff (no offense, dentists).
Byte uses certified orthodontists and dentists in your state to formulate your treatment plan and a very sophisticated form of remote monitoring with your own personal “care team” throughout but, at least for me, there is no substitute for an orthodontist seeing your teeth at an uncomfortably close distance from your face. Doctors, lovers, and maybe your own children are really the only people who should ever be that close to your face anyway. Getting in there is simply better and more accurate than monitoring via pictures taken on my phone or video chats.
I saved the best for last because here is where we see the biggest difference of all between Byte and Invisalign.
Byte’s pricing is fairly simple and straightforward: $1,895 for All-Day or $2,295 for At-Night. The cost increases slightly if you choose to finance your aligners, but luckily, Byte offers 100% guaranteed financing for everyone with no messy paperwork or credit checks. And you get so much more bang for your buck with Byte: HyperByte, whitening kit, post-treatment retainers, and a Lifetime Guarantee (meaning if your teeth ever shift after your treatment has ended, Byte will incur the cost to get them back to where they need to be).
On the complete opposite side of the world is Invisalign, whose pricing is based on the severity of the dental issues you have. I guess that sort of makes sense, though that logic seems a bit antiquated today with all the new advancements in orthodontics. But the real issue I have is that Invisalign’s cost is, quite literally, all over the map depending on where you live in the United States; this means that the more expensive a city or state, the more Invisalign will cost.
For example: Invisalign will be much pricier in San Francisco than in Pierre, South Dakota. In my research, I saw pricing range from $1,900 to $8,000. That differential is bananas; it ends up being more than traditional braces by a lot, and certainly much more expensive than either Byte option. And I didn’t see a trace of a lifetime guarantee or guaranteed financing anywhere, so that puts Invisalign at a disadvantage for me.
So unless you’re a Rockefeller who also doesn’t care about devoting your entire life to wearing aligners, Byte is the way to go. Not only are you saving in terms of monetary cost, but you’re also saving time and sanity, knowing your treatment plan will be over in half that of Invisalign’s.
My dream scenario would be that Invisalign releases a night-only option. Then I can still have an orthodontist monitor my process IRL but not be bound to wearing aligners with attachments all day long for potentially a year or longer. It seems almost unfair to liken Invisalign to the newer at-home aligners like Byte, because Invisalign really is more comparable to traditional braces. So when up against wire braces, Invisalign is a much better option, but when it is up against at-home aligners, it’s apples and oranges all over again.
Invisalign is superior in both the level of expertise it can offer (by working exclusively through orthodontist and dental practices) as well as in the complexity of cases it can treat. I believe Invisalign was a revolutionary alternative to wire braces when it first debuted, and even up until the past decade or so, but the lack of innovation, coupled with its long treatment times, has Invisalign losing its place in the industry it helped create as teledentistry grows and evolves.