A million dollar smile is great and all, but what about getting one as an adult? No one past their teenage years wants to deal with the “brace face” life (or relive it if the effects of their braces have worn off).
Thankfully, home teeth aligners make it possible to straighten your teeth from the convenience of your house. No braces, no wires, no office visits. These clear aligners have become a popular alternative to braces. Why? They’re much cheaper than braces and Invisalign. They’re also much more convenient.
There are a few popular home teeth aligner companies on the market today, but only two of them offer nighttime-only treatment: Byte and Smile Direct. With nighttime treatment, you’ll only have to wear your aligners for 10 hours per day instead of the usual 22.
It’s much more convenient than traditional treatment since you won’t have to remove your aligners every time you eat (unless you eat in your sleep—but then you have other things to worry about). In this comparison review, we’ll help you decide which is right for you: Byte At-Night or Smile Direct’s Nighttime Clear Aligners.
5 Things They Have in Common
For the bulk of this review, we’ll talk about the differences between Byte At-Night and Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners. But they do have a fair bit in common. Both companies will help you perfect your grin without going to the dentist’s office. But the commonalities between Byte and Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners go much deeper than that:
1) Affordability: Money is always an issue, right? Thankfully, both Byte At-Night and Smile Direct Nighttime Aligners are relatively affordable. Sure, they have their own price points (more on this later), but they’re both thousands of dollars cheaper than braces or Invisalign, which can cost about $5,000. Smile Direct charges the same price for both daytime and nighttime treatment, but Byte At-Night costs a touch more than Byte’s standard offering.
2) Flexible Financing: Even though Byte At-Night and Smile Direct Nighttime Clear Aligners are both affordable, ~$2,000 isn’t exactly pocket change. Thankfully, both companies offer financing with automatic approval. If you have a poor credit score, there’s no worries. With both companies, you can jump on a payment plan and start your treatment right away.
3) Discreet: Byte At-Night and Smile Direct’s Nighttime Clear Aligners are slightly different products, but it doesn’t really matter. After all, you’ll only be wearing them at night, so they’re much more discreet than any daytime aligner.
4) Safe: We get it. Home dentistry (also called teledentistry) sounds a bit sketchy. But in reality, it isn’t. Both Byte and Smile Direct use teams of qualified dental professionals to create a custom nighttime treatment plan just for you. They combine your dental impressions with advanced technology to craft your set of aligners. Basically, they’ve taken the technology Invisalign perfected and brought it to the comfort of your home.
5) Insurance Coverage: Byte and Smile Direct both accept FSA and HSA accounts, and your insurance may cover part of your nighttime treatment, too. Smile Direct works directly with UnitedHealthcare and Aetna, but some other providers may offer coverage too. Byte runs a free coverage check for you; just give them your insurance information and they’ll do the legwork to see if you’re eligible for reimbursement or not.
That covers the similarities. For the remainder of this review, we’ll dig into the differences so you can pick the home aligner that’s best for you.
Company Track Records
Home teeth alignment is a fairly new industry, and nighttime-only treatment is an even newer development. Still, it’s important to consider each company’s track record. Here’s how the two compare:
|Year of creation: 2018||Year of creation: 2014|
|Customers served: Thousands||Customers served: 750,000+|
|Company focus: Correcting smiles in record time (half the industry average) thanks to their HyperByte system||Company focus: Making dental care more accessible to the estimated 80% of Americans who need it|
Smile Direct is the biggest aligner company in the entire industry; that’s no secret. In terms of sheer customer volume, Byte can’t currently compete. That said, they’ve grown a lot in the short time they’ve been on the market. For being “the new kid on the block,” Byte already has an impressive customer base.
Home teeth aligner companies all use clear plastic aligners to help shift your teeth into the perfect position. But who creates those aligners is an important distinction. That includes the person designing your treatment plan and the manufacturer producing the aligners themselves.
Smile Direct uses the same aligners for both daytime and nighttime treatment. Byte, however, redesigned their daytime aligner for Byte At-Night. They use a different plastic that’s specially developed for nighttime treatment and cut thicker to exert more power.
But aligner type isn’t the only factor that affects your treatment quality. It’s also important to note the treatment designers and aligner manufacturers for each company:
|Treatment designers: A team made up of only orthodontists||Treatment designers: A mixed team of orthodontists and dentists|
|Aligner manufacturer: Currently unknown||Aligner manufacturer: Currently done in-house, so unnamed. Formerly Align Tech.|
The manufacturer of your aligners is one thing. After all, the manufacturer says a lot about the quality of the aligner itself.
That said, the person who designs your treatment is even more important. Let’s be fair: dentists complete well-rounded professional training, which includes teeth movements. However, they don’t have the same expertise as orthodontists. Orthodontists have to complete a few more years of postgraduate education learning the science of the perfect smile.
By guaranteeing that only an orthodontist will oversee your case, Byte ensures top-quality treatment from the most qualified professionals. With Smile Direct, you lack that guarantee. A dentist might oversee your case instead, which could make your nighttime treatment slightly less effective, especially if your case is more severe than others.
No two smiles are exactly alike. So, regardless of what company you choose for treatment, your treatment could be longer or shorter than someone else’s. Your treatment speed largely depends on the initial severity of your crowding or spacing condition.
That said, each company’s product affects your treatment speed as well. Here are the average treatment times for Byte At-Night and Smile Direct’s nighttime clear aligners:
- Byte: 4 to 6 months (compared to 3 months for daytime treatment)
- Smile Direct: 10 months (compared to 6 months for daytime treatment)
Byte recently redesigned their At-Night aligners to be thicker and stronger—and ultimately faster. But with either option, you’ll wear your aligners for 10 hours each night.
Byte, however, requires one extra step. You’ll use the HyperByte system for 10 minutes each day (instead of 5 minutes) – the key to Byte’s fast results. This device uses rapid, tiny vibrations to gently move your teeth to their final destination while helping reduce discomfort. Thanks to the HyperByte, Byte At-Night treatment is just as fast as the industry’s average for daytime treatment.
Pricing & Features
Let’s talk about bang for your buck. In this section, we’ll dig into the pricing details for impression kits, nighttime treatment, and whitening from Byte or Smile Direct.
With any home aligner company, you’ll kick off your treatment by taking impressions of your teeth, and nighttime-only treatment is no exception. Most companies require you to use an at-home impression kit. However, Smile Direct maintains over 300 retail locations that offer alternatives to taking impressions on your own.
Here’s how the impression kit prices stack up:
- Byte, $95: Byte’s kit includes everything you need to take your impressions at home, including trays, putty, and, of course, a prepaid shipping label. If $95 gives you sticker shock, keep in mind that Byte sometimes runs sales on the kit.
- Smile Direct, FREE or $49: One of the biggest advantages Smile Direct has over the competition is their SmileShops; they have hundreds of locations across the country. You can visit one of these shops to receive teeth scans in person instead of taking impressions. If you do, it’s free! There’s no obligation to proceed with treatment, either. But if you don’t live near a SmileShop, you can still purchase an impression kit and take your impressions at home.
Both Byte and Smile Direct provide a guarantee on your impression kit. If you send in impressions and it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for nighttime (or even daytime) treatment, they’ll refund the kit price. If you are a candidate, though, you’ll pay the kit price regardless of whether or not you decide to get treatment.
Once you complete your impressions, Byte or Smile Direct will create a nighttime treatment plan for you. This includes all of the aligners you’ll need to shift your smile from meh to wow. The price will be the same, regardless of how many aligners you need. And nighttime-only treatment doesn’t cost any more than standard aligners. Let’s take a look at the base prices for each service.
- Byte, $2,245: Byte charges a bit more for Byte At-Night than normal daytime treatment. That’s because Byte At-Night is their premium offering. The aligners are the highest quality. It’s not a huge price difference, but it’s worth noting. In the kit, you’ll get everything you need to straighten your teeth and keep them that way, including the HyperByte system and post-treatment retainers. Bought separately, the HyperByte system costs a whopping $699, so you get a lot of value for your money.
- Smile Direct, $1,895: With Smile Direct, the price you see is usually the price you get, and it’s the same whether you choose daytime or nighttime treatment. Like Byte, they include all the aligners you’ll need to treat your smile. However, their post-treatment aligners aren’t included. Instead, you’ll need to purchase them separately for $99.
Can’t pay all at once? Thankfully, both services offer financing. And as long as you pay the downpayment, there’s a 100% approval rate.
- Byte, $2,865: With Bytepay, you’re automatically approved for financing, no credit check necessary. You do need to make a $415 downpayment, though. Then you’ll be eligible for 25 monthly payments of $98. This takes your total cost to $2,865, so if you can afford to pay everything up front, it’s definitely worth it.
- Smile Direct, $2,290: Smile Direct also has a 100% approval rate, so your credit score doesn’t matter. To kick off financing, they require a fairly standard downpayment of $250. After that, you’ll pay $85 per month for 24 months.
Both Byte and Smile Direct offer whitening treatments on top of their nighttime aligners. And both include one set free with purchase; Smile Direct charges extra. If you want to purchase whitening kits in addition to your treatment, you’ll need to shell out a little extra cash:
- Byte, $30: The first bottle is included in your aligner kit for free. It’s safe to use during your treatment; in fact, it doubles as a cleanser for your aligners and a breath freshener. If you run out, you can buy a replacement bottle for $30.
- Smile Direct, $40-74: After your free whitening runs out, what you pay for extra kits depends on the size of the supply you get. Each kit includes teeth whitening pens. The more expensive ones also include an LED light to speed things up. You can purchase a 6- or 12-month supply.
On the surface, it might look like Smile Direct is significantly cheaper than Byte, especially when you use financing. However, Byte includes the HyperByte system in your kit at no extra charge. This system normally retails for $699, so it gives you a great value.
No one anticipates having issues with their aligners, but life happens. That’s life. When it does, you’ll need to talk with customer support. We’ve tested them ourselves, and here’s how the two compare:
|Contact methods: Phone, email, and social media||Contact methods: Phone, email, social media|
|Hours: 8 a.m to 6 p.m. PT||Hours: “Customer Care Available 24/7” (per their website)|
|Speed: Phone usually gets a same-day response; social media and email queries can take 24 hours||Speed: Hit-or-miss; phone gets same-day response (but possible hold times); email delay up to 24 hours|
|Friendliness: Receptive, knowledgeable, individualized, and professional||Friendliness: Professional and upbeat|
|Takeaway: Byte puts their customers at the center of all they do. They’re prompt, responsive, and extremely helpful. And we especially love that Byte gives a personal Byte advisor to each customer. Anytime you contact them for support, you get to chat with someone who’s seen your case the whole way through. You won’t have to explain your situation every time, either.||Takeaway: In the past, Smile Direct had some mixed feedback about their customer support; their team was too small to effectively serve their rapidly-growing customer base! It seems that they’re working to improve this issue, though. We’ve found that, even though the channels of support are adequate, that best method is their in-house support at the SmileShops. Representatives are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.|
Smile Direct definitely has room to improve in the customer service department, but we’re glad to see the improvements they’ve made already. For perspective, Smile Direct experienced near-explosive growth in 2017; their service department couldn’t quite keep up (you’ll see more complaints from 2017 than any other year on online reviews).
In contrast, Byte’s customer support is much better. They give individualized attention to each customer. That’s probably why so many people mention their representative by name in their online reviews. For being such a young company, Byte is off to a great start.
Ease of Getting Started
Ease is the name of the game when it comes to at-home aligner treatment. But not all aligner companies use the same process. Some are a bit easier than others.
In this category, Smile Direct definitely has an advantage. Thanks to their SmileShops, it’s fairly easy to get your treatment started. Customers love how friendly the staff are at these shops, and the care professionals there handle all the difficult parts of taking impressions.
Byte doesn’t have retail locations. If you’d rather use Byte (or you don’t live near a SmileShop), you’ll need to order an impression kit and do it yourself. Thankfully, Byte makes up for their lack of physical locations with video call “impression sessions.” An assistant will help walk you through the process to guarantee success. You’ll use the same startup procedures for both nighttime and standard aligners.
What if I get it wrong?
Impression kits are a tad tricky, so don’t panic if you mess them up. If the impressions are iffy—they could work, but you’re not sure—send them in. The orthodontists will let you know if you need to give it another try.
If you’re sure you’ve botched the impressions, contact customer support at Byte or Smile Direct, and they’ll send another kit your way. Smile Direct promises that they’ll refund the cost of the replacement kit when you purchase your aligners. Byte, on the other hand, won’t charge you anything except the price of shipping. You also have two impressions worth of kit, so you can mess up once and still have another go at it.
For many shoppers, customer reviews can make or break purchasing decisions. If you’re one of those shoppers, we’ve got you covered. We’ve done the legwork for you to see what customers across the web are saying about Byte and Smile Direct. We’d love to summarize what they say about the nighttime aligners specifically, but most reviewers just talk about the company in general.
|Top loves: excellent customer service (even mentioning representatives by name); visible results within a couple weeks; easy to use||Top loves: Smile Shops are convenient and the staff is friendly; convenient reminders to switch out aligners; affordable|
|Top complaints: no shipping to North Carolina; guarantee on impression kit does not apply to bite issues||Top complaints: delayed shipments; received wrong aligners; requesting re-evaluations is tedious and difficult|
|Average score: 4.7/5||Average score: 4/5|
Smile Direct had some rough patches with their reviews around 2017. And while they’re not perfect just yet, they have made some improvements. The most common complaints they still get concern treatment re-evaluations. That is concerning, but it’s also the biggest drawback to any home aligner treatment, no matter what company you choose. Making amendments remotely is more challenging than in person.
Smile Direct may be improving, but Byte definitely comes out on top in the customer reviews department. An overwhelming majority of Byte’s reviews are positive, and the few negative ones are due to the limitations of home treatment, not Byte themselves. We attribute much of their success to their personal care assistants.
Refund Policies & Satisfaction Guarantees
As with any purchase, there’s always the nagging question: what if it doesn’t work out? Byte and Smile Direct both have very individualized approaches for refunds and satisfaction guarantees for their nighttime treatment.
The “Byte-for-Life Guarantee”
Strictly speaking, Byte has only one refund policy: their impression kit. If you’re not a candidate for treatment, you’ll be refunded for the impression kit. However, Byte stands by their product with their “Byte for Life” guarantee.
This guarantee is essentially a lifetime warranty. If your teeth ever shift after your nighttime treatment, even years down the road, Byte will send you new aligners to correct it. Similarly, if you reach the end of your treatment and you’re not satisfied, you can request a re-evaluation. As long as you’ve followed the prescribed treatment plan, Byte will help make it right.
Smile Direct’s “Club Warranty”
Smile Direct gives you 30 days to change your mind about your nighttime aligners. If you try it out and decide it’s not right for you, you can return them for a full refund.
Then there’s the Club Warranty. Smile Direct promises its “club members” (AKA customers) that if they’re not totally satisfied with the results at the end of the treatment, they can request a re-evaluation and get new aligners to finish the job.
To be eligible for this warranty, you must check in with your assigned doctor every 90 days and follow your prescribed treatment to a T. You have to wear your aligners for 10 hours each night (so slightly before you actually go to sleep) and switch each aligner as scheduled. If you’ve followed your treatment, then all requests for re-evaluation must be submitted within 30 days of finishing treatment to be eligible for the warranty.
Which is the Best Nighttime Aligner for You?
When it all comes down to it, Byte At-Night and Smile Direct’s Nighttime Clear Aligners are both good options. But at the end of the day, you can only pick one.
If you want our honest opinion, we prefer Byte At-Night. Smile Direct is not a bad service in any sense. But Byte is our favorite service across the board. We love their lifetime guarantee, their treatment efficiency, and their excellent customer service.
- Choose Byte if: you’re in a rush to perfect your smile. Byte At-Night is nearly twice as fast as Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners.
- Choose Smile Direct if: you want the confidence that comes from working with a well-established brand. Smile Direct has served more than 750,000 thousand customers, so they’ve probably already seen a case just like yours.
We Recommend Byte
We highly recommend Byte. Their “Byte for Life” guarantee promises you a lifetime warranty of their starter kit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either nighttime treatment offer discounts?
Technically, both services run occasional sales. Neither service offers run-of-the-mill discounts extremely frequently, though. Smile Direct also has a referral program and year-round discounts for students, teachers, and military members. Byte offers similar discounts for military members, students, and first responders. Both companies will also run special sales at certain times throughout the year, primarily around holidays.
Are Byte At-Night and Smile Direct nighttime clear aligners legit?
Your mom warned you about things that sound too good to be true, right? Thankfully home aligner companies like Byte and Smile Direct aren’t. These companies leverage a competitive product with competitive prices. But they don’t sacrifice quality to do it. How? They don’t have the overhead costs of a physical office like a traditional orthodontist’s office, so they can reinvest those savings in measures that ensure fast and convenient treatment.
Which home aligner company is more customer-focused?
Byte At-Night is a bit more customer-centric than Smile Direct. They assign a personal care assistant to each customer, which gives you more customized support. And practically, Byte has a smaller customer base that allows them to give more attention to each individual.
How exactly do at-home nighttime aligners work?
They’re nearly invisible, but they’re not magical. Technically speaking, at-home clear aligners use roughly the same technology as Invisalign. This starts with your impressions, which a dental professional uses to design a series of clear trays that gently move your teeth to their final destination. WIth Smile Direct Nighttime Aligners, you wear each aligner for two weeks instead of the usual one week for standard treatment. Byte At-Night, however, only requires you to wear each aligner for one week.
How do Byte and Smile Direct compare to Invisalign?
They’re distant cousins, really. Invisalign pioneered the clear aligner alternative to traditional braces. However, Invisalign adds one unique aspect: devices affixed to your teeth to secure the aligners, which must be attached in-office by a qualified orthodontist. Home aligners don’t use these devices, allowing you to complete your entire treatment at home.
Plus, Invisalign doesn’t offer a nighttime-only treatment option. You’re required to wear Invisalign’s aligners for 22+ hours per day.
How do these home aligners compare to AlignerCo and Candid?
Smile Direct and Byte are pretty similar to both Candid and AlignerCo, although these competitors have their own perks. AlignerCo is the cheapest service on the market thanks to their frequent sales. Candid pairs their great customer service with social impact through their partnership with Smile Train.
But the biggest advantage Smile Direct and Byte have is the fact that they offer nighttime-only treatments through Byte At-Night and Nighttime Clear Aligners. AlignerCo and Candid both require traditional daytime wear…for now, anyway. It’s not unreasonable to expect that they’ll add nighttime treatments soon.
Is there an age requirement for using either Byte or Smile Direct?
Both Byte and Smile Direct require that your have all you permanent teeth before beginning treatment. (You don’t want to dump thousands into teeth that will just fall out, anyway). With both Byte and Smile Direct, patients must be at least 12 years old. Minors must have parental consent to receive treatment.
Does either service give free whitening treatment?
Byte includes one free bottle of their whitening treatment with your aligner kit. You can use it during your treatment. A replacement bottle costs $30. Smile Direct also offers a free whitening kit with your treatment package, but if you want more after that, you’ll need to pay. Depending on what size kit you purchase, you’ll spend $40-74.
Can I use Byte and Smile Direct if I live outside the USA?
If you live in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or Australia, then you can use Smile Direct. Byte doesn’t currently ship internationally.
Do Byte and Smile Direct have aggressive upsells?
Thankfully, no. Both companies “bait you in” (mildly) by giving you one set of their whitening treatment for free. But since there’s no obligation to buy a replacement kit once yours run out, it’s not a true upsell.
How do I know if at-home nighttime aligners are right for me?
Many people are good candidates for at-home treatment. In general, the only people who should automatically steer clear of at-home aligners are people with significant bite issues. If underbite, overbite, crossbite, etc. is the cause of your misalignment, then clear aligners may not be able to permanently correct your issue.
That said, in Byte’s case, nighttime treatment isn’t right for everyone. Because the nighttime aligners exert extra force on your teeth, you’ll need to get a doctor’s approval prior to treatment.
Individuals with implants may still be able to get treatment. To know for sure, you’ll need to take an impression kit with either service. They’ll let you know for sure if you are a candidate or not. If you are not a candidate, you’ll get a refund for the price of the impression kit.
Will either of these home aligners make me talk less funny?
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if you’re using nighttime aligners because you’ll be sleeping for the majority of the time you wear them. Either company’s aligners will be slightly uncomfortable when you first start using a new set, but after the first couple of nights, you’ll barely notice them.
If I lose my aligners during or after treatment, do I have to pay for new ones?
Byte will send you a replacement aligner for $99. Smile Direct will send you one for $50. With either, though, you should wear your previous aligner each night to keep your teeth from shifting too far back.
Can I drink coffee when using Byte or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from Byte and Smile Direct are fairly stain-resistant, but you should generally avoid eating or drinking colored liquids and foods while wearing your aligners. Water is a safe bet, though. This isn’t a huge concern for nighttime aligners, though, since most people don’t drink coffee, tea, cola, or other colored beverages in the middle of the night.
Are there any hidden costs?
Byte doesn’t really have any hidden costs. What you see is what you get. Smile Direct does have one unadvertised cost, but it isn’t exactly hidden. You’ll need to pay $99 for post-treatment retainers; Byte includes the first set for free. With either company, however, you’ll need to purchase new post-treatment retainers occasionally. They do wear out over time.
We Recommend Byte
We highly recommend Byte. Their “Byte for Life” guarantee promises you a lifetime warranty of their starter kit.