In-office vs At-home Clear Aligners: Differences, Benefits & Risks

Written by Dr. Febin George BDS | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Shaista Salam BDS

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Are your misaligned teeth making you feel uncomfortable? That could be the reason why you are trying to find out different options to get a set of perfectly aligned teeth and a sparkling smile. In-office vs at-home clear aligners: wondering which one to go for? Read the article to know more about these options and weigh your benefits and risks before making the right choice.

What are in-office aligners, and how do clear aligners work?

The idea of introducing clear aligners was to provide an effective treatment solution for fixing misaligned teeth in individuals who do not want to wear conspicuous metal braces.

Clear aligners are customized plastic trays that can change the position of the teeth in a virtually invisible way. The trays need to be worn for at least 22 hours a day for optimum tooth movement.

In-office aligners are prepared under the supervision of a dentist or orthodontist specifically trained to handle such cases. A digital or PVS impression of the teeth is recorded in a dental office, after which a team of experienced clinicians prepares customized treatment plans for you. 

These treatment plans are shared with the aligner manufacturer, who will fabricate the aligners through 3D printing technology and send them back to your dentist. Depending on the treatment plan, a specific set of aligner trays will  be handed over to you; you will switch to a new step every one or two weeks as directed by the dentist/orthodontist. And you will be asked to visit for follow-up appointments every other month to check the treatment progress.

At-home aligners: A quick overview

At-home aligners are popularly known as mail-order aligners or DIY aligners. These are considered convenient alternatives to in-office clear aligners where the entire treatment is remote.

To start with, you will need to buy an at-home aligner kit that contains the material and equipment to record the impression of your teeth. These impressions need to be sent to the aligner company. Your impressions are reviewed by a dental professional and sent to the laboratory after approval. Once your clear aligners are fabricated, they are dispatched to you by post. 

Some at-home aligner companies connect you with an orthodontist who will monitor your progress remotely through telehealth apps.

Key differences between in-office vs at-home clear aligners (& their risks)

Professional supervision & dental check

In-office aligners are provided and supervised by licensed orthodontists or dentists who have received specialized training in this specialty. These professionals will not only customize the treatment plan for you but also monitor your progress in regular follow-up visits until the completion of the treatment.

At-home aligner systems utilize a self-directed approach in which you take impressions of your teeth and then receive a series of aligners fabricated based on your impression. Recording accurate dental impressions takes years of practice. Moreover, the greater the accuracy, the better your aligners fit. Hence, a lot depends on the impression you send. One of the biggest challenges of at-home aligners is that for most of the treatment, you are left on your own.


In-office aligners are quite versatile as they can address complex dental issues with accuracy and efficacy. A meticulously planned and executed treatment plan can help manage many cases ranging from mild to severe misalignments.

On the other hand, at-home aligners follow a one-size-fits-all process that may not be precise enough to manage complex cases.

Time, Cost & Efficiency in Treatment

In-office aligners are slightly more expensive as they involve professional expertise. They deliver more efficient results as there is professional oversight. Thorough evaluation at every step helps identify and manage any changes that can impede the treatment process. The dentists/orthodontists make the necessary adjustments to achieve the desired outcome and complete the treatment at the expected time.

At-home aligners are easier on your pocket as there is no fee for expert supervision involved. As appointments are rare, you may think they are more convenient if you have a busy lifestyle. However, this can act opposite to your treatment goals. The duration of treatment is difficult to determine as, in some cases,  it may take a bit longer to reach the expected outcome.

  • Risk of improper fitting & limited ability to treat complex cases (1
  • The fit of your final aligner depends to a great extent on the primary impression taken before the treatment. With at-home aligners, if you take an inaccurate impression, your aligners don't end up fitting. 
  • At-home aligners lack in-person professional supervision. This can put you at risk of developing problems such as unwanted tooth movements, poor tracking, gum issues, or root resorption during treatment.
  • At-home aligners have a limited treatment scope as they may not be ideal for complex cases or severe misalignments. They are best suited for mild orthodontic issues.
  • At-home aligner providers often focus solely on straightening teeth. The identification or management of an underlying dental issue may not play a primary role in the treatment process.

Consulting with an orthodontic professional is of paramount importance to determine which option is most appropriate for your specific needs and to minimize the risks associated with orthodontic treatment.

Making an informed decision: questions to ask yourself 

In-office vs at-home clear aligners: which one to choose? Here is a list of questions you should ask yourselves to make an informed choice.

What are my expectations from treatment with clear aligners?

Determine what are those specific issues that you wish to address through clear aligners. Are they meant to fix your misaligned teeth only for aesthetic reasons, or do you have other bite problems?

How bad is my orthodontic problem?

To assess the severity of your orthodontic issue, you will need to consult with orthodontists. They will evaluate your dental and skeletal condition and determine whether your problem is mild, moderate, or severe.

Am I motivated enough to go with a self-directed treatment approach?

You should ask if you are committed to following treatment instructions independently, including wearing aligners as recommended and taking care of your oral hygiene during the process. Remember, at-home aligners need a lot of self-monitoring, as minimal to zero professional guidance is involved.

Can I afford the expenses incurred in treatment with in-office aligners?

Discuss with your dentist whether you can manage the expenses of in-office aligners with their professional supervision and guidance. Check if there are flexible payment options available and whether you can afford them.

How important are the quality and effectiveness of treatment for you?

For some, clear aligners are a way to quick-fix their misaligned teeth. They will look for budget-friendly options and will be less worried about the treatment quality or effectiveness. On the other hand, some individuals are keen on making a wise investment in their smiles by going for an approach that involves expert supervision.

What kind of post-care or retention phase do they provide?

You may have achieved your dream smile through clear aligners, but they may switch back to their old positions if you do not go through the retention phase. Your dentist will provide you with retainers which are appliances meant to hold teeth in their new positions. At-home aligners may have limited or no retainer options compared to in-office clear aligners.

Remember that the choice between in-office and at-home aligners should be made in consultation with a qualified orthodontic professional who can provide personalized recommendations based on your unique dental needs and goals.

Why Eon Aligner supports in-office treatments: our success stories

Eon Aligner has always kept its best foot forward when it comes to delivering high-quality care to our patients. We prioritize on providing safe and effective orthodontic solutions and support in-office treatments due to the following reasons:-

Case selection: Are clear aligners the best solution for you?

Clear aligners can resolve a variety of orthodontic issues but are they the ideal solution for every orthodontic case? That’s why we emphasize thorough case assessments during in-office consultations with orthodontists or dentists. This ensures that you are suggested the most appropriate treatment option for your case. 

Customized treatment plan

In-office treatments allow orthodontists or dentists to design highly customized treatment plans to address your specific dental issues. Only a tailored plan can help you get the most effective and efficient treatment possible. Orthodontists can make precise adjustments to aligners whenever needed to achieve optimal results.

Monitoring at every step

When you manage your treatment on your own, you may not be able to appreciate the nuances of teeth alignment as these need the eyes of an expert. Consistent monitoring through regular check-ups allows your orthodontist to track your progress closely. This proactive approach enables prompt adjustments and ensures the treatment stays on the right course.

Safety and efficacy

Eon Aligner considers your safety and treatment effectiveness as one of its top priorities. In-office clear aligners provide a controlled environment for your case monitoring. Your dentist can check whether the aligners are being worn and tracking correctly and that any issues are promptly addressed. This reduces the risk of complications and enhances the overall safety and efficacy of treatment.

Retainer phase

The retainer phase is critical for maintaining the results achieved through orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist will guide you through this phase in in-office clear aligners and provide directions on how to wear your retainers. Wearing retainers preserves the desired outcomes of treatment by preventing teeth from shifting back.

In short, Eon Aligner supports in-office clear aligners to ensure successful and lasting results for individuals like you who are seeking orthodontic correction. This approach aligns with the goal of achieving optimal oral health and a beautiful smile.


The choice between in-office vs at-home clear aligners is a significant decision that should be made carefully, taking into account various factors. Each approach has its own set of differences, benefits, and associated risks, which can greatly influence the outcome of your orthodontic treatment.

While in-office clear aligners offer the advantage of professional supervision, customization, and versatility, at-home clear aligners make orthodontic treatment accessible to a broader group owing to their affordability and convenience. Ultimately, the choice between in-office and at-home clear aligners should be based on individual factors, including the case complexity, budget, lifestyle, and the level of expert supervision desired. To ensure that your orthodontic treatment results in a healthier and more confident smile, always consult an orthodontist who can assess your unique situation and provide expert guidance.



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