I lost my first retainer, a metal clunker, within the first week of getting it. A friend told me I probably swallowed it. (You're laughing, but there was a minute when I actually believed him.) The second, a clear plastic model, made it through college until I started dating my first serious boyfriend (overnight stays + dental wear ≠ sexy). A couple weeks without my retainer became months, then years, and before I could say headgear, my teeth had drifted far enough apart, I couldn't even wear it anymore. Sound familiar?

While no one would look at me and say I have a wonky smile, I noticed it had changed a bit from the radiant, perfectly aligned grin I flashed in all my college photos (damn you, Facebook Memories!). At first I experimented with different expressions, but the Olsen look didn't really suit me, so then I started smiling a lot less.

Then came the guilt. Did I really go through those painful two years with braces only to end up back at square one? Did I waste all my parents' money because I was too lazy to wear a retainer while I slept? The damage might've been done, but I was determined to fix it: enter Candid.

Candid Co

Why I Chose Candid Over Other Invisible Aligner Brands

I can be a bit of a hermit sometimes, so I knew I wanted something affordable and convenient that didn't require me to leave my house. But I also wanted something approved by an orthodontist. This became even more of a non-negotiable when I learned that many invisible aligner brands tap dentists or vague "dental professionals" when creating a treatment plan. Not that dentists aren't awesome, but their expertise is less specialized (a dentist surveys the entire mouth—think tongue, teeth, nerves, jaw, etc.—whereas an orthodontist focuses on making your teeth straight). Candid works only with orthodontists who on average have 20 years of professional experience.

How Candid Works

After getting a molding kit in the mail, you create three impressions each of your top and bottom teeth to send back (shipping is pre-paid!). These are used to create a 3-D image of your treatment program and, eventually, your aligners.

The kit is relatively easy to use (though it's a little drooly sitting there with putty in your mouth, so grab a towel), but the real win is that it's commitment free. Sending in your impressions doesn't mean you have to purchase the aligners. Candid will first send you a preview of the plan, then you can decide if you want to pull the trigger.

For $1,900 up front (Candid has a monthly billing option as well), you get the same teeth-alignment you'd get from braces—but for 65 percent less. And, you know, you get to keep your dignity since they're made of clear plastic, not chunky metal. You also only have to wear your aligners for about six months total, though you swap them out for a new set every two weeks. Thankfully all aligners are shipped to you at once, so there's no worrying about multiple shipments or late deliveries.

Candid Co

Time commitment and price are fairly similar to other invisible aligner brands, but I liked that Candid came with more perks. While significantly cheaper than the average $5K for braces, $1,900 is still a large chunk of change. It was nice to know that my purchase not only included an orthodontist-created plan and the aligners, but also round-the-clock customer service via email, phone, and video chat; access to the orthodontist; whitener to keep teeth and aligners bright; and actual storefronts where I could get assistance IRL if needed.

If I'm being honest, the hardest part of the whole thing was wearing the aligners for the recommended 22 hours per day. Not only can you not eat with them in, but the plastic turned my speech into a lispy jumble (very professional in meetings). Since the overall adjustments to my teeth were minor—and the discomfort very real (sorry, guys, whether it's metal or plastic, getting your teeth fixed still hurts like a b*tch)—I chose to start by wearing my aligners overnight and work up to the recommended time period*. What can I say? I'm weak! I couldn't take my braces off in high school, but it's pretty easy to wake up at 3 a.m., say "screw this," and pop them out.

Ever vigilant, Candid has thought of this too and sends along a (sort-of) soothing pair of chewies. The idea is that when aligners are snug and pop off your back teeth, or you're struggling to ignore the pressure-induced pain, you can chew on them (yep, like a teething baby). It's not perfect, but you know the drill—no pain no gain.

If you're considering taking the plunge (aligners can fix everything from gaps and snaggleteeth to basic overcrowding), consider a program like Candid that you can manage from start to finish from the comfort of your own home. I feel better about my smile already, and it's only a month into my plan. Maybe it'll do the same for you too.

*This is not recommended by Candid Co. orthodontists. For proper results, you should wear aligners the recommended 22 hours per day.

We occasionally partner with awesome brands to bring you products we know you'll love. If you make a purchase, we may collect a referral fee as a result. But don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra, and we wouldn't recommend a product if we didn't love it as much as we love puppies.

READ THIS NEXT: 13 Expert-Approved Products to Help You Sleep Better