SmileDirectClub and AlignerCo have a lot in common. Both clear aligner services offer at-home teeth straightening, and both are significantly more affordable than braces or Invisalign. But when you dig a bit deeper, there are actually some major differences between these companies’ service offerings that aren’t so apparent on the surface.
We’re here to help you decipher these differences and hone in on the features that are most important to you. In this comparison review, we’ll take you on an in-depth tour of SmileDirectClub and AlignerCo, and provide all the information you need to choose the best home teeth aligner for you.
Table of Contents
Overview and Recommendation
Bottom Line: Both Companies Offer Big Savings and Great-Looking Options
AlignerCo and SmileDirectClub both offer a convenient and affordable alternative to visiting your dental provider for Invisalign treatment. With either service, you’ll receive a set of custom invisible aligners shipped directly to your home. But after that, the differences between these services become more clear.
Two Great Companies, But AlignerCo Gets Our Vote
SmileDirectClub was the first company to offer invisible aligners online in 2014. Compared to AlignerCo, they have a much longer track record and more established brand. So, it might seem surprising that we prefer AlignerCo over the industry’s best-known company.
But when we really dug into these providers’ services and perks, we gave AlignerCo the edge over SmileDirectClub for two important reasons:
- Industry-Best Prices: AlignerCo aims to be the most affordable home aligner option on the market, and their prices are significantly lower than the competition. Plus, they occasionally offer discounts and always provide financing to help make their treatment even more accessible.
- Reputable Manufacturing: AlignerCo’s has a partnership with Raintree Essix, a longstanding, well-respected dental supply manufacturer, so their aligners are crafted from premium materials. SmileDirectClub once had a similar partnership with Align Technology (the company behind Invisalign), but that dissolved and now they produce their aligners in-house.
All that said, there’s a lot to love about SmileDirectClub too — especially when it comes to convenience. SmileDirectClub has more than 300 physical locations nationwide where you can get a free teeth scan, avoiding the whole impression kit process. And if you’re unsure about wearing your aligners for 22 hours per day, SmileDirectClub is one of the only companies that offers a nighttime-only option, so you can choose the plan that works best with your schedule.
At the end of the day, both providers are worth considering, but AlignerCo gets our vote of confidence.
Provided you are a good candidate for at-home aligners, both SmileDirectClub and AlignerCo can deliver effective results. But if we’re being honest, both companies have their shortcomings when compared to other home aligner options. For instance, we’re unsure about some aspects of SmileDirectClub’s manufacturing process, AlignerCo’s aligner cut, and both companies’ dental networks.
But overall, we think that AlignerCo’s consistent dentist oversight and reputable manufacturer give them a leg up on SmileDirectClub.
- Works with a network of orthodontists and general dentists
- Once partnered with Align Technology to manufacture aligners, but now produces them in-house
- Cuts their aligners straight across the top for extra power
- Also uses a mixed team of orthodontists and general dentists
- Partners with Raintree Essix, a reputable manufacturer, to produce their aligners
- Trims aligners to match your gum line, potentially sacrificing effectiveness.
- Dentists check in on your progress every two weeks
Every home aligner company has a remote team of dental professionals who create treatment plans for customers. Some companies have bolstered their treatment quality by only including orthodontists in their networks. Orthodontists receive four years of postgraduate training focused solely on moving teeth, so they’re the most specialized and qualified individuals for the job.
AlignerCo and SmileDirectClub, however, have dental teams made up of orthodontists plus general dentists, so you might not have the most specialized treatment designer. General dentists are still licensed, qualified dental professionals, but they don’t have the targeted expertise that an orthodontist does.
However, AlignerCo makes sure that your dentist or orthodontist stays involved with your treatment. They require you to submit photos every two weeks for feedback, which ensures that your treatment stays on track.
SmileDirectClub once partnered with Align Technology (the creators of Invisalign) to manufacture their clear aligners. We were huge fans of this partnership, as Align Technology has long been known for producing top-quality, highly-effective aligners.
These days, however, SmileDirectClub produces most of its aligners in-house. This introduces a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to the level of quality and effectiveness you can expect when you order from SmileDirectClub.
Alternatively, AlignerCo partners with Raintree Essix to produce their aligners. Raintree Essix plastic is well-known and highly regarded in the dental space, most commonly used to produce very durable retainers. This indicates to us that AlignerCo is dedicated to quality in their manufacturing process.
In an effort to make their aligners more discreet, AlignerCo scallops them to match your gum line. This seems ideal at first glance, as it does make you aligners slightly less visible – but it can also make them less effective.
SmileDirectClub cuts their aligners straight across the top so that they overlap your gums. This overlap might be slightly visible, but it serves as an anchor for your aligners, allowing them to exert up to 4x more force on your teeth.
One of the first things many adults check when considering home aligner treatment is their budget. Which provider offers lower prices? Both options are more cost-effective than in-office options like Invisalign, but costs vary among home aligner companies too. And this is where AlignerCo really shines, not just in this side-by-side comparison, but also among the rest of its competitors.
When comparing costs, the price tag isn’t everything. You’ll also want to consider payment plan options, where both companies offer some flexibility. Even though SmileDirectClub’s costs are respectable, AlignerCo goes above and beyond to provide affordable, accessible treatment.
- $1,895 sticker price
- Charges $99 for retainers after treatment
- Impression kit is $49 (or free at a SmileShop location)
- Financing requires a down payment but no credit check (everyone is approved!)
- $1,145 sticker price
- The initial payment includes aftercare retainers.
- The impression kit is also included in the sticker price.
- Multiple financing options – one requires a soft credit check, the other requires a downpayment
SmileDirectClub’s initial cost is $1,895, which looks great until you visit AlignerCo’s website. Their treatment is just $1,145, easily the lowest in the industry and much easier on your budget.
AlignerCo’s upfront price includes your aligners, impression kit, and aftercare retainers. By contrast, SmileDirectClub does not include retainers in their upfront cost, so you’ll need to purchase them for $99 after you wrap up your treatment. And while you can get your teeth scanned for free at a SmileShop, if you need a SmileDirectClub impression kit, you’ll need to buy one for an extra $49.
Payment Plan Options
As you think about cost, you should also keep in mind how you will finance your treatment. AlignerCo and SmileDirectClub each offer financing options, but there are some key differences between them.
- SmileDirectClub offers a 24-month financing plan, which does not require a credit check but does require a $250 down payment, then $85 per month.
- AlignerCo has two different financing options:
- SmileFlex requires a soft credit check and if you qualify, it’s 12 monthly payments of $110.
- SmileFlexEasy does not require a credit check but does require a $275 downpayment followed by 11 monthly payments of $95.
SmileDirectClub’s plan has lower monthly payments, but for just $10 more per month, you can finish AlignerCo’s SmileFlexEasy plan in just under a year. With both services, you’ll pay a bit extra to finance your care when you factor in the interest paid over time by financing, so it’s worth it to pay upfront if you can make the finances work!
You’re already on the journey to straightening your teeth, but wouldn’t it be nice to brighten them while you’re at it? If you choose SmileDirectClub, you can. They include a “bright on” kit with their full aligner kit. This promises to deliver your “brightest bright” in just one week, and you can use it simultaneously with your aligners.
AlignerCo doesn’t include whitening with your aligners. In fact, they don’t even sell it. But that’s part of how they can maintain such low prices.
All things considered, AlignerCo excels in this category, but both companies offer strong value when compared to Invisalign or braces, which will typically set you back $5,000 or more.
SmileDirectClub does more to provide a convenient treatment than any other home aligner company. From a nighttime-only option to hundreds of physical locations that make startup easy, no one else can touch their level of convenience. AlignerCo is still more convenient than in-office options, but they’re not on SmileDirectClub’s level yet.
- Has 300+ SmileShops for free teeth scans as an alternative to impressions
- Takes 4-6 weeks to design, produce, and ship your aligners
- Offers a nighttime-only option that only requires aligner wear for 10 hours per day
- Allows simultaneous aligner and whitening use
- Treatment takes an average of 6 months
- Doesn’t have any physical locations, so you must use the impression kit
- Takes 4-5 weeks to design, produce, and ship your aligners
- Does not offer a nighttime-only plan, only the all-day, 22+ hour wear schedule
- Doesn’t include or sell whitening products
- On average, treatment lasts 6-11 months
A home aligner company’s licensed dentist can’t create an effective treatment without getting a look at your teeth. For most customers, this means using an impression kit to make molds of their top and bottom dental arches. However, impression kits can be difficult, especially considering the fact that most customers have never taken molds of their own teeth. AlignerCo provides video chat support to walk you through the process, which helps, but the process can still be tricky.
If you choose AlignerCo, however, creating teeth impressions from home is the only way to get started. SmileDirectClub offers impression kits as well, but their physical locations, called SmileShops, allow you to forgo this step. Over 300 SmileShop locations across the country provide free teeth scans that take the place of impressions.
So if you’d rather not deal with the hassle, or if you’re eager to start treatment ASAP, you could pop into a SmileShop instead. This will allow the company to get started on your care plan as quickly as possible.
On average, SmileDirectClub customers wrap up their treatment in 6 months, which is pretty standard for home aligners and much quicker than in-office options. AlignerCo delivers fast results too, but their treatment could take slightly longer: anywhere between 6 and 11 months.
After you submit your impression kit or teeth scan, each company will get to work on your proposed treatment plan. SmileDirectClub will turn this around within 72 hours of receiving your impressions/scans, while AlignerCo takes around 2 weeks to send your plan preview.
After you approve this plan, SmileDirectClub will take 4-6 weeks to produce and ship your aligners, but AlignerCo will get it done in 2-3 weeks. Overall, you’ll be looking at pretty comparable total wait times for both companies: 4-6 for SmileDirectClub and 4-5 for AlignerCo.
When considering your ideal smile, you might want whitening to go with your teeth straightening treatment. SmileDirectClub has you covered. They include one free whitening kit with your treatment purchase. You can use this whitening simultaneously with your aligners since the two are compatible.
If you maintain a busy lifestyle, or if you don’t think you’d remember to wear your aligners, a standard 22-hour-per-day wear schedule might seem intimidating
SmileDirectClub has an alternative: Nighttime Aligners. Take this route and you’ll only need to wear your aligners for 10 hours per day instead. Of course, this will extend the overall treatment time from 6 to 10 months (on average), but if an all-day aligner schedule sounds exhausting to you, this could be a more convenient option.
AlignerCo doesn’t have a nighttime option
Both of these companies’ clear aligners keep a much lower profile than traditional braces (or even ceramic braces). But this doesn’t mean that they’re exactly the same. In fact, clear aligners can look fairly different from company to company.
SmileDirectClub and AlignerCo aligners each have their own benefits and style. We think SmileDirectClub has a slight advantage here, but appearance is a highly subjective category, so it will also depend on your personal preference.
- Uses a frosted, textured plastic that better matches your tooth surfaces
- Uses straight-cut aligners that slightly overlap your gums.
- Reasonably stain resistant
- Uses a smooth, translucent, shiny plastic
- Scallops their aligners to match your gum line.
- Reasonably stain resistant
Some companies craft their aligners from translucent, shiny plastic while others have a frosted appearance. Still, each company will tell you that their aligners are the best looking. AlignerCo, for example, says that their clear, shiny aligner material is less noticeable than competitors. In fact, they claim to have the “world’s clearest aligners.”
On the flip side, SmileDirectClub maintains that their aligners’ matte surface looks more natural, and we tend to agree. Your teeth are porous, which gives them a matte surface, and frosted aligners provide a better match. Smooth aligners can be reflective and make teeth look unnaturally shiny.
But as we mentioned, this often depends on personal preference. Some customers actually prefer shiny material because they like the way it makes their smile gleam. You’ll need to evaluate your preferences and decide which material fits them better.
If you look back at the “Effectiveness” section, you’ll remember that we said aligners cut straight across the top (like SmileDirectClub’s) are more powerful. This is true, but they’re also more visible. People may notice the slight overlap between your aligners and gums. So, AlignerCo, who trims their aligners to match your gum lines, is a less noticeable option.
Both companies make aligners that are resistant to staining, but we would not recommend drinking colored beverages while wearing them.
Customer Service Comparison
Your teeth and your health are important, so you want a treatment provider that prioritizes you and your concerns. It’s not uncommon to have questions during the home aligner treatment process, so a responsive and caring customer support staff is essential to your overall experience. Whether you’re trying to take a quality impression or just wondering when you’ll receive your aligners, good customer support can help make the process smooth and efficient.
We dug into hundreds of online reviews to learn more about each company’s customer support quality. It appears that both provide solid customer service but also have a couple of areas for growth. They offer very different advantages, but SmileDirectClub and AlignerCo provide similar levels of customer service quality.
SmileDirectClub Customer Service
AlignerCo Customer Service
- Offers standard support options
- Received some negative reviews in the past, but seems to be turning it around
- Will work to modify your plan if you’re not satisfied, plus offers a full refund within 30 days of starting treatment.
- Provides standard support options, plus video chat
- Receives consistently positive reviews, but doesn’t have a lot of them
- Doesn’t offer refunds, but after treatment, you can apply for a $200 refinement
SmileDirectClub is available during standard business hours on a variety of support platforms – phone, webchat, and email. If you send them an email, their website says they will respond within 24 hours.
AlignerCo provides all the same options, available 9am – 6pm, Monday through Saturday. And if you’re having difficulties with your impression kit, you can schedule a video call where a representative will walk you through the process.
Responsiveness & Helpfulness
After compiling and analyzing a large number of customer reviews, we found that a company’s size and growth can have a significant impact on its customer service quality.
SmileDirectClub’s customer support has received mixed reviews over the years. Many SmileDirectClub customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the level of support they received or reported frustrating delays in aligner shipments.
The volume of negative reviews and Better Business Bureau complaints accelerated around 2017 as SmileDirectClub attempted to grow its business extremely rapidly, creating inconsistencies in its customer support. Over the past year or so, however, SmileDirectClub seems to be making an effort to improve its service quality and customer support issues, and their recent reviews have been more positive.
On top of that, they’ve done a fantastic job creating extensive online resources, from FAQs to informative blog posts, so you can likely find answers to your questions simply by searching their website.
As a younger company with a much smaller customer base, AlignerCo is able to provide more personalized support for each customer. Online reviewers consistently praise the company’s responsiveness, helpfulness, and attention. However, because they’re such a new company, AlignerCo doesn’t have a ton of reviews just yet. As they continue to grow and serve more customers, we’ll be interested to see a larger bulk of customer comments.
SmileDirectClub’s refund policy is average for the home aligner industry. They don’t offer refunds once you’ve started treatment, but they will give a full refund if you have a change of heart and cancel treatment within 30 days. At the end of your treatment, if your aligners didn’t deliver the expected results, SmileDirectClub will work with you to further adjust your smile.
AlignerCo’s policies are similar. Once you begin treatment, you aren’t eligible for any refunds. But if you follow your aligner plan diligently and still aren’t satisfied, you can request a refinement for an extra $200.
If they review your impression kit or teeth scans and determine that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, either company will give you a full refund for any payments you already made.
SmileDirectClub Company Background
AlignerCo Company Background
- Founded in 2014
- Largest home aligner company in the industry
- Has transformed over 750,000 smiles to date.
- Founded in 2019
- Dug out a niche as the most affordable home aligner option.
- Still small, but has a growing customer base.
When they hit the market in 2014, SmileDirectClub was one of the very first home aligner companies available. They helped to build the industry from the ground up and, since their founding, they’ve transformed over 750,000 smiles (and counting) and built more than 300 physical SmileShops across the country. Now, they’re a booming company of over 2,000 employees, the largest of all the home aligner companies we reviewed.
AlignerCo entered the scene in 2019 but counters their inexperience with incredibly affordable prices – the lowest in the industry. Most impressively, they haven’t sacrificed product quality for these low prices. Customers flocking to AlignerCo for their cost-effectiveness are finding highly-effective treatment and excellent support as well. It’s safe to say that this upstart has quickly become a worthy competitor for industry mainstays like Candid and SmileDirectClub.
SmileDirectClub might be the industry’s largest and most experienced company, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. They still provide a reliable treatment, and you can’t deny their brand power, but young companies like AlignerCo with impressive pricing have begun to pass them up. Unless experience is your number one priority, we think AlignerCo might be a better option.
Which Home Teeth Aligner Should You Use?
As you can see, SmileDirectClub and AlignerCo have a lot in common, but their differences are where you want to focus when making a final decision. If you’re still not sure which business formation service to choose, let’s look at a couple of scenarios that might help you figure out which is the better option for you.
Choose AlignerCo if You Are:
Searching for the lowest prices available along with reliable products and excellent customer service, and don’t mind working with a newer company.
Choose SmileDirectClub if You Are:
More comfortable purchasing from the most well-established brand name, and aren’t worried about possible delays or subpar customer support. Bonus points if you live near a SmileShop location.