For pretty much as long as braces have been mainstream, people have been working to find less-visible alternatives. The option that has topped the rest? Clear aligners. When Invisalign first hit the U.S. market in the late 90s, they revolutionized the industry.
Today, there are numerous options, including SmileDirectClub. As the first major at-home clear aligner company, SmileDirectClub made orthodontic treatment more accessible for customers. While similar, you’ll find some significant differences between Invisalign and SDC, which we’ll outline in this guide. By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to decide which is best for your smile.
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Align Technology — the maker of Invisalign — was founded in 1997 in the United States, and they brought Invisalign treatment to Australia in 2002. They remained the only large-scale aligner company in the country for over a decade, until ClearCorrect launched in 2015.
While they have more competition now than ever before, Invisalign is still the largest and most famous player in the clear aligner game. Today, their aligners are offered as medical treatment in over 90 countries and more than 13 million patients have used their system worldwide.
Compared to Invisalign, SmileDirectClub might feel like it’s still in its infancy. The company was founded in 2014 and came to Australia in 2019. However, it has seen intense growth in those few years. In 2020, they served their one-millionth customer, making them the most prolific at-home clear aligner company and perhaps the most notable competition for Invisalign.
At-Home vs. In-Office Treatment: The Pros and Cons
There are plenty of differences that divide Invisalign and SmileDirectClub. Yet the most significant is that Invisalign requires office visits, while SmileDirectClub doesn’t. Both companies use dentists or orthodontists to design their treatment plans, but you only get regular in-person assistance with Invisalign.
Do the benefits of in-office visits outweigh the costs? That all depends on your needs and goals. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both options.
- Your doctor can use attachments and elastics to encourage greater tooth shifts.
- Direct supervision makes it easier to catch problems early on.
- Your treatment experience is highly personalized since it is delivered in a one-on-one setting.
- The additional fees that come with office visits significantly raise the cost of treatment.
- Regular office visits mean taking time away from work and other activities to continue your treatment.
- Remote treatment is almost always cheaper than in-office options.
- You don’t need to rearrange your schedule. At most, you have brief online check-ins.
- At-home clear aligners typically achieve results faster than in-office ones, wrapping up treatment in an average of 6 months.
- These systems cannot make major tooth shifts or correct jaw misalignments, so they are limited to cosmetic changes.
- Even in the best cases, support is less personalized than it is with in-office treatments.
Both in-office and at-home treatments deliver quality results for the right patients. Which one is best for you depends on what orthodontic corrections you are making, your comfort level with remote treatment, and your budget.
To put this into context, if you have a severe bite misalignment — such as twisted teeth, large gaps, or a bite that cannot close properly — in-office clear aligners are your only option. However, if you want to close small gaps or address slight crowding, you can choose either form of treatment. If this is the case, you might opt for in-office aligners if you prefer direct supervision, or at-home clear aligners if you want a quicker, more affordable treatment.
Like the Idea of At-Home Treatment? You Have Options!
SmileDirectClub was the first company that offered remote clear aligners, but plenty of other companies have since made their debuts. Before you buy, it’s a good idea to know your options. Visit our comprehensive comparison of the 4 best at-home clear aligner brands in Australia below.
When selecting a system for straightening your smile, you need to feel confident that it can achieve the results you’re after. A treatment’s effectiveness includes the scope of conditions it can address, the labs producing the aligners, and the design quality.
While both Invisalign and SmileDirectClub deliver effective treatments, Invisalign can handle a wider scope of conditions, making it more effective than at-home options. This is because it can incorporate elastics and attachments, generating greater force.
- Able to treat the majority of orthodontic concerns due to its SmartForce attachments.
- Manufactured by Align Technology, the oldest and most experienced clear aligner creator.
- Uses scalloped aligners that follow the curves of the gum line.
- Can correct mild to moderate irregularities related to crowding and spacing.
- Once made by Align Technology in the U.S. but now makes its own aligners in all countries.
- Uses aligners cut straight across the gum line.
What Can They Treat?
Invisalign has the widest scope of treatment of any aligner company. Because it incorporates attachments and comes with in-person doctor supervision, it can facilitate major tooth shifts and even correct certain jaw irregularities. For most conditions, Invisalign is as effective as braces.
SmileDirectClub, like all remote treatments, is more limited in its scope. You can use it to correct mild to moderate cases of crowding and spacing, and in some cases, it can address minor bite issues. Their aligners cannot incorporate attachments, so they cannot leverage additional force to make more significant changes.
Clear aligners need to stand up to a lot of pressure while maintaining their integrity for 1–2 weeks. So, quality manufacturing plays a major role in the effectiveness of any given treatment.
Invisalign aligners are made by Align Technology, the largest and most experienced aligner producer in the world. They use a proprietary material called SmartTrack which, according to Invisalign, allows for greater nuance in tooth shifts, helping their aligners achieve more precise final results than their competitors. Whether or not this is true, their aligners are incredibly effective. Having perfected millions of smiles, Invisalign gets the job done.
SmileDirectClub actually partnered with Align Technology early in its history. However, their agreement expired at the end of 2019, meaning that the vast majority of SmileDirectClub customers in Australia never benefited from this partnership.
Now, SmileDirectClub produces their aligners in-house. While this means they no longer use SmartTrack material, they have created their own: Comfort Sense. This material progresses from soft to firm as you go through the aligners in your series, allowing them to ease your teeth into place with less discomfort.
While this might sound like a purely aesthetic concern, aligner cut can impact effectiveness too. Scalloped aligners are trimmed so the top ridge matches the gum line, and straight-cut ones slightly overlap the gums.
Because the straight line allows for a better “grip,” these aligners can leverage your gums to apply greater force. This means that they can facilitate more significant movements than scalloped aligners without attachments.
Invisalign aligners are scalloped while SmileDirectClub opts for a straight cut. This means that just in terms of aligner cut, SmileDirectClub is more effective. However, Invisalign can leverage greater force when it incorporates its attachments.
With any major purchase, you should keep your eye on the bottom line. It’s no secret that orthodontic treatment is expensive — in fact, a big reason why so many people now straighten their teeth as adults is that their parents couldn’t afford braces when they were children.
In nearly all cases, in-office treatments will cost thousands more than remote ones. This is true when comparing the full Invisalign system to SmileDirectClub. But which offers more value depends on the changes you are making.
- Invisalign does not set the costs of treatment, just the aligners. Once doctor fees are factored in, treatment typically costs $6,000–$8,500.
- Medicare usually will not cover Invisalign treatment. However, private dental policies might.
- Aftercare retainers vary in price based on your doctor. They typically cost $150–$350.
- Invisalign does not offer its own financing terms. Your doctor can offer payment plans, or you might choose a third-party financier.
- SmileDirectClub costs $2,965 for all patients, no matter how complex your case is.
- Medicare does not cover SmileDirectClub. Currently, neither do private dental policies.
- Aftercare retainers are $167 per set. You will need to replace these about once every 6 months.
- SmileDirectClub offers its own financing, called SmilePay. You make a $299 deposit, then pay $125 a month for 24 months.
In-office treatments seldom have a set price because the appliance — in this case, aligners — only represents part of your treatment expenses. And that price varies based on how many you need.
In addition to your aligners, you also need to pay for each office visit, your diagnostics, your doctor’s time, and the overhead costs they pass on to each patient. If your treatment requires attachments, you’ll pay for those as well. All that adds up to an average Invisalign cost of $6,000–$8,500 — a price that most people can’t pay up front.
SmileDirectClub is significantly cheaper, just $2,965. This price is the same for all patients, no matter how many aligners you might need. They even offer small occasional discounts that can drop the price even lower.
This represents significant savings over the average Invisalign treatment, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best value for every patient. Your ideal treatment depends on your unique case and smile goals.
What About Insurance?
As a general rule, insurance companies don’t cover cosmetic dental treatment. This is true of both Medicare and nearly all private dental policies. However, they might be open to fully or partially covering a treatment that corrects a genuine health problem.
Medicare is more limited than private dental insurance. It only covers oral health treatments if it’s clear that they can benefit your general health. So, if your jaw is misaligned to the point that you are struggling to chew your food, they’ll likely cover Invisalign or braces to correct it. Private policies should provide some coverage if your alignment concerns are influencing your overall oral health.
Coverage for remote treatments is inherently different from coverage for in-office care. Since remote systems are much more limited in their scope, every case they treat is classed as cosmetic by insurance providers, so you likely cannot use insurance to cover SmileDirectClub aligners.
Even the most affordable clear aligner treatment still costs over a thousand dollars. That’s more than most people can pay out of pocket.
Financing allows you to take the total cost of treatment and break it up into more manageable chunks. The downside is that these plans generally include interest, so your treatment will cost more in the end.
Invisalign does not offer any financing options, but their providers usually do. Facilitated by individual dentist and orthodontist offices, these plans can even have minimal or no interest. If you choose a doctor who does not offer financing, you can contract with a third-party financier. Just keep in mind they tend to have high interest rates.
SmileDirectClub offers an in-house financing plan called SmilePay, which doesn’t require a credit check, so everyone qualifies. You’ll just make a $299 deposit, then pay $125 a month for 24 months for a total of $3,299 overall.
This is higher than the typical price, but it includes two sets of aftercare retainers, which means you are paying exactly as much as you would if you paid for treatment plus the retainers.
When you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities, adding another to your plate might be the last thing you want. Clear aligner treatment as a whole is more convenient than braces, but in-office options require more of your time. As a result, SmileDirectClub is more convenient than Invisalign, but how this plays out can vary based on your needs.
- Your doctor takes your diagnostics at their office. This usually means getting a digital scan plus photographs.
- You see your doctor every 4–10 weeks so they can monitor your progress.
- On average, treatment takes 12–18 months to achieve final results.
- You must wear your aligners for 22 hours each day; there is no nighttime treatment option.
- SmileDirectClub has two start-up options: at-home impressions or free scans at a SmileShop.
- You never need to see a doctor in person but will need to check in using their digital platform.
- Most people see their final results in 4–6 months with the all-day system.
- SmileDirectClub has nighttime aligners that you wear for ten hours per day, mostly while sleeping.
The hardest step of any journey is the first one, and that’s certainly true for clear aligner treatment.
And even though SmileDirectClub is generally more convenient than in-office treatments, Invisalign makes it incredibly easy to get started. Your doctor will take your 3D scans and photographs; all you need to do is show up.
With most remote clear aligners, starting treatment means ordering an impression kit and creating the molds of your teeth yourself. SmileDirectClub has impression kits, but they also have six SmileShops across Australia where you can get a free, non-invasive scan instead. If you don’t live near one of these locations, though, you’ll need to purchase and complete an impression kit.
The Office Visit Trade-Off
Invisalign requires that you see your doctor regularly so they can assess your progress and make adjustments to your treatment, if necessary. In many cases, you won’t receive all your aligners up front, making these visits essential if you want to complete your treatment.
How often will you see your doctor? In some cases, they will ask that you come in every 4 weeks, while in others, they might space the visits 10 weeks apart.
No matter how far apart the visits are, you must make quite a few throughout your treatment. This can be reassuring for some, and disruptive for others. Office visits might require you to take time off work or school and pay additional transportation costs, which isn’t ideal if you have a busy schedule.
SmileDirectClub requires zero in-person visits. At most, you will have one at a SmileShop to get your scan, but it’s completely optional. That’s about as schedule-friendly as it gets.
Every teeth-straightening system has average treatment times, but they aren’t guarantees. You can fall on either end of the spectrum, or even outside of it, depending upon a few factors, such as:
- Your body’s physiological response to treatment.
- How well you follow the treatment plan.
- The severity of your alignment conditions.
Invisalign’s treatment almost always takes longer than SmileDirectClub’s. That’s primarily because SmileDirectClub only treats cosmetic conditions, which can be resolved quicker than major bite issues. Invisalign’s average treatment time is 12–18 months, but when you look at their express system — which only corrects cosmetic concerns — it can achieve final results in 6 months or less, matching SmileDirectClub’s 4–6 month treatment timeline.
What About Nighttime-Only Treatment?
One way to make straightening your teeth more convenient is only wearing your aligners at night. Just a few companies offer nighttime aligners, and SmileDirectClub is one of them.
Their Nighttime Aligners only require ten continuous hours of daily wear, usually overnight. You’ll wear each aligner for more days than you would with their daytime system, giving your teeth more time to shift.
This option lets you skip the hassle of taking aligners out to eat and drink anything but plain water, and it helps you avoid brushing multiple times throughout your workday. It’s not just convenient, but it also keeps your treatment discreet.
However, there are trade-offs. First of all, it takes longer to achieve the final results. SmileDirectClub’s daytime treatment wraps up in an average of 4–6 months, but that goes up to 10 months for nighttime treatment. Second, nighttime treatment might put more stress on your tooth roots, which could, in rare cases, damage them. However, research on this is still quite limited.
Invisalign does not have a nighttime-only system. However, some doctors are open to creating a nighttime-only wear plan for their patients upon request. This isn’t endorsed by Invisalign, the general consensus is that if the plan accommodates wearing the aligners for more weeks and taking longer overall, it should achieve the same results.
The feature that shot clear aligners into the popularity stratosphere is their invisibility. While there is nothing bad about braces’ appearance, not every person feels their best while wearing them. Aligners deliver the same results with much more discretion.
With that said, each company has their own aesthetics and designs. You may find that you prefer one approach over the others.
- Aligners appear frosted.
- The plastic is textured to mimic the porous surface of the teeth.
- The aligners are scalloped to match the gum line.
- The plastic is reasonably stain-resistant
- Using SmartForce attachments and other appliances will lead to greater visibility.
- Aligners appear frosted.
- The plastic is textured to mimic the porous surface of the teeth.
- The aligners are cut straight across at the gum line.
- The plastic is reasonably stain-resistant.
- Cannot incorporate any attachments.
All clear aligners use clear, BPA-free, medical-grade plastic, and they all fit snugly around the teeth. However, there are a few variations that can set them apart, like the clarity and texture of the aligner.
Invisalign and SmileDirectClub both take the same approach here. Their aligners are matte and textured, similar to the surfaces of your natural teeth. Shiny and smooth aligners can be reflective and make the teeth look artificially shiny and slightly more noticeable.
Clear aligners can either be scalloped or cut straight across the top. Scalloped aligners match your gum line so that the upper edge stops where the teeth and gums meet. Straight-cut aligners run in a straight line, overlapping the gums.
Invisalign chooses the scalloped cut, which makes their aligners next to invisible when worn. SmileDirectClub uses a straight cut that overlaps the gums, creating a slightly visible line. It’s not obvious at all, but in close quarters, people might notice it when you smile.
Invisalign’s aligners can harness the power of certain attachments to treat a wider scope of conditions than SmileDirectClub can. While these attachments increase your aligners’ power, they also increase their visibility.
SmartForce attachments are tooth-colored, so they blend into the teeth. However, people near you might still notice them, depending on the size and shape of the attachments. SmileDirectClub does not incorporate any attachments that might make your aligners more visible.
The quality of your aligners obviously plays a critical role in your patient experience. But the customer support you receive matters too. If you have questions or concerns, you need to know there’s a support team you can count on.
As an in-office treatment, Invisalign offers one-on-one attention and in-person discussions. SmileDirectClub works hard to support their customers, but their assistance is entirely remote. From available communication channels to refunds, each company takes different approaches to ensure a quality patient experience.
- Your doctor and their team are your customer support.
- You’ll receive support in person and over the phone. Some offices might have apps, webchat, and email as well.
- Regular in-person visits make it easier to catch problems and make adjustments.
- Refinements may or may not be covered in the original price of treatment.
- The SmileDirectClub customer support team assists you.
- Help is available by phone, text, video, email, social media, and webchat.
- There are no in-person visits but there are virtual check-ins throughout treatment.
- They modify treatment and offer complete refunds in the first 30 days, plus a lifetime guarantee.
Every doctor’s office has their preferences for communication channels. Some are still stuck in the days where you have two options: visit the office or give them a call. Others have embraced more modern communication channels. Common options include webchat, email, and patient portal apps. If you choose Invisalign, you’ll need to ask your doctor about their preferred lines of communication.
SmileDirectClub ensures you get the same access to communication channels across the board. You can choose to call their customer service line, text them, send an email, or hop on either video or webchat. This wealth of options makes it easy to select the one that’s best for the urgency of your concern and your comfort.
Customer Support Responsiveness
It is difficult to gauge Invisalign’s customer support responsiveness since it varies between every medical practice. There are thousands of different doctors in Australia administering Invisalign treatment, so it’s impossible to come up with hard numbers.
Most dental and orthodontics offices ensure rapid response times on weekdays, less so on weekends and at night. Usually, a phone call is the fastest way to get a response, while in-person visits ensure the most detailed assistance.
To evaluate SmileDirectClub’s customer support responsiveness, we looked at online reviews from actual customers and reached out to their team ourselves. Customer reviews show that, over the years, their support has been spotty. However, most complaints are from 2017 and come from customers based in the U.S. During this year, they saw a lot of expansion and struggled to provide support for a rapidly growing customer base. In recent years, it appears they’ve made changes to improve the customer experience.
Today, most customer reviews are positive (though there are still quite a few complaints). And our personal experience matches up with the average reviewer. When we reached out to their Australian customer support via web chat, we were connected with a representative in under two minutes and we got the answers we needed in under 20.
Invisalign requires in-person check-ins every 4–10 as part of their treatment. During these office visits, your doctor will check in with you on how you’re feeling, check your progress, make adjustments if necessary, and provide your next sets of aligners.
Comparatively, SmileDirectClub offers minimal oversight. You must complete virtual check-ins with their team every 90 days and track your progress using their app. However, this doesn’t come close to replicating the experience of in-person examinations.
Refund and Warranty Policies
Invisalign and SmileDirectClub are the two industry giants for a reason: their systems work and they have millions of satisfied customers. It’s a rare occurrence, but sometimes teeth don’t move as expected, and not everyone is 100% satisfied at the end of treatment.
With Invisalign, refund policies are set by your doctor or their practice. When you have your consultation, ask them about the guarantees they offer and if you can receive a refund if anything goes wrong.
SmileDirectClub offers one of the best refund policies in the clear aligner industry. You have 30 days to try their system and if you don’t like it, you can return your aligners and get a refund. You can even receive a prorated refund after that 30-day window, the amount just decreases the longer you wait.
SmileDirectClub treatment also comes with a Lifetime Smile Guarantee. This policy offers free refinements for life if your teeth shift out of place through no fault of your own. To qualify, you must follow treatment guidelines, purchase two sets of retainers a year, and wear them as prescribed.
Which Should You Choose: Invisalign or SmileDirectClub?
Your smile is as unique as you are, and your ideal treatment depends on your alignment concerns and personal preferences. Both Invisalign and SmileDirectClub offer quality products and support, so no matter which way you go, you’ll likely be happy with your results.
So, how can you choose? Decide which features matter most to you and then determine which system offers the best fit.
Choose Invisalign if:
- Your orthodontic concerns are beyond what remote treatment can address.
- You want to work with the most established clear aligner company.
- You appreciate direct, in-person oversight.
Choose SmileDirectClub if:
- You want to make cosmetic changes related to crowding and spacing.
- You aren’t afraid of embracing technology and are good at keeping yourself on track.
- You don’t want to attend doctor’s appointments every 4–10 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is Invisalign the correct treatment option between it and SDC?
Whenever your misalignment involves anything more than mild crowding or a gap greater than about 3mm. SmileDirectClub and other remote treatments are very capable of making noticeable changes, but only cosmetic ones.
How do I get started with Invisalign or SmileDirectClub?
For Invisalign, find providers near you and book a consultation. For SmileDirectClub, start with their free online smile assessment. They’ll look at your responses and let you know if you should move on to the next step, which is taking your own impressions or visiting a SmileShop.
Which company offers faster results?
It depends. Overall, SmileDirectClub has the faster average treatment times, but Invisalign’s Express option can sometimes be faster. It all depends on the severity of your misalignment and which Invisalign system you choose.
Can I choose to wear my Invisalign aligners only at night?
Invisalign as a company does not condone this. However, your doctor might feel this is a good plan for you. You should always follow your doctor’s instructions. Never switch to a nighttime schedule on your own.
Which clear aligner company can treat the most conditions?
That honor goes to Invisalign, with ClearCorrect coming in a close second. Both can correct just about any condition that braces can.
Which clear aligner companies should I consider?
We suggest you look into Invisalign and ClearCorrect for in-office treatment and Byte, EZ Smile, SmileDirectClub, and SmilePath for remote treatment.
Do clear aligners hurt?
Because they use pressure to move the teeth, some soreness is normal. However, since aligners are made from smooth plastic, they rarely irritate the mouth’s soft tissues.