At-home clear aligners are a revolutionary way to straighten your teeth. Companies like SmileDirectClub use teams of dentists to design custom clear aligners for their customers completely remotely. The result? A much more affordable and convenient alternative to braces or Invisalign.
SmileDirectClub is the largest, most experienced company offering mail-order clear aligners, but they’re not the only option available in Canada. If you’re deciding whether SmileDirectClub is the right fit for your smile, don’t go anywhere. This guide has all the information you’ll need to make your decision.
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What is SmileDirectClub?
SmileDirectClub was the first company to deliver clear aligner treatment straight to customers’ homes, making them a more convenient alternative to traditional orthodontics. For a few years, they were based entirely in the U.S., but after a popularity explosion in 2016, they’ve expanded to several other countries, including Canada. SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners look and feel similar to Invisalign, but unlike Invisalign, treatment doesn’t require a single trip to the dentist’s office. Instead, SmileDirectClub’s licensed dentists will develop your treatment plan remotely and send you aligners to administer at home.
SmileDirectClub is primarily a cosmetic treatment. A severe case or bite misalignment (like overbite or underbite) certainly won’t preclude you from treatment; however, the results you want might require intensive in-office care.
When SmileDirectClub first hit the market in 2014, the concept was groundbreaking — they were the first company to offer home-based clear aligner treatment on a wide scale. Before that, a handful of dentists across the U.S. sold custom clear aligners via mail order, but their reach was limited. SmileDirectClub popularized at-home clear aligner treatment via extensive marketing campaigns after receiving a $60 million investment from Invisalign producer Align Technology. Today, SmileDirectClub has treated over 1.5 million patients, making it one of the most popular, well-established clear aligner treatments on the market.
How Does SmileDirectClub Work?
To ensure that their aligners can deliver your desired results, SmileDirectClub will send you a special kit to collect 3D impressions of your teeth. Or, if you live near a SmileShop location, you can schedule an appointment for a free teeth scan. This preliminary impression or scan lets SmileDirectClub’s licensed network dentists evaluate whether their aligners can effectively correct your misalignments.
If you’re a good candidate, they will use the impression to develop your customized treatment plan. After getting your approval, they will design, manufacture, and mail out your aligners. Then you’re good to go! Wear them for at least 22 hours per day and they will shift your teeth into the desired position over 4–6 months. Or, opt for their new Nighttime Clear Aligners and wear them ten hours per night for ten months.
Is SmileDirectClub a Good Option? Our Perspective.
There’s no doubt that SmileDirectClub is more convenient than traditional orthodontics, but their treatment isn’t ideal for everyone. Our comprehensive guide to home teeth alignment provides a lot more information on the difference between at-home and in-office aligners, as well as what makes someone a suitable candidate for each.
In our comprehensive ranking of the top Canadian home aligner services, SmileDirectClub comes in first overall! We base these rankings on an extensive five-point analysis of each company’s effectiveness, affordability, convenience, appearance, and customer experience.
We’ve provided a lot more detail on how SmileDirectClub stacks up category by category, but here’s a quick summary of the biggest pros and cons:
- SmileDirectClub has been in business since 2014 and has served over 1.5 million customers, so they’ve probably seen cases just like yours.
- SmileDirectClub has more than 350 SmileShops worldwide, including ones in various Canadian Walmart locations. You can visit one of these shops today for a free teeth scan. Other providers require you to mail in an impression of your teeth — a slower and more cumbersome process.
- SmileDirectClub offers a nighttime-only treatment plan that only requires ten continuous hours of daily wear, compared to the usual 22.
- They offer guaranteed financing over 26 months.
- If you’re not pleased with your progress, SmileDirectClub offers prorated refunds for unused and unopened aligners. And after you finish treatment, they protect your smile forever with a lifetime warranty.
- SmileDirectClub has a mixed track record of customer service quality. Some online reviews warn of long shipping delays and inconsistent communication when issues arise during treatment.
- SmileDirectClub costs more than some other top at-home aligner companies, and they charge $125 per set of aftercare retainers, while other companies include one set for free.
- Align Technology (the makers of Invisalign) once produced SmileDirectClub’s aligners, but that partnership ended in 2019, so SmileDirectClub customers no longer have the benefit of Invisalign’s market-leading technology.
Who is a good match for SmileDirectClub?
Looking to purchase at-home clear aligners, but unsure which company is the best fit for your goals? SmileDirectClub could be an ideal choice if you’re someone who prefers to purchase from an established brand name and values convenience. Bonus points if you live near a SmileShop location.
The all-important question here is: “Does it work?” If you’re going to invest in orthodontic treatment, you want to be sure that it can deliver your ideal smile. Without hands-on care and the ability to incorporate attachments, SmileDirectClub doesn’t have the teeth-moving power of Invisalign or braces, but if you only want to make cosmetic corrections, it could be a great choice.
SmileDirectClub can only treat mild and moderate misalignments.
Like most other at-home aligner systems, SmileDirectClub can effectively correct mild crowding and spacing, and potentially slight bite issues. But their treatment can’t often deliver the same results for severe cases and jaw misalignments.
In-office clear aligners like Invisalign provide hands-on care from a dentist over a longer period of time, and can incorporate attachments that encourage more complex shifts, allowing them to treat a wider scope of dental and jaw issues.
Your SmileDirectClub treatment will be designed by a licensed dentist, and they’ll monitor your progress every 90 days.
When you order SmileDirectClub, a dental technician trained in 3D teeth modeling software will develop your treatment plan. Then, a licensed dentist or orthodontist will review your case, approve you for treatment, and develop your aligner plan.
During your treatment, you’ll use the company’s mobile app to upload photos of your teeth every 90 days so that SmileDirectClub’s team can monitor your progress and make adjustments to your wear schedule if necessary. It’s reassuring to have these regular check-ins, but SmileDirectClub’s system isn’t as robust as clear aligner treatments that incorporate in-person care, and actually falls a bit short of what most at-home aligner companies offer.
Align Technology (makers of Invisalign) no longer produces SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners.
For a long time, SmileDirectClub worked with Align Technology to produce their clear aligners. Align Technology is arguably the most trusted clear aligner manufacturer out there. They make Invisalign, and their patented technology minimizes the discomfort associated with tooth and jaw shifts. It is our understanding that Align Tech also provided SmileDirectClub with the software they use to model teeth movements.
Unfortunately, a legal dispute has torn these former partners apart. Now, SmileDirectClub manufactures all of their own aligners. So far, their in-house production has been excellent. They’ve implemented “Comfort Sense” technology, which they describe as a “proprietary soft, medium, and firm aligner plastic progression to ease teeth more comfortably into place.”
SmileDirectClub’s aligners overlap your gums, giving them extra power.
As part of their “Comfort Sense” design, SmileDirectClub trims the tops of their aligners, but they still overlap your gums. This might make them slightly more visible, but it also increases their power, since they can leverage the gums to apply up to four times the force of scalloped aligners.
Let’s face it: straighter teeth don’t come cheap. And traditional orthodontic treatments are especially pricey.
A major benefit of home aligner companies like SmileDirectClub is the affordable price point compared to traditional treatment options. The innovation of home alignment technology has made orthodontic treatment much more accessible. Home aligner products typically cost around $2,000 — significantly less than Invisalign or braces, which can set you back more than $5,000.
SmileDirectClub’s total cost is $2,700, which is higher than their competitors.
However, you won’t end up paying exactly that amount. If you don’t live near a SmileShop, you’ll also need to purchase an impression kit for $65. And at the end of your treatment, you’ll also need to purchase aftercare retainers for $125.
SmileDirectClub makes financing available to all of its customers through SmilePay — no credit check required.
While SmileDirectClub is much cheaper than braces or Invisalign, not everyone has $3,000 lying around, so many patients opt to finance their treatment. To take advantage of SmilePay, you just need to put down $300, then you’ll pay $115 per month for 26 months. Spreading out your payments like this is convenient, but it also means you’ll pay more in the long run, $3,290 total.
But the bright side is that SmilePay does not require a credit check or any additional paperwork. All customers are eligible, so everyone has access to a transformed smile. Other companies require a credit check, and you might get declined if your credit isn’t strong enough.
We all have busy lives and repeated visits to the dentist’s office can be a hassle. Nevermind taking time off work every month for your appointments. Plus, Invisalign usually takes twelve months, and braces can take up to two years, so home aligners are the much faster option.
At-home teeth straightening is, in general, more convenient than seeing a dentist month after month, but SmileDirectClub goes above and beyond to make teeth straightening as accessible and user-friendly as possible.
SmileShops make the startup process simple and efficient.
SmileDirectClub’s dental team needs images of your teeth to create your aligners. There are two ways you can create them: with an impression kit or by visiting a SmileShop. Impression kits let you complete the process from home, but it’s difficult to make accurate molds if you’ve never done it before. Plus, the kit costs $65. To make it easier on you, SmileDirectClub has established SmileShops where a trained professional will take digital images of your teeth for free.
They’ve rapidly expanded their SmileShop locations through a partnership with CVS in the U.S. and Walmart in Canada. If you live in or near a city, chances are good there’s a SmileShop near you, or there will be soon. If you’re unable to visit a SmileShop during working hours, you can always order an impression kit and do things the old-fashioned way.
Once SmileDirectClub receives your impression or scan, within 72 hours they will send you a “Smile Plan” — a preview of how your teeth will look post-treatment. If it looks good, you can approve the plan and get the ball rolling. But if the plan doesn’t match your expectations and goals, there’s no obligation to move forward.
Nighttime Aligners provide more flexible wear guidelines for busy customers.
Some people can’t (or don’t want to) wear their aligners for 22+ hours per day. To make treatment more flexible and accessible for these customers, SmileDirectClub launched a nighttime-only aligner series. Selecting this plan means that you’ll only need to wear your clear aligners for ten hours overnight. If you’re a regular snacker or have an on-the-go lifestyle, this could be a huge convenience.
Regular aligners require a bit more work — you need to take them out before eating and/or drinking, then brush and floss before putting them back in. Nighttime-only aligners let you skip the hassle, popping them in as part of your bedtime routine and taking them out in the morning. Plus, you won’t have to wear them out in public.
Start to finish, treatment takes 4–6 months on average, or ten months for Nighttime Clear Aligners.
Once you pop in that first aligner, you probably have around 4–6 months until you see your finished smile. A six-month timeline is fairly standard for home aligner companies, but it’s much shorter than Invisalign’s average twelve-month average treatment time.
Because you wear nighttime-only aligners for fewer hours per day, they take an average of ten months instead.
It’s also important to note that your treatment time depends on the severity of your condition and how diligently you follow your wear schedule. If you have a severe misalignment or fail to wear your aligners for the required amount of time each day, it will take longer to achieve your ideal smile.
SmileDirectClub includes whitening with your treatment plan, so you can whiten your teeth while you transform your smile!
One final thing to consider is teeth whitening. Most of the top home aligner systems (including SmileDirectClub) offer a whitening product as a free add-on. Simply apply the whitening gel inside your aligners and your teeth will get visibly brighter while they shift.
Adults seeking straighter teeth can be hesitant to choose a highly visible treatment, opting instead for more discreet options. They might be self-conscious about sporting metal brackets to an interview, date, or special occasion, making less-noticeable options like clear aligner products much more attractive. That’s why all clear aligners score well in the aesthetics category, and SmileDirectClub is no exception.
Every clear aligner company uses transparent, BPA-free plastic, but each brand looks slightly different due to variations in materials and manufacturing processes. Which looks best, however, is up to you.
Aligners from SmileDirectClub are textured, which actually makes them less visible.
It might seem illogical, but slightly textured aligners are actually less noticeable than completely translucent ones. Your teeth surfaces are naturally matte (because your teeth are porous), so textured aligners are a better match. Smooth, completely clear aligners can look artificially reflective. Still, some customers prefer this “gleam” because they think it gives their smile some extra shine.
SmileDirectClub aligners overlap the gums instead of following the gum line.
This overlap is barely visible, but some people might still notice it. “Scalloped” aligners that match your gum line are more discreet, but aligners that overlap your gums are more effective since they can use your gums as anchors and exert up to four times more force on your teeth. So, you’re sacrificing some visibility, but you’re getting more effective aligners.
SmileDirectClub aligners don’t incorporate attachments, preserving their low profile.
When administering Invisalign, a dentist can incorporate elastics and special attachments that help their scalloped aligners make more intricate teeth movements. Attachments make the aligners more effective, but also increase their visibility.
Since home aligners like SmileDirectClub don’t involve in-person office visits, these attachments are not possible, so you won’t have any extra hardware on your teeth.
You can avoid wearing your aligners out in public entirely by choosing the nighttime-only route.
While invisible aligners are very discreet, they still aren’t 100% invisible. From up close, others may notice that you’re wearing them. Moreover, it’s common for aligners to cause a slight lisp, especially for the first few days after changing to new trays. If you have a job where this may be an issue, Nighttime Aligners may be a better fit for you.
SmileDirectClub’s Nighttime Clear Aligners require just ten hours of wear per day, so you only need to have them in after dinner and while you sleep. This could be a perfect option for anyone who feels uncomfortable wearing aligners during the day or who doesn’t like removing them to eat and drink.
Dental treatment is expensive, and you only have one set of teeth. It’s important to feel completely confident that your treatment provider will treat you right and have your back if anything goes wrong. SmileDirectClub fits the bill, making up for past lapses in customer service with strong return and refund policies. Remote providers can’t match the personalized care of a dentist’s office, but SmileDirectClub has taken steps to provide a satisfying customer experience.
Customer support has had some issues, but they appear to be improving.
SmileDirectClub is a large company with a longer track record than other providers. They have put a lot of time into creating online resources for customers, which is great. Some could argue, however, that the company grew too quickly and that their customer support had trouble keeping up. SmileDirectClub’s customer service seemed to falter a couple of years back when they were expanding rapidly. Customers reported communication delays and a lack of responsiveness.
It appears that SmileDirectClub has heard their complaints and is doing their best to implement better customer care practices. More recent customer reviews look better, although they still get some complaints. We’re glad that SmileDirectClub turned it around and are interested to see how they continue improving.
They provide regular check-ins with dental professionals and consistent access to their care team.
Despite customer care shortcomings in the past, SmileDirectClub appears to be making big strides forward. They now provide a mobile app where you can track your treatment progress and contact their customer service team via text, video, chat, email, and phone (they say this team is available 24/7).
Plus, they’ve implemented virtual Smile Check-ins every 90 days, where you’ll submit photos of your teeth so that their dental team can monitor your progress and address any concerns you have. It’s a nice touch, although it’s not as robust as the in-person oversight you’ll receive from treatments like Invisalign.
Refunds and return policies make SmileDirectClub a safe bet. Plus, they guarantee your smile for life.
Despite the complaints about customer service delays, most customers are satisfied with SmileDirectClub’s refund policy. If, after completing an impression kit or getting your teeth scanned, the company determines you aren’t a suitable candidate for home aligner treatment, they will refund you in full (including your kit).
Let’s say you’re approved for treatment and get started on a treatment plan, but change your mind right away. Cancel your treatment in the first 30 days for any reason and you’ll receive a full refund (excluding your impression kit). They’ll also issue prorated refunds any time during treatment if you return your unused and unopened aligners.
Additionally, assuming you follow all the steps they prescribe (checking in online every 90 days, for example), but your finished smile doesn’t match your treatment preview, SmileDirectClub’s team will work with you to extend your treatment with more aligner trays free of charge.
And they don’t stop there. If your teeth shift after you’ve finished treatment, even years down the road, their Lifetime Smile Guarantee will provide new aligners to restore your smile. To maintain eligibility, you need to purchase their retainers twice a year and wear them as prescribed.
What are SmileDirectClub Customers Saying?
When we review a company like SmileDirectClub, we start by digging through customer reviews to understand common issues and concerns.
Given SmileDirectClub’s multi-year history, there are many genuine online reviews detailing customer experiences with the product. Generally, SmileDirectClub customers feel positive about their experiences, despite some hiccups along the way. Customer support has been hit-or-miss in the past, but the company usually keeps its promises.
Each set of aligners seems well-made (most people don’t need to file down any rough edges or irregularities), and the treatment process is reportedly only mildly uncomfortable. Most customers report increased discomfort for the first day or two of each aligner set, especially when removing them after a long period of time. This pain subsides quickly and, for most customers, is not a major concern. A majority complete their treatment and feel satisfied with the results.
Alternatives to SmileDirectClub
While SmileDirectClub is a great clear aligner company, there are other at-home and in-office options to consider. Invisalign is the primary in-office option, and while it is more expensive than home aligners, dentists can achieve more advanced teeth movements with additional attachments. If you’re set on completing treatment from home, there are also several other home aligner options worth your time.
Invisalign vs SmileDirectClub
For more intensive cases of teeth and jaw misalignment, you can’t beat hands-on care. Sound like you? Invisalign may be an ideal option, given its versatility and comprehensiveness. Invisalign’s in-person oversight allows for supplemental attachments, elastics, and other appliances that induce more drastic and/or nuanced tooth and jaw movements. If you have a bite misalignment or a severe case of crowding or spacing, SmileDirectClub’s home aligners might simply be too limited for the results you’re after.
In addition, if customer support is one of your top priorities, Invisalign may be a better option for you. You’ll have one-on-one time with your dentist every 4–6 weeks to discuss any concerns.
NewSmile vs SmileDirectClub
NewSmile is a great all-around option that excels in their affordability. They run frequent discounts on their $1,899 sticker price that often drop it to around $1,799. And like SmileDirectClub, they offer nighttime treatment and flexible financing plans that can make your teeth-straightening process a lot easier. Like SmileDirectClub, NewSmile lets you begin treatment with a scan.
AlignerCo vs SmileDirectClub
AlignerCo just began selling home aligners in 2019, but they immediately turned heads with their industry-low prices. At $1,635, they’re a great option for anyone who’s sticking to a budget, but still wants quality care. They don’t cut corners on quality either. A partnership with Raintree Essix means they make their aligners with trustworthy, high-quality plastics. Plus, their NightOnly plan gives you a more flexible wear schedule option.
Is SmileDirectClub Right for You?
Anyone who wants a safe and reliable treatment option backed by an experienced, widely respected brand is a great fit for SmileDirectClub. If you are looking for the most convenient option with a long track record of success, then SmileDirectClub could be a great option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can SmileDirectClub correct my condition?
It depends. SmileDirectClub is extremely effective in treating mild and moderate cases of crowding and spacing, but it might not be able to correct jaw misalignments like overbite, underbite, crossbite, etc. The only way to know for sure is to complete an impression kit or visit a SmileShop.
What about Invisalign?
The clear aligner innovator has its own set of unique benefits, most notably in-person care. During regular face-to-face checkups, your dentist or orthodontist can make adjustments to your treatment and add attachments that allow Invisalign to treat a wider scope of cases. SmileDirectClub is faster and less expensive, but Invisalign is a great option if your condition is severe or you’d prefer to meet with your dentist in person.
How much will I end up paying?
Even though SmileDirectClub’s sticker price is $2,700, there are numerous factors that can influence cost, including discounts, financing, insurance, refinements, and more. In most cases, you won’t end up paying exactly $2,700, but it will likely be close.
How do I get started?
Before anything else, SmileDirectClub’s dental team needs to look at your teeth. You can either submit an impression kit or visit a SmileShop for a free teeth scan. They’ll use these molds or images to determine if you’re a good candidate and craft your entire treatment plan.
How long will it take?
Go with SmileDirectClub and you’re likely looking at a 4–6 month treatment timeline (or ten months for Nighttime Aligners). But don’t mark it on your calendar just yet. Your treatment could take shorter or longer depending on your condition’s severity.
Does insurance cover SmileDirectClub’s treatment?
Public health care will not cover home aligner treatment. If you have separate dental or orthodontic coverage, however, you might be eligible for reimbursement. You can enter your insurance information on SmileDirectClub’s website and they’ll let you know if your treatment will be partially covered.
Do clear aligners hurt?
When you switch to a new aligner set every two weeks, you might experience some discomfort for the first day or two, but after that, you’ll hardly notice them.
Is home aligner treatment safe?
Yes! While administering treatment from home might seem daunting, the process is very safe. Home aligner companies use licensed dentists and orthodontists to create your treatment plan and design your aligners. Even though you won’t meet with them in-person, each company offers robust customer support services if something doesn’t feel quite right.
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