Historically, teeth straightening treatment has been a one-track process, either braces or nothing. But the rise of clear aligners has completely changed the game, giving customers multiple options to transform their smiles. The most popular recent development is at-home aligner systems, which offer a similar treatment, but entirely from home.
ClearCorrect was one of the industry’s pioneers. They presented the first major competition to Invisalign and have maintained a strong market position. SmileDirectClub is part of a new crop of home aligner companies aimed at streamlining the teeth-straightening process. On the surface, they look comparable, but they’re actually quite different. And each one excels in different situations.
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The second clear aligner company to hit the market, ClearCorrect was more or less a product of necessity. In 2006, Dr. Willis Pumphrey had nearly 400 patients that needed to complete their aligner treatment, but no manufacturer. So, he started making them himself. Over a decade later, ClearCorrect is the nation’s second-largest clear aligner producer and partners with tens of thousands of dentists around the globe to transform smiles.
Compared to ClearCorrect’s long history, at-home aligner systems are fairly young. But SmileDirectClub is the oldest and most experienced among them. They started selling aligners in 2014 and grew rapidly as customers took note of home aligners’ superior convenience. SmileDirectClub’s immediate popularity inspired the rise of several competitors.
However, despite the competition, SmileDirectClub has maintained its majority hold in the home aligner space, having treated over 750,000 patients to date. In just a few years, they’ve joined ClearCorrect as one of Invisalign’s main competitors.
At-Home vs. In-Office Treatment: The Pros & Cons
As we mentioned above, even though they both produce clear aligners, ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub provide fairly different treatments. This is because ClearCorrect is administered in-office by a dentist, while SmileDirectClub’s aligners are developed remotely by a licensed dental professional and applied at home.
Which is better? The answer isn’t so straightforward. Each treatment has its own unique advantages and drawbacks.
Pros of In-Office Treatment:
- In-office aligner treatments can incorporate appliances (like elastics and expanders) and attachments that allow them to treat more severe tooth and jaw misalignments.
- Regular office visits allow dentists to carefully monitor your progress and adjust or supplement your treatment if necessary.
- In-office treatments provide more personalized customer service, as you can take any questions or concerns directly to your dentist.
Cons of In-Office Treatment:
- Because you’re also paying for your dentist’s time, in-office treatment is often more expensive than at-home treatments.
- Making regular office visits is more time-consuming and less convenient than at-home treatment.
Pros of At-Home Treatment:
- At-home aligners are, on average, much more affordable than in-office treatments.
- Because they don’t require office visits, home aligner treatments are often more convenient.
- At-home aligner treatments typically take around 6 months to achieve the desired results, while in-office treatments often take around 12.
Cons of At-Home Treatment:
- They’re not able to treat more severe cases of crowding, spacing and bite misalignments like in-office aligners can.
- Depending on the company, customer support isn’t as personalized as what you’ll receive with in-office aligners.
At-home and in-office aligners are both quality options, but which one you choose largely depends on your unique condition and situation. For example, an in-office brand might be more effective for someone with a severe overbite. However, an at-home brand could be preferable for someone with a mild case of spacing who is also on a tight budget.
ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub each present their own unique treatments with specific nuances and perks. Let’s dig into the details to find out where each company excels.
Even the most affordable treatments are still an investment. So, it’s not something you want to buy without being sure that it will deliver your desired results. Arriving at these results, however, takes a few different moving parts.
When considering a treatment’s effectiveness, you’re not just looking at its past successes. These are good indicators, but a company’s manufacturing processes, aligner design, and scope of treatable conditions are also important. In most cases, in-office treatments like ClearCorrect have an advantage here because of their in-person care and experience.
- Can treat almost any condition that braces can, thanks to their supplemental attachments
- Aligners use plastic from a trusted, experienced dental materials company called Zendura
- Aligners are cut straight across for more power and faster treatment time
- Can treat mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, and some bite issues. Cannot incorporate any attachments
- Once partnered with Align Technology to manufacture aligners, but now produces them in-house
- Aligners are cut straight across for more power and faster treatment time
What Can They Treat?
SmileDirectClub is very effective when it comes to correcting mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, along with some minor bite issues. ClearCorrect, however, can effectively treat these conditions, plus a whole lot more.
During ClearCorrect’s regular office visits, your dentist will have an opportunity to enhance your treatment by adding other orthodontic attachments like elastics and expanders. ClearCorrect aligners can even be supplemented with their own proprietary attachments called “Engagers.” These tiny buttons affix to the surfaces of your teeth to induce more complex movements, increasing effectiveness. This powerful combination of aligners and appliances allows ClearCorrect to treat more severe cases, including bite misalignments like overbite, underbite, etc.
ClearCorrect functions as its own manufacturer and they’re actually the second-largest clear aligner manufacturer in the U.S. They’re a proven and reputable aligner source, and they even outsource their services to Candid, another home aligner company. ClearCorrect uses plastics from Zendura, the same premium materials Invisalign previously used. So, you can be confident that your aligners are made from top-quality plastics and will be sturdy and structurally sound.
SmileDirectClub has had a long-standing manufacturing partnership with Align Technology, the makers of Invisalign. However, they recently announced that, due to a legal dispute, that partnership has ended. Since then, they’ve been manufacturing their aligners in-house, which could affect their quality and consistency.
Cost has always been an obstacle for adults seeking orthodontic treatment. Even the most cost-effective options aren’t cheap, and it’s not something you can purchase on a whim. You might be in a position where you’re carefully planning your finances to pay for treatment. In this case, affordability might be a priority. And, you’ll want to make sure you choose a treatment provider that won’t put you in a bad financial situation. By taking office visits out of the equation, at-home aligner companies are able to significantly cut costs, giving SmileDirectClub the edge over ClearCorrect in most cases.
- No set sticker price, the average cost is $2,500 – $5,000
- Partners with a company called beWell by FTL Finance to provide financing for providers and patients, but a credit check may be required
- Your dentist’s office can receive payments directly from insurance companies, so your insurer can pay them directly
- $1,950 sticker price
- Financing requires a down payment but no credit check (everyone is approved!)
- They don’t accept direct payments from insurance companies, you’ll need to pay the entire amount and then request reimbursement from your insurer.
Check out any home aligner company’s homepage, and you’ll likely find their sticker price front and center. This is because home aligner companies usually offer attractive pricing, especially when compared to in-office brands. SmileDirectClub, for example, charges $1,950 upfront, $59 for the Impression Kit, and $99 for aftercare retainers.
ClearCorrect doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all price because their costs depend on your specific dentist and the severity of your condition. That said, a full course of ClearCorrect treatment usually costs $2,500 – $5,000. However, for minor cases of crowding and spacing, they also offer Limited 6 and Limited 12 options that include 6 or 12 aligners, respectively. Or, you can choose the “Flex” option where you pay per aligner. If you have a mild condition, any of these alternative plans can end up saving you some money.
What About Insurance?
Many times, insurance companies consider orthodontic treatment cosmetic and refuse coverage, especially for minor cases that are often corrected with home aligners. But, don’t worry. Both ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub note that their customers sometimes receive partial coverage, making costs more manageable. However, you’ll need to contact your insurer to determine if you have coverage for orthodontic treatments. They’re often more likely to cover in-office treatments than at-home ones.
Dentist’s offices that offer ClearCorrect can receive payments directly from insurance companies, so your insurer can pay them directly. On the other hand, SmileDirectClub requires some extra steps. They don’t accept direct payments from insurance companies. So, you’ll need to pay the entire amount and then request reimbursement from your insurer.
Most people are probably not prepared to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for treatment. The good news is that you don’t have to. SmileDirectClub provides financing and payment plans for every customer through SmilePay, which doesn’t even require a credit check. You’ll just owe a $250 down payment, then it’s $89 per month for 24 months.
ClearCorrect partners with a company called beWell by FTL Finance to provide financing for both providers and patients. Some options for beWell financing, like deferred payments, require credit approval. Still, beWell is not the only option for ClearCorrect providers, so your dentist may use a different company or have their own plans.
Increasingly busy schedules and lengthy to-do lists might have you feeling like you simply don’t have time for teeth straightening treatment. After all, it requires dedication and commitment over the course of several months.
Fortunately, both at-home and in-office aligners have taken strides toward making their treatments more efficient and convenient. At-home aligner systems, with their elimination of office visits, are the significantly more convenient option. And, SmileDirectClub has set itself even further ahead of the pack by offering multiple startup options, flexible treatment schedules, and relatively fast treatment times.
- An in-person consultation with a dentist is required to get started, including X-rays and photos
- Requires office visits every few weeks to monitor progress and receive new aligner sets
- Average treatment time is 12-18 months, but the Limited and Flex plans could last just a few months
- Does not have a nighttime-only option, only the all-day, 22+ hour schedule
- Gives you the option of either ordering an impression kit online or visiting a SmileShop location for a free 3D scan
- Average treatment time is 6 months
- Treatment is completed entirely at home– no office visits required
- Offers a nighttime-only option that only requires aligner wear for 10 hours per day
Sometimes the most difficult step is the first one, going from dipping your toe to jumping in completely. SmileDirectClub has streamlined its startup process, making it easy, fast, and comfortable to begin treatment. Most home aligner companies require you to make and submit molds of your teeth using an impression kit, but this can be difficult for many customers. As an alternative, SmileDirectClub has established 300+ SmileShops nationwide, where customers can receive free teeth scans that can be used to create their treatment plan instead.
Getting started with ClearCorrect isn’t overly difficult either. You simply schedule a consultation with your dentist or orthodontist to discuss your options. They can professionally take impressions and X-rays of your teeth right there in the office, then begin crafting your treatment plan. It’s as simple as visiting a SmileShop, but there might be a cost involved, depending on your dentist.
At-Home vs. In-Office Application
During your ClearCorrect treatment, you’ll need to schedule regular office visits so that your dentist can monitor your progress and make adjustments when necessary. This means that you’ll be spending some of your precious free time (or taking time off work) to schedule and attend these appointments. When your schedule is already busy, that’s no easy task, and not an exciting one either.
SmileDirectClub is more convenient solely because they eliminate these regular office visits. After you’ve been approved for treatment, they will ship your aligners directly to your doorstep, with no appointments necessary.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
If you can’t bear the thought of showing up to a wedding, graduation, or another special occasion before your treatment is finished, you’ll want to consider how long each treatment will take. No matter which company you choose, your treatment duration will depend on the severity of your condition. More severe cases simply take longer to correct.
But in general, SmileDirectClub has a shorter treatment time than ClearCorrect. Why? Because in most cases, SmileDirectClub treats milder cases that don’t require drastic or complex movements. If you’re looking for averages, SmileDirectClub usually takes around 6 months, while ClearCorrect often takes 12 or more. There are times when your treatment might last longer or shorter than these average times, but in general, this is what you can expect.
What About Nighttime-Only Treatment?
Nighttime aligners are a relatively new development in clear aligner treatment. Typically, you must wear your aligners for 22+ hours per day. However, SmileDirectClub (and byte) recently introduced “Nighttime Aligners,” which only require you to wear them 10 hours per day (overnight) instead.
These are actually the same exact aligners that you would receive for regular, all-day treatment. You just follow a different schedule, wearing each set 10 hrs/day for two weeks instead of one. While this flexible schedule makes treatment more convenient, it also extends your overall timeline to 10 months (on average). Plus, not wearing your aligners for an extended period of time could allow your teeth to shift back to their old positions.
ClearCorrect doesn’t offer a comparable nighttime-only option. They maintain that, for best results, you should wear your aligners for 20-22 hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, brush, and floss.
Looks aren’t everything, but they can play a big part in choosing a clear aligner company. Initially, the whole point of clear aligners was to provide quality teeth straightening treatment while avoiding metal wires and brackets. Today, aligner companies are constantly looking for ways to make their products better looking.
Most home aligner companies’ websites will explain how their products are better looking or less visible than the competitors, but the truth is that this is somewhat subjective. It’s about choosing the look that you like best. But to make this decision, you’ll need to know the differences between each aligner’s appearance.
- Aligners are slightly more opaque and may look more natural
- Aligners are cut straight across to make them more powerful, but they may be more visible
- Supplemental attachments like elastics will make aligners more visible
- Uses a frosted, textured plastic that better matches your tooth surfaces
- Aligners are cut straight across to make them more powerful, but they may be more visible
- Attachments are not compatible, so aligners stay clear and less noticeable
Some aligner companies produce smooth, translucent aligners and others make frosted, textured ones. You might think that the translucent aligners are less visible, but that’s actually not the case.
Because your teeth are porous, they have a naturally matte appearance. Frosted, textured aligners better mimic this appearance, so they blend in a bit better. Smooth, clear aligners can be reflective and look artificially shiny. Both SmileDirectClub and ClearCorrect produce frosted aligners, so either one will look natural on your teeth.
But, this is just one opinion. Some customers prefer translucent aligners because they like the “gleam” it gives their teeth.
Similarly, companies use two primary methods for trimming their aligners: straight across the top and along the gum line. SmileDirectClub and ClearCorrect both use a straight cut that slightly overlaps the gums. A straight cut allows the aligners to leverage the gums for increased power. But, it can also make them more visible than aligners that are scalloped to match the gum line.
Additional Dental Appliances
ClearCorrect can treat a wide variety of conditions, even severe bite issues, but this could come at a cost. To treat more significant tooth and jaw misalignments, your dentist may employ additional orthodontics like elastics, expanders, or Engagers. Each of these will automatically make your aligners more visible since they’re adding to the amount of hardware on your teeth.
Supplemental attachments aren’t available with SmileDirectClub’s treatment, so this added visibility isn’t a concern.
Patient Experience Comparison
Clear aligner treatment can be a long process. And you might have some questions and concerns along the way. You want a company with responsive customer service, reliable oversight, and (most of all) results. You might see mixed reviews about the SmileDirectClub patient experience, but on the whole, customers are often satisfied. That said, ClearCorrect’s in-person customer service and oversight provide a much higher level of customer care and quality assurance.
ClearCorrect Patient Experience
SmileDirectClub Patient Experience
- Your dentist’s office functions as your primary customer support contact
- You have the option of speaking with your dentist in-person
- Office visits allow your dentist to better keep track of your progress
- Refinements don’t typically cost extra with Invisalign’s full treatment. Refunds depend on the office.
- Customer service is available via phone, email, and webchat
- Received some negative reviews in the past, but seems to be turning it around
- No dentist or orthodontist oversight during treatment
- Will work to modify your plan if you’re not satisfied, plus offers a full refund within 30 days of starting treatment.
SmileDirectClub’s customer service is available during regular business hours via phone and email. Their website says that they will respond to all emails within 24 hours. During ClearCorrect treatment, your dentist or orthodontist’s office functions as your primary customer support contact, which means you can take your questions directly to someone who knows and understands your case.
We dug into numerous online reviews to assess SmileDirectClub’s general customer satisfaction, and we discovered that they’ve accumulated some complaints over the years. Customers often report delays in communication and complaint resolutions. It appears that, around 2017, SmileDirectClub’s rapid expansion caused it to outgrow its customer service. More recently, they’ve been implementing initiatives designed to improve customer support. And, based on more recent reviews, it seems to be working.
ClearCorrect customers can take their questions and concerns directly to their dentist instead of a remote customer service team. If you have a clinical question for SmileDirectClub, you’ll have to wait for their representatives to pass it along to the dental team. But with ClearCorrect, you can speak with your dentist’s office directly and even schedule additional office visits. This type of customer care is a lot more streamlined and personalized.
While administering your SmileDirectClub treatment from home, you’re more or less on your own. There are no scheduled check-ins or office visits to track your progress. For some, this convenience is the most appealing part of home aligner treatment. However, it’s also tougher to make mid-treatment adjustments if there are any issues.
During your ClearCorrect treatment, you’ll make an office visit every 4-6 weeks where your dentist will monitor your progress and address any issues. It’s less convenient, but if you have a specific concern, they can check it out on the spot and provide a solution. Because your dentist is with you every step of the way, you can be confident that you’ll achieve the desired results.
Warranty & Refund Policies
Both ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub have strong track records of success, so it’s highly unlikely that anything will go drastically wrong during your treatment. But even if an issue does arise, each company offers ways to get it back on track. SmileDirectClub will only offer a refund within the first 30 days if you have a quick change of heart. After that, you can’t get your money back. But, if you’re dissatisfied with your progress, they will work with you to correct it. And if your final results don’t match the one from your treatment preview, SmileDirectClub may approve you for refinements, although you’ll need to complete another impression kit to get them.
ClearCorrect doesn’t have a company-wide refund policy because these processes are handled by individual dentists and orthodontists. It’s rare for ClearCorrect patients to need refinements at the end of their treatment (since the dentist can make modifications throughout), but sometimes it happens. If you have ClearCorrect’s Unlimited plan, you won’t have to pay for any additional aligners. But if you have the Flex plan, you might.
Which Should You Choose?
Once again, both of these companies offer quality, effective clear aligner treatments. Neither one is clearly or inherently better than the other. Rather, each one has its own strengths and each excels in different circumstances. So, your decision should be based on your unique condition, goals, and expectations.
Who Should Choose SmileDirectClub?
If cost, speed, and convenience are at the top of your priority list, SmileDirectClub might be the right fit for you.
Who Should Choose ClearCorrect?
If you’re dealing with severe misalignment, or are uncomfortable administering treatment on your own, ClearCorrect might be a better choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I choose ClearCorrect or SmileDirectClub?
If you have a severe dental or jaw misalignment, or if you just prefer in-person care, ClearCorrect is probably better. But if you’re looking for a faster, less expensive treatment, SmileDirectClub might be an ideal fit.
Keep in mind that home aligners like SmileDirectClub can’t treat every case, so your condition might make the decision for you. Take a look at our in-depth reviews on SmileDirectClub and ClearCorrect for a lot more info.
How do I get started with ClearCorrect or SmileDirectClub?
For ClearCorrect, you’ll need to visit your dentist or orthodontist. They’ll assess your teeth and help you determine the best route forward. If you decide on ClearCorrect, they’ll also make impressions or take 3D teeth scans to get the process going. Getting started with SmileDirectClub is slightly different.
Most customers order an impression kit to make molds of their teeth at home. But they also maintain 300+ retail locations called SmileShops where you can get a free teeth scan instead.
How much do ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub cost?
There’s not a set ClearCorrect cost. It can vary depending on your condition, dentist, insurance, and location. But the average treatment costs $2,500-6,000. SmileDirectClub has just one flat rate: $1,950 for your full aligner treatment.
You’ll also need to purchase an impression kit for $59 (unless you go to a SmileShop) and aftercare retainers for $99. For a closer look at pricing, read over our guides on the true cost of SmileDirectClub and ClearCorrect.
What are ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub customers saying?
It’s tough to get a consensus on ClearCorrect’s customer satisfaction because their treatment and customer service are handled by individual dentist offices. But based on the reviews we could find, customers are generally pleased with their results and customer experience. SmileDirectClub customers are typically happy with their treatment and results.
However, the company went through a rough patch a few years ago where they accrued some complaints about their support team. Since then, they appear to have made some changes that have garnered more positive reviews.
How long do ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub take?
Since ClearCorrect usually handles more severe cases, the treatment often takes longer, 12 months on average. SmileDirectClub can correct most conditions in around 6 months. However, these timelines can be shorter or longer depending on the severity of your condition and how consistently you wear your aligners.
What’s the difference between ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub?
ClearCorrect is an in-office treatment, so you need to schedule regular office visits where your dentist or orthodontist can monitor your progress and provide new aligners.
SmileDirectClub, on the other hand, doesn’t require any office visits. They ship all of your aligners at once and it’s your responsibility to administer them at home. The lack of office visits make SmileDirectClub cheaper and faster, but it also means that you won’t have regular oversight from a professional.
Can I wear my aligners only at night?
Only if you choose SmileDirectClub. ClearCorrect says that the best way to move teeth is by wearing your aligners for 22+ hours per day. However, SmileDirectClub offers a nighttime-only treatment that only requires 10 hours of overnight wear. It takes slightly longer, but if you don’t want to wear your aligners to work, school, etc. it could be a great option. byte and AlignerCo also have nighttime-only treatment plans.
What conditions can ClearCorrect and SmileDirectClub treat?
ClearCorrect can treat almost any dental or jaw misalignment because it can incorporate supplemental attachments for more power and intricacy. Because SmileDirectClub doesn’t have the same in-person oversight and available attachments, it’s restricted to treating mild and moderate cases of crowding and spacing.
What is the most effective clear aligner company?
Overall, Invisalign is capable of handling the widest range of conditions, making it the most effective treatment. But if you prefer at-home care, byte and Candid are the most effective home aligner companies. They can’t correct the same scope of conditions as Invisalign, but their orthodontist-directed care and fast treatment times make them effective options.
Read our full guide to the most effective home aligners for other high-quality treatments.
What is the fastest clear aligner company?
byte. Their average treatment takes just 3 months, while most other home aligner companies take around 6. Even byte At-Night takes 4-6 months, right around the industry average. Get to know byte a little better by reading our in-depth byte review.
What is the cheapest clear aligner company?
AlignerCo. At just $1,145, their price beats every competitor by a few hundred dollars, and sometimes they run promotions that drop it even lower. And if you can’t pay that up front, you can jump on a financing plan, regardless of your credit score.
What other companies should I consider?
If you like the idea of home aligners, take a look at byte, Candid, and AlignerCo. byte (our #1 pick) has the fastest treatment times (3 months on average), SmileDirectClub is the largest and most experienced home aligner company, and AlignerCo has the Industry’s lowest prices ($1,145). But if you prefer in-office treatment, you can’t go wrong with Invisalign, who has the industry’s most cutting edge technology, strongest brand, and longest track record.
Does insurance cover clear aligners?
Sometimes. Most insurance providers don’t cover home aligner treatment, although some might if you have orthodontic benefits. They’re more likely to cover an in-office treatment like ClearCorrect. The only way to find out for sure is to contact your provider and ask.
Are home aligners safe?
Yes! While administering treatment from home might seem daunting, the process is very safe. Home aligner companies use state-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.
Do home 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.