The past few decades have brought us some astounding medical advancements. Today, doctors are effectively treating and preventing diseases in ways that we never imagined possible 30 years ago. Similarly, teeth straightening treatments have evolved dramatically in recent years. When Invisalign introduced the first clear aligner in 1997, it was a stunning achievement, providing the same power as braces, but without all the metal. But the evolution didn’t stop there.
As companies have sought ways to improve clear aligner treatment, some, like Smilelove, have developed a way to complete the process entirely from home. At-home aligner treatments took Invisalign’s successful aligner design and made its application even more convenient. Invisalign and Smilelove’s aligners might look similar, but their treatment methods are actually quite different.
If you’re trying to decide between these two treatment options, you’ve landed in the right place. In this review, we’ll dive into the details of how Invisalign and Smilelove actually compare — including several things your dentist might not have told you.
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Over two decades ago, a dental technology company called Align Tech developed the first clear aligner series, Invisalign, which commanded the market for nearly ten years. They quickly implemented an ambitious marketing campaign, partnered with dentists and orthodontists across the country, and had transformed 175,000 smiles by 2004. Today, Invisalign maintains its position atop the clear aligner industry. They currently partner with 100,000 dentists in 90 countries and have treated over 8 million patients.
Smilelove is part of a crop of young, ambitious at-home aligner companies that’s carved out space as the most affordable option in the industry. Founded in 2017, Smilelove doesn’t have a large customer base quite yet, but they’re more affordable than every other home aligner company, and they ensure high-quality treatment too. As they grow in popularity, they’re beginning to catch the eye of many budget-conscious adults seeking effective, convenient teeth straightening treatment.
At-Home vs. In-Office Treatment: The Pros and Cons
As we mentioned above, even though they both produce clear aligners, Invisalign and Smilelove provide fairly different treatments. Invisalign is administered in-office by a dentist, while Smilelove’s aligners are developed remotely by a licensed orthodontist and applied at home.
Which is better? The answer isn’t so straightforward. Each has its own unique advantages and drawbacks.
Pros of In-Office Treatment:
- In-office aligner treatments can incorporate attachments (like elastics and expanders) 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 tend to be more convenient.
- At-home aligner treatments typically take around 6 months to achieve the desired results, while in-office treatments often take about 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 you’ll receive with in-office aligners.
The fact is that 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 and a tight budget.
Invisalign and Smilelove each present their own unique treatments with specific nuances and perks. Let’s dig into the details to find out where each company excels.
You don’t want to mess around with your teeth. You want assurance that the treatment you choose will work just like you’re expecting. Not all aligners are equal, and some are more effective than others. They differ in treatment times, manufacturing processes, aligner design, and more.
When evaluating your options, you’ll want to make sure that your aligners are high-quality and structurally sound. And, capable of efficiently and safely achieving your desired results. Invisalign and Smilelove are both effective, although Invisalign has the edge, especially when treating more severe conditions.
- Can treat almost any condition braces can by employing orthodontic attachments
- Created by Align Technology, the #1 clear aligner producer
- Aligners are trimmed in a scalloped-fashion to fit the gumline
- Can treat mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, and some bite issues
- Partners with Essix to manufacture aligners, one of the most experienced dental product manufacturers
- Aligners are trimmed in a scalloped-fashion to fit the gum line, might be less powerful
What Can They Treat?
Without regular office visits and dentist oversight, Smilelove’s aligners are only suitable for treating mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, along with minor bite issues. Consequently, some people might not be good candidates for treatment. You’ll need to purchase and submit an impression kit so that Smilelove’s experts can determine whether your condition is mild enough to treat. If it’s not, an in-office treatment like Invisalign will provide better results.
Invisalign, on the other hand, can correct just about any condition you might have. Severe crowding, large tooth gaps, overbites, underbites, and crossbites can all be treated with Invisalign. This is because their aligners are compatible with other orthodontic appliances like elastics and expanders, which your dentist can apply to enhance treatment. Invisalign even has its own patented additions called Smartforce attachments. These tiny, tooth-colored shapes sit on your teeth and help to catalyze more significant or complex movements.
No matter which company you choose, your aligners will be carefully designed to be a perfect fit for your teeth and slowly move them to the desired position. Aligners that break or lose their shape are no longer effective, so you want a company whose products are well-made, durable, and structurally sound.
Invisalign’s parent company, Align Technology, is the largest and most experienced clear aligner producer in the U.S. They’ve been creating high-quality aligners since the 90s, and they’re always finding ways to improve their products. Currently, Align Technology and Invisalign use a patented material called “SmartTrack,” which Invisalign claims “moves your teeth more precisely and comfortably.”
Smilelove aligners use Essix-brand plastic. Essix is one of the most experienced and widely-trusted dental product manufacturers in the industry. They supply products for a few different home aligner companies and have a sterling reputation among dentists and other experts.
All clear aligner companies cut their products one of two ways: straight across the top or scalloped to match the gum line, and this cut can influence their effectiveness. Both Invisalign and Smilelove take the scalloped route. Most often, scalloped aligners aren’t able to move the teeth as quickly as straight-cut aligners, so treatment may take longer. This is because they can’t leverage the gums to exert extra force.
But there’s a difference here. Invisalign allows your dentist to use attachments that anchor the aligners to your teeth, matching (and even exceeding) the power of straight-cut aligners. Smilelove doesn’t have this option, so their scalloped aligners might not be quite as effective as Invisalign or any straight-cut option.
It’s worth noting that Smilelove works exclusively with orthodontists to create and oversee your treatment plan. These orthodontists are remote, but still possess a high level of expertise. An orthodontist is more specialized than a general licensed dentist. They spend 6 postgraduate years studying the art of moving teeth and crafting smiles. Smilelove only recently announced their orthodontist-only network, so we’ve yet to see how they plan to implement it or how permanent it is.
Invisalign can be administered by either a dentist or an orthodontist, so the choice is up to you. You might prefer to go with your usual dentist (if they’re a provider) so you can have your teeth straightened at the same office where you get them cleaned. Or, you might decide to get a referral for an orthodontist instead. No matter which route you take, the one-on-one care you’ll receive makes Invisalign’s treatment more thorough and robust.
Traditionally, orthodontic treatment hasn’t come cheap. On the contrary – it has often been fairly expensive. At-home aligner companies seek to remedy that problem by offering lower prices. By eliminating the need for regular office visits, these companies can significantly reduce costs, making clear aligner treatment much more affordable. And among these companies, Smilelove stands alone. Invisalign can treat a much wider range of conditions, but home aligner companies like Smilelove can be a more cost-effective alternative for anyone on a tight budget.
- No set sticker price, the average cost is $3,500 – $8,000
- Aftercare retainers cost anywhere from $100 – $300, depending on the dentist
- Financing varies depending on the dentists, may require a credit check or down payment
- $1,895 sticker price, with frequent promotions dropping the cost to up to $400 lower
- Aftercare retainers are included in the cost of treatment
- Financing requires a down payment but no credit check (everyone is approved!)
This is Smilelove’s biggest advantage over both in-office treatments and other at-home aligner companies. Their starting cost is $1,895, but they continuously run promotions that drop it up to $400 lower. So, rarely do customers need to pay the full amount. What’s even better is that this price includes your impression kit, whitening products, and post-treatment retainers. Other companies charge you $75 – $100 for an impression kit before your treatment and ~$100 for retainers afterward.
Invisalign doesn’t have a set price. Instead, it changes based on a couple of variables, primarily your dentist and the severity of your condition. Your dentist’s time costs money, as does his or her office and equipment. Therefore, a severe condition that requires many office visits will end up costing more money. But even at its most affordable, Invisalign is still pricier than home aligners. The average course of Invisalign treatment costs between $3,500 and $8,000. Unique circumstances might cause the price to fall outside this range, but in general, that’s what you can expect to pay. On top of that, you’ll need to pay $100 – $300 for retainers after you finish treatment (unless your particular dentist/orthodontist includes them in your upfront cost).
What About Insurance?
The bad news here is that insurance companies often consider clear aligner treatment cosmetic or unnecessary, especially for minor conditions corrected by home aligner companies. This isn’t always the case, though. Smilelove’s website claims that their aligners are “covered by most dental insurance plans.” However, these plans usually only cover part, not all, of the costs. Smilelove can help you determine if your insurer will provide coverage. But, even if they do, you will need to pay for the treatment upfront, and then file for a reimbursement.
Your dentist’s office can accept payments directly from your insurance company. So, with Invisalign, you won’t need to file for reimbursement. All of the paperwork and payments will be handled by your dental office. Keep in mind that insurance companies are more likely to cover in-office treatments than at-home ones.
You don’t need to have a couple thousand dollars lying around to pay for your clear aligners upfront. Both Invisalign and Smilelove offer financing plans to spread out the cost of treatment over multiple months. The nice thing about Smilelove’s financing is that everyone is approved, regardless of credit score. Just put $250 down and you can pay for your treatment over the next 12, 18, or 24 months with 0% APR. Depending on the timeline you choose and any current sales, you can end up paying as low as $62 per month.
Invisalign doesn’t have one standard financing plan for their aligner system. Instead, you’ll need to speak with your specific dentist or orthodontist to see what kind of plans their office provides.
Busy is no longer just a word for many adults – it’s a way of life. Our schedules are booked hour-to-hour and it’s often hard to squeeze in a few hours to relax. Many adults don’t want to spend those hours at the dentist’s office, and home aligner companies like Smilelove have capitalized on this desire for convenience. They’ve made themselves more convenient than in-office options by eliminating the need for office visits. But, this isn’t the only factor at play. Treatment times and startup options are also worth considering when evaluating a company’s convenience.
- An in-person consultation with a dentist is required to get started, including X-rays and photos
- Requires office visits every 6 weeks (on average) to monitor progress and receive new aligner sets
- Average treatment time is 12-18 months
- Ordering an impression kit online is the only way to get started
- Treatment is completed entirely at home — no office visits required
- Average treatment time is 6-8 months
Before diving into home aligner treatment, you first need to determine whether you’re a good candidate. To do so, you must take molds of your top and bottom dental arches using an impression kit. Using these molds, Smilelove’s orthodontists can evaluate your condition to see if their treatment can deliver the desired results.
Unfortunately, this requires a near-perfect impression, not an easy task for anyone who has never used an impression kit before. Competitors, like SmileDirectClub and Candid, provide physical locations where you can receive free teeth scans, but Smilelove does not. So, you’ll need to use an impression kit.
The benefit of Invisalign’s face-to-face dentist interaction is that your dentist can examine your teeth in person. They are trained specifically on how to take impressions, so you can be sure that they’ll have quality molds to use in preparing your aligners.
The Office Visit Trade-Off
Invisalign’s office visits serve an important purpose. They allow your dentist to carefully oversee and modify your treatment, making it more effective at correcting a wide scope of conditions. But when you finally get some well-earned free time, spending it at the dentist’s office isn’t nearly as exciting or relaxing as the alternatives. That’s why many adults opt for at-home companies instead.
Approved for Smilelove’s treatment? They will send you a treatment preview, which shows how your smile will look after you finish your aligner plan. If you’re happy with the preview, Smilelove will develop and produce your aligners, and you’ll find them on your doorstep in just a few weeks. You will need to complete treatment on your own, but you won’t need to spend time scheduling and attending regular office visits.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
This question is particularly important if you have a tight timeframe. Say your wedding is in eight months, or you have another important event coming up. It’s good to know how long your treatment will take. Of course, this is somewhat dependent on your condition’s severity, but it can also vary between companies. At-home treatment times are shorter than in-office ones, usually because at-home aligners treat milder cases. This holds true when we look at Smilelove and Invisalign’s average time frames.
On average, Smilelove takes around 6-8 months and Invisalign takes around 12. Of course, both of these timelines can be shorter or longer depending on the severity of your condition, but these are the most common cases. If you need a more accurate estimate, speak with your dentist about how your particular condition will affect your treatment time.
One of the major goals for clear aligner providers is to provide a less noticeable teeth straightening option- one that you can wear to dates, job interviews, and in everyday life with no worries about appearance. While all clear aligners are less visible than traditional braces, each company is actively seeking ways to make their products better looking. And, each will tell you that they’ve succeeded.
However, “best looking” is a largely subjective term, as it depends on your personal preferences. Invisalign and Smilelove make very different looking aligners, so you’ll need to consider your own style and tastes as you compare them.
- Uses a frosted, textured plastic that better matches your tooth surfaces
- Scallops their aligners to match your gum line
- Reasonably stain resistant
- Supplemental attachments, such as attachments or elastics will make aligners more visible
- Aligners are smooth and translucent, may look artificially shiny
- Scallops their aligners to match your gum line
- Reasonably stain resistant
- Attachments are not offered, so aligners stay clear and less noticeable
If you place Smilelove and Invisalign aligners next to each other, you’ll notice one significant difference – Smilelove’s plastic is smooth and translucent while Invisalign’s is frosted and textured. Some companies believe that clearer means less visible, and others maintain that frosted looks more natural.
Our opinion? We prefer frosted aligners like Invisalign’s. Your teeth are covered in tiny pores, making them appear matte. Therefore, frosted, textured aligners better mimic natural teeth surfaces. Smooth, translucent aligners, on the other hand, can be reflective and make your teeth look unnaturally shiny. Not everyone agrees, though. Some customers actually prefer the way that Smilelove’s smooth aligners make their teeth “gleam.”
We mentioned the different ways aligners are cut in the “Effectiveness” section, but it’s also worth discussing here. Both Invisalign and Smilelove scallop their aligners to match your gum line, so there’s no visible overlap. This might make Smilelove’s aligners slightly less effective than straight-cut ones, but it also makes them less noticeable. Invisalign uses attachments to anchor their aligners in place, so the scalloped cut won’t reduce their effectiveness.
One of Invisalign’s main draws is its ability to incorporate other orthodontic attachments to treat severe cases and jaw misalignments. These attachments are essential for treating a wide scope of conditions, but they also make the aligners more visible. Smilelove doesn’t have this issue, as its aligners can’t be supplemented with similar attachments.
Customer Support Comparison
Undergoing orthodontic treatment can be exciting and worrisome all at once. On one hand, you’re looking forward to your dazzling new smile just a few months down the road. On the other hand, there’s that nagging thought at the back of your mind: what if something goes wrong?
If your treatment doesn’t progress like you’re expecting, or if you just have a simple question about your aligners, you want a company that will quickly and effectively address your concerns. And when it comes to customer support, Invisalign offers a level of personal care that Smilelove can’t touch.
Invisalign Customer Support
Smilelove Customer Support
- Your dentist’s office functions as your primary customer support contact
- Customer satisfaction varies depending on the dentist, but you have the option of speaking with your dentist in-person
- No company-wide policy on refunds or returns, they vary depending on the dentist
- Customer service is available via phone, email, and webchat
- Limited reviews available, but customer service could stand to be more responsive
- Will work with you to modify your plan if you’re not satisfied, and offers prorated refunds for aligners you haven’t used yet if you’d like to stop treatment
Smilelove’s customer support representatives are available by phone, email, webchat, and video call, although their website doesn’t list their typical availability. You can also reach out via social media, but we don’t have any data on their response times.
With Invisalign, you can take all of your questions and concerns directly to your dentist during their regular business hours. This means you’ll have a dedicated point of contact who knows you and your teeth personally.
Customer Support Responsiveness
In the course of our research, we compiled numerous online reviews to paint a complete picture of the Smilelove customer experience. As one of the younger, smaller companies in the industry, they don’t yet have a bulk of reviews available, so our search was limited. However, some of the reviews we did find revealed some concerns about Smilelove’s customer service responsiveness.
Some customers reported delays of a week or more in resolving their issues. But outside of these delays, a majority of reviewers said that the support representatives were friendly and easy to work with. As Smilelove continues to grow, we are excited to see how they develop more efficient customer service procedures.
Finding reviews for Invisalign’s customer support is a little more complicated. Each dentist offices handle their patients’ questions and concerns differently. However, we assume that the benefit of having a personal contact makes for a superior customer service experience. It’s hard for any home aligner company to match this level of care with teams that are entirely remote.
Refund & Warranty Policies
Returns can be frustrating for both the customer and the company, but Smilelove does a great job of making this process simple and satisfactory. They’re the only home aligner company that offers a prorated refund for aligners you haven’t used yet.
For example, if you’re three months into your treatment and dissatisfied with your progress, you can receive part of your money back, based on how many aligners you’ve used. Or, their team will work with you to help get your treatment back on track to achieve the results you want. Maybe you already finished treatment, but the results aren’t what you expected. In this case, Smilelove may offer a refund based on the difference between your real results and the ones that were initially promised.
Invisalign’s system makes it easy for your dentist to make mid-treatment adjustments. During your regular office visits, your dentist will assess your progress and make modifications if necessary. Making course corrections along the way will help to better ensure your satisfaction and desired results. Check with your dentist or orthodontist to see what types of refund policies or warranties they offer for your Invisalign treatment.
Which Should You Choose?
Once again, both of these companies offer quality, effective clear aligner treatments. Neither 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 Smilelove?
Anyone who’s looking for a budget-conscious option that emphasizes product quality and convenience should look at Smilelove.
Who Should Choose Invisalign?
To correct a more severe condition, or if you’re more comfortable receiving one-on-one care from a dentist/orthodontist, Invisalign is an ideal choice.