SmileDirectClub was introduced in 2014 as an alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment options like braces and Invisalign. They kickstarted a trend of at-home aligners that included several new competitors. And although each one has its own unique selling points, they all share one major perk: treatment entirely from home — no dental visits required.
But home aligners also boast lower costs, higher convenience, and a much shorter treatment time. That said, the industry is still very new, and at-home treatment isn’t a viable option for everyone. In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the drawbacks of online aligners like SmileDirectClub to help you decide whether or not at-home treatment is the right choice for you.
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Drawbacks of Online Aligners Like SmileDirectClub
Home aligners completely transformed the orthodontic industry and made cosmetic dentistry more financially accessible. However, there are downsides to completing treatment entirely from home. For starters, you can’t choose the dentist or orthodontist that oversees your home aligner treatment. They’ll be selected at random, so you won’t be able to review their qualifications and experience personally.
Some companies, like Candid and byte, work exclusively with orthodontists, meaning their network of dental professionals is typically more qualified than general dentists. However, you’ll still be randomly matched with one of their orthodontists.
All home aligner treatments are monitored remotely by a dental professional for the entire process. And you’ll have the option to contact the company’s customer support team if you have any questions or concerns. However, customer service waiting times vary depending on the brand you choose. So, it could take a few days before you get a response. In-office aligners have a distinct advantage here since you’ll have the option to schedule an appointment with your dentist at any time.
Home aligners are also much more limited than in-office brands in the conditions they’re able to treat. Dentists can supplement Invisalign and ClearCorrect aligners with attachments that are placed on specific teeth to make more complex movements. However, these attachments have to be placed by a dentist or orthodontist, so home aligners can’t use them. Because you complete home aligner treatment entirely from home, you won’t get the same level of detail.
Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons? Here’s Our Take.
Like any treatment, home aligners have drawbacks, but there are clear advantages to completing treatment entirely from home. In-office treatments, like Invisalign and ClearCorrect, are more established and well-known, but they often come at a price, both figuratively and literally.
In-office treatments are typically very expensive, and they require a considerable time commitment. Choosing home aligners instead can offer some significant benefits, like superior cost, convenience, and treatment speed.
The average cost of treatment for in-office aligners is about $3,000 – $5,000, while home aligners cost about $1,900, regardless of the brand. The most budget-friendly brand, AlignerCo, only costs $1,145. So, they’re definitely a more affordable option.
Home aligners also have in-office aligners beat for convenience. Although regular office visits can be helpful, fitting them into an already busy schedule isn’t easy. We’re all constantly chasing a moment of free time, so you probably don’t want to spend it at the dentist’s office. Home aligners eliminate the need for office visits, so you won’t have to schedule monthly appointments.
One of the biggest draws to home aligner treatment is its expedited treatment time. Most people can complete treatment in about 6 months, and byte even boasts a treatment time as short as 3 months (we’ll get to that later). In-office treatments typically take about 12-15 months. So, if you have an important event coming up later this year, home aligners might be more suitable for your timeline.
What’s the Difference Between SmileDirectClub and Invisalign?
Although SmileDirectClub and Invisalign both offer clear aligners, there are some significant differences between the two treatments. Most importantly, Invisalign can treat more complex misalignments because of their Smartforce attachments and regular office visits. However, home aligner brands have worked to even the playing field by offering faster treatment times. SmileDirectClub and most other home aligner companies can offer such a quick treatment time because of the way their aligners are cut, and because they only accept mild-to-moderate cases.
Invisalign “scallops” their aligners to match each patient’s gumline. In contrast, home aligners are typically cut straight across. This straight-cut allows the aligners to apply 4x the amount of force to the teeth, moving them faster.
All home aligners are made from transparent, BPA-free plastic, just like Invisalign. But, each brand looks and feels slightly different depending on the manufacturer they use. Invisalign currently works with Align Technology, their parent company and the #1 clear aligner manufacturer in the country, to create their aligners. So, they’re top-quality.
Until 2019, SmileDirectClub also partnered with Align Technology, and their aligners were highly effective and reliable. However, they recently ended that partnership and now manufactures their aligners in-house. We hope that SmileDirectClub will eventually partner with another well-established company. But, only time will tell if their aligners’ quality will be affected by the change.
Are Home Aligner Products Safe?
Home aligner treatment does have some drawbacks, but all the providers we review are safe as long as you take appropriate measures to prepare for treatment and follow the provider’s instructions.
To ensure your treatment goes as smoothly as possible, it’s essential to schedule an appointment with your dentist to thoroughly evaluate your teeth. Healthy teeth move the most effectively and safely. So, cavities, gum disease, and displaced wisdom teeth will all have a negative effect on your treatment.
Once you start home aligner treatment, you’ll receive detailed instructions from the company. Like any other treatment, you should follow your provider’s instructions to prevent any issues and ensure the best, safest results. All home aligner brands require patients to wear their aligners for 22 hours per day, only removing them to eat, drink, or brush. Deviating from the 22-hour wear schedule will almost definitely delay your treatment. Plus, you could develop a bite issue from inconsistent wear.
Each home aligner provider has its own advantages, and some take more precautions to ensure your treatment is safe and effective. Our picks for the top 3 safest home aligner providers are byte, Candid, and AlignerCo. To learn more about home aligner safety, head over to our guide here.
How Do I Know If Home Teeth Aligners Will Work for Me?
The best candidates for home aligners are people with mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing and no bite issues. As we mentioned earlier, home aligners are limited in the cases they can treat, so not everyone is a good candidate. Luckily, home aligner providers typically accept about 70% of the cases they receive, so the chances are good that you’ll be approved.
Every home aligner company has a similar process to determine your candidacy for treatment. In most cases, you’ll need to visit the company’s website to order an impression kit. They’ll mail you the kit, including instructions to take accurate impressions of your teeth. Once you make your impressions, you’ll send them back to the company to review. Then, a dentist will evaluate your case and determine whether you’re a good fit treatment.
Unfortunately, more than a few reviews online reveal that taking impressions can be somewhat challenging. Most online aligner brands don’t have physical locations, so ordering an impression kit is your only option to start treatment. SmileDirectClub and Candid stand out from the pack by offering free 3D scans at their retail shops located across the country. So, if you’re worried about taking impressions on your own, you can schedule an appointment for a free scan instead.
I’ve Only Heard of SmileDirectClub. Are They The Best Brand?
While all home teeth aligners are cheaper and more affordable than braces or Invisalign, each provider has its own unique advantages. So, SmileDirectClub might not be the best brand for you. Our choices for the top 3 home aligner providers are byte, Candid, and AlignerCo.
Best Alternatives to SmileDirectClub
1. byte: $1,895
byte is one of the newest home aligner brands, but their treatment incorporates some of the most innovative technology currently available, like the HyperByte device. As a result, they consistently deliver the industry’s fastest treatment times (3 months on average). On top of that, they ensure top-quality treatment by guaranteeing that an orthodontist will oversee every case.
They might not have convenient physical locations, but they’re one of the only companies to offer nighttime-only treatment, so you can transform your smile by wearing aligners just 10 hours per day. byte also offers a lifetime guarantee for your smile after treatment. So, if your teeth ever shift, they’ll send you new aligners to readjust them, completely free- even if you completed treatment years prior.
For a more detailed look at byte, check out our comprehensive review.
2. Candid: $2,400
Candid makes safety and effectiveness their top priorities. Like byte, they work exclusively with orthodontists to create their treatment plans. And they give each customer access to their orthodontist throughout treatment with their Remote Monitoring service.
On top of all that, Candid partners with ClearCorrect to make their aligners. ClearCorrect is a well-established and trusted company, and their aligners’ quality reflects this reputation. Because of this, Candid’s aligners are very safe and effective. At $2,400, they’re more expensive than other brands, but given the level of care you’ll receive, their treatment might be worth the extra expense.
For a more detailed look at Candid, check out our comprehensive review.
3. AlignerCo: $1,145
AlignerCo is another newcomer to the home aligner industry, but they’ve quickly gained popularity by being the most affordable brand available. Their $1,145 sticker price is hundreds lower than every other home aligner company. So, if cost is your primary concern, AlignerCo could be a great option.
Cheap prices, however, don’t mean cheap products. AlignerCo’s aligners are made by Essix, a trusted and long-standing dental product supplier. However, unlike Align Technology or ClearCorrect, Essix does not specialize in aligner production. Regardless, it’s reassuring to know that your aligners are produced by an established manufacturer. But unlike byte and Candid, AlignerCo’s dental team consists of both orthodontists and general dentists, so you might not have the most specialized professional on your case.
For a more detailed look at AlignerCo, check out our comprehensive review.
What Are My Other Treatment Options?
Home teeth aligners offer the fastest and cheapest treatment option available. However, there are benefits to choosing a more conventional option instead. If you’d prefer to see a dentist in-person throughout your treatment, there are several alternatives that don’t include typical metal braces.
If your case of misalignment is particularly severe, clear or ceramic braces could be the perfect fit. They’re much more discreet than traditional braces, but they can treat almost any misalignment and most bite issues. Lingual braces are also a popular choice among adults. They’re placed behind the teeth, so most people won’t even notice you’re wearing them.
If your heart is set on clear aligners, Invisalign and ClearCorrect are the premier in-office options. They can both treat almost any condition that braces can, and the treatment process is very similar to that of home aligners. However, you’ll have the option of seeing your dentist whenever you need to.
Home teeth aligners are a popular and innovative way to straighten your teeth, but they aren’t right for everyone. If you’d feel more comfortable seeing a dentist in person, you may be happier and more satisfied with an in-office treatment like Invisalign or clear braces.
Like any dental treatment, home aligners have their drawbacks. And, each provider offers different advantages. If you’ve been considering home aligners, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss your options and help you decide whether they’re the right choice for your teeth.