SmileDirectClub first hit the market in 2014, and they’ve since taken the industry by storm. Introduced as an affordable alternative to Invisalign, SmileDirectClub has served over 750,000 users to date. And as their popularity has grown, several other online aligner companies have hit the market with even more convenient and affordable services.
But since the industry is still relatively new, most people don’t know how at-home teeth straightening treatment actually works. If you’re uncertain about any aspect of home aligner treatment, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll go over the major benefits of SmileDirectClub, weigh the pros and cons, and discuss some alternative home aligner brands to help you choose the right one for your smile.
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3 Major Benefits of Online Aligners like SmileDirectClub
Traditional treatment options like braces and Invisalign 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 huge time commitment. Choosing home aligners instead can offer some significant benefits, most significantly:
There are several online aligner companies on the market, but most of them are around the same price. Regardless of the brand, online aligners usually cost about half the price of traditional orthodontics. The average cost of treatment is about $1,900. And, some providers even include whitening and/or aftercare retainers in the price. AlignerCo, the industry’s cheapest home aligner brand, only costs $1,145. For comparison, in-office aligners like Invisalign and ClearCorrect normally cost about $3,000 – $5,000, and they rarely include free retainers or whitening with treatment.
Financing and payment plans are available through individual dentist offices to make the cost of in-office treatments more manageable. However, they often require a credit check or a hefty down payment. While some online aligner companies follow this model, others offer guaranteed financing without a credit check and payment plans for under $100 per month. So, online aligners will likely be easier to fit into your budget.
Online aligner companies attract a vast majority of their customers by offering superior convenience. We all have busy schedules, and it can be difficult to find time for Invisalign’s monthly dental visits. Home aligners have eliminated this burden by allowing patients to administer treatment on their own, with a dentist monitoring their progress remotely.
Most people who are considering teeth straightening treatment are looking for a complete smile makeover, and that can include whitening. With in-office aligners like Invisalign, you must complete treatment before using any whitening products. And it will almost definitely come at an extra cost. To make their treatment even more convenient, some home aligner brands have introduced whitening products that you can use while wearing your aligners. So, you can straighten and whiten your teeth at the same time.
On top of all that, SmileDirectClub and byte each have a nighttime-only option that allows you to wear your aligner for just 10 hours per day. Other home aligner brands and Invisalign require 22+ hours of daily wear.
3. Treatment Speed
The fastest in-office orthodontic treatments will still take about a year, even for relatively moderate cases. So, if you have an important event coming up later this year, in-office aligners might not be suitable for your timeline.
Home aligners require an average treatment time of just 6 months, and one company currently boasts a 3-month timeline (more on that later). Although they’re best-suited for mild-to-moderate cases of misalignment, most people are good candidates for home aligner treatment. So, more extensive in-office treatments are often unnecessary.
Online aligner companies have faster treatment times because they typically treat milder cases that require fewer aligners. But the way they cut their aligners helps too. In-office brands, like Invisalign and ClearCorrect, “scallop” their aligners to fit the 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, making them move more quickly.
Is SmileDirectClub Better Than Invisalign?
Although SmileDirectClub and Invisalign both offer clear aligners, there are some significant differences between the two treatments. Home aligners don’t include any office visits, so they’re limited in the conditions they can treat. Invisalign can treat more complex misalignments because dentists have the option of incorporating supplemental appliances to enhance treatment.
Specifically, Invisalign uses Smartforce attachments, which are placed on specific teeth to make more complex and detailed movements. The attachments are small, tooth-colored squares that typically blend in, but can sometimes make your aligners more visible. They can only be placed by a dentist, so SmileDirectClub and other home aligner brands don’t offer them. As we previously discussed, home aligner companies cut their aligners straight across so they can offer a more competitive treatment time: about 6 months.
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’s parent company, Align Technology, produces their aligners. As the country’s #1 aligner manufacturer, their products are top-quality.
Until 2019, SmileDirectClub also partnered with Align Technology, so their aligners were highly effective and reliable. However, that partnership dissolved and SmileDirectClub has been producing their aligners in-house, which could potentially affect their quality. Other home aligner companies have manufacturing partnerships too. Candid, for example, works with ClearCorrect, while AlignerCo works with Raintree Essix.
Is At-Home Treatment Safe?
The concept of home aligner treatment may be difficult to grasp. When you first hear that you won’t be seeing a dentist in-person for the entirety of your treatment, it might sound a little alarming. You might assume that you’ll be completely on your own to complete treatment, but that’s not entirely true.
Your treatment will be monitored remotely by a dental professional for the entire process. Plus, you can contact the company’s customer service team if you have any questions or concerns.
For added peace of mind, our top home aligner brands work exclusively with orthodontists, who are more experienced than general dentists and more qualified to oversee your treatment.
Still, you should keep in mind that you won’t have the option to schedule in-person appointments for one-on-one dentist interaction, and customer service waiting times vary depending on the brand you choose. So, it could take a few days before you get a response to your question or concern. In-office aligners have an obvious advantage here since you can schedule an appointment with your dentist at any time. At the very least, you can contact their office and speak with someone you’ve met personally.
Aligner quality is also an important factor to consider to ensure your treatment will be safe. As we previously mentioned, all of the aligner brands that we promote are made from transparent, BPA-free plastic. So, they’re all safe to wear. However, if you’d prefer to wear aligners that are manufactured by a well-known company, we recommend Candid. Their aligners are made by ClearCorrect, Invisalign’s top competitor.
How Do I Know If Online Aligners Will Work For Me?
The best candidates for online 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 there’s a good chance 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 important instructions to take accurate impressions of your teeth. Some companies even have step-by-step videos or video call options to make the process easier. Once you take 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, it can be challenging to take impressions on your own. And, they need to be taken correctly, so that a dentist can accurately review your case. Most online aligner brands don’t have physical locations, so ordering an impression kit is the only way to get started.
SmileDirectClub and Candid stand out from the pack by offering free 3D scans at their retail shops located across the country. As an alternative to ordering an impression kit, you can schedule a free appointment at one of their locations and have a dental professional scan your teeth.
SmileDirectClub currently has more than 300 locations nationwide. Candid only has around 25, but they have plans for rapid expansion. So, you should be able to find a store within driving distance from your home.
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, or $2,245 for byte At-Night)
byte has the fastest treatment times in the industry, hands down, clocking in at a blazing 3 months (on average). On top of that, they guarantee that every case is designed and monitored by a licensed orthodontist, not a general dentist. They might not have retail locations yet, but they do have financing plans with no credit checks and a nighttime-only option. The cherry on top is their byte-for-life guarantee, which will send you new aligners if your teeth ever shift down the road. If you want to see your transformed smile ASAP, but don’t want to sacrifice quality in the process, byte is your best bet.
Take a look at our in-depth byte review to learn more.
#2: Candid ($2,400)
Candid takes perhaps the most care out of every home aligner company to ensure safety and effectiveness. They’re the only company that has implemented Remote Monitoring, a service that provides virtual check-ins with your orthodontist throughout treatment. Like byte, they work exclusively with orthodontists and like SmileDirectClub, they maintain convenient retail locations. They’re more expensive than other brands, and their treatment time is just average, but Candid is still a trustworthy and effective choice.
You can find more details on Candid in our full review.
#3: AlignerCo ($1,145)
If sticking to a tight budget is your top priority, AlignerCo’s industry-low prices are likely a big draw. Not only do they beat every other company’s prices by several hundred dollars, but they offer flexible financing plans too. And they still deliver quality products thanks to their partnership with Raintree Essix, as well as personalized customer service. They’re a fairly young company, but they’ve already established themselves among the competition. If you’re looking for the most affordable service out there, go with AlignerCo.
Read through our full AlignerCo review for more info.
Over the past few years, SmileDirectClub has proven to be a viable alternative to traditional orthodontic options. Their treatment plans are convenient, affordable, and effective for many cases of mild-to-moderate misalignment. And, so far, the majority of their online reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
But SmileDirectClub isn’t the only player in the game anymore. We encourage you to consider the other providers we discussed above, weigh the pros and cons of each, and just as importantly, visit a dentist for a check-up before actually beginning treatment.
Best of luck to you on your smile journey!