At-home teeth straightening is changing the way people transform their smiles. Historically, the only way to improve your smile was to see a dentist or orthodontist for braces or Invisalign®. At-home clear aligner products like SmileDirectClub make getting the smile you want affordable and convenient.
SmileDirectClub is one of the first companies to sell home based clear aligner treatment. Today, there are several online companies that offer this kind of service, and SmileDirectClub is the largest and most popular of them all. Find out if SmileDirectClub is the right option for you based on your smile goals.
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What is SmileDirectClub?
Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, SmileDirectClub is an online company that offers a convenient and affordable teeth aligner product that helps improve the appearance of your smile. SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners look and feel similar to Invisalign — they fit right over your teeth and are much less visible than traditional braces. However, unlike Invisalign, treatment doesn’t require a single trip to the dentist. Instead, your treatment plan is prepared and overseen remotely by one of SmileDirectClub’s professionally licensed dental providers.
SmileDirectClub is primarily a cosmetic treatment. Their aligners are only designed to treat mild to moderate cases of spacing and crowding, and minor bite issues. If your case is severe, you will see better results from a treatment plan that is managed in-person by a dental professional, such as braces or Invisalign.
Treatment with SmileDirectClub costs $1895, which is much less than traditional orthodontics. With braces or Invisalign, a dentist typically charges a considerable markup for their services. SmileDirectClub removes most of this cost by streamlining the treatment process and eliminating office visits.
When SmileDirectClub first became available in 2015, it was the only company to offer home-based clear aligner treatment on a wide scale. Before then, a handful of dentists across the US sold custom clear aligners via mail order, but few customers were aware of this option. SmileDirectClub popularized at-home clear aligner treatment through heavy marketing, especially after receiving $60 Million in investment from from AlignTech, the makers of Invisalign. As of 2019, Smile Direct Club has treated over 500,000 patients, making it the second most popular clear aligner treatment option on the market (Invisalign is still #1).
SmileDirectClub’s success has created healthy competition. Today, several other companies offer very similar at-home clear aligner treatment plans. Popular alternatives include Candid, Byte, Smilelove and Snapcorrect.
SmileDirectClub stands out as the largest and most popular at-home clear aligner brand. It has continued to expand its market presence in recent years by opening hundreds of retail locations across the US where you can get your teeth scanned and have a treatment plan prepared free of charge.
How Does SmileDirectClub Work?
Before getting started, you’ll take a 3D impression of your teeth by visiting a local SmileShop center and having your teeth scanned, or by using a special kit that you order online from SmileDirectClub. This impression is used to prepare your custom treatment plan. Once you confirm your treatment plan, SmileDirectClub produces your clear aligners and ships them to you by mail. By wearing your aligners for at least 22 hours each day, your teeth will gradually shift over 4-6 months.
Is SmileDirectClub a Good Option? Our Perspective.
Not everyone is a good candidate for at-home clear aligner treatment options like SmileDirectClub. To learn more about at-home clear aligner treatment, how it differs from traditional clear aligner treatment, and whether you are likely to be a good fit for this kind of treatment, check out our at-home clear aligner guide.
With that said, for patients with mild to moderate teeth spacing or crowding and minor bite issues, SmileDirectClub can typically deliver satisfying results on a faster time frame and at a more comfortable price point than braces or Invisalign. Based on our research, most SmileDirectClub users are ultimately satisfied with the result of their treatment.
Out of the top five home-based clear aligner products we reviewed, we rank SmileDirectClub #3 overall. This is based on our 5 point comparison of each company in terms of effectiveness, affordability, convenience, aesthetics and customer support.
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 as of Summer 2019:
- SmileDirectClub has been in business for longer than its competitors and has treated more patients than all of the competitors combined.
- SmileDirectClub has over 200 SmileShops located across the US. You can visit one of these shops today to have your teeth scanned and get approved for treatment immediately, free of charge. Other providers require you to mail in an impression of your teeth – a slower and more cumbersome process.
- Offers guaranteed financing of your treatment plan over 24 months. Byte and SmileDirectClub are the only two home-aligner companies to offer a financing option that doesn’t involve a credit check.
- With SmileDirectClub, you can opt for a plan that involves wearing your aligners during the nighttime only - a very convenient option.
- Smile Direct Club has a mixed track record where it comes to quality of service and customer support. Online reviews warn of long shipping delays and inconsistent communication when issues arise during treatment.
- SmileDirectClub does not guarantee that your treatment will be overseen by an orthodontist, meaning you may not get the best result possible.
- Invisalign recently announced that it would no longer produce SmileDirectClub’s Invisible Aligners starting this year (2019). That means new SmileDirectClub customers won’t have the benefit of Invisalign’s market leading technology.
Who is SmileDirectClub Right For?
Looking to purchase at-home clear aligners, but not sure which company is right for you? SmileDirectClub may be a great option if you’re someone who prefers to purchase from an established brand name, and who isn’t too concerned about possible delays and spotty customer support. Bonus points if you live near a SmileCare center.
Orthodontic treatment is a big investment, so you want to make sure the treatment option you choose will give you the results you’re looking for. As previously mentioned, SmileDirectClub is generally effective correcting most mild teeth misalignment issues. With that said, there are some differences between at-home aligner companies that can influence the overall quality of your treatment.
For patients most patients with mild teeth misalignment, SmileDirectClub does appear to achieve satisfying smile transformations. Most (though certainly not all) of the dozens of online videos reviews and testimonials for SmileDirectClub are positive. Nevertheless, where it comes to effectiveness, SmileDirectClub fails to measure up to the competition in some important ways.
Your treatment plan will be developed by a licensed dental professional, but not necessarily an orthodontist.
When you order SmileDirectClub, your treatment plan will be created by a dental technician who is trained to use 3D teeth modeling software. Afterward, a licensed dentist (though not necessarily an orthodontist) will review your case and approve you for treatment.
By comparison, Candid works exclusively with orthodontists to create your treatment plan from start to finish. This is an important distinction because orthodontists receive 6 years of post-graduate training to master the details that go into creating a beautiful smile. The skill and experience of the person in charge of your care can have a significant impact on the outcome of your treatment. In a worst-case scenario, treatment at the hands of a less experienced professional could even leave you with an annoying bite issue that you’ll need to have fixed down the road.
AlignTech, makers of Invisalign, will no longer produce SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners – this concerns us.
For several years, SmileDirectClub worked with Align Technology (AlignTech), makers of Invisalign, to manufacture its clear aligners. AlignTech produces its aligners using advanced, patented technology that is designed to shift your teeth in an especially comfortable and natural way. It is our understanding that AlignTech also provided SmileDirectClub with the software they would use to model the teeth movements used during treatment.
We were always big fans of this partnership. It meant that past SmileDirectClub customers benefited from the same, industry-leading aligners and supporting technology as users of Invisalign.
We were disappointed to learn recently that Invisalign plans to end its partnership with SmileDirectClub due to a legal dispute between the two companies. SmileDirectClub appears to be in the process of transitioning to new invisible aligner manufacturer, but has not shared information about this new partnership. At this stage, we have some concern that the transition may result in service disruptions and potentially a lower overall quality of treatment.
Given the possible difference in professional experience and current uncertainty about aligner quality, we gave SmileDirectClub a lower rating than several of its competitors on effectiveness – 3/5.
Historically, the high price tag for braces and Invisalign has made getting straighter teeth a substantial financial burden. Making matters worse, health insurers seldom cover this type of treatment, and dental insurance will typically reimburse just a small fraction of the cost.
A major benefit of home teeth straightening like SmileDirectClub is the price point compared to alternative treatment options. With the innovation of at-home teeth straightening, orthodontic treatment is now much more accessible. Home aligner products typically cost around $2,000, which is significantly more affordable than Invisalign, which usually costs more than $4,500.
SmileDirectClub’s price is about average compared to other at-home aligner products. Free whitening is a nice bonus.
When purchased with a single payment, SmileDirectclub costs $1,895. Aside from Smilelove, which is a bit cheaper, this price is comparable to other leading at-home aligner brands. Purchasing your impression kit costs an additional $49, but you can avoid this fee by visiting a SmileShop (if there is one nearby where you live) and getting your teeth scanned.
Similar to other at-home aligner companies, Smile Direct Club includes a “bright on” teeth whitening kit with your purchase. They claim this gel will brighten your teeth their whitest natural shade within a week.
On the other hand, SmileDirectClub does not include retainers in the price of treatment. Once you complete your treatment, you will need to purchase retainers ($99) and replace every 6 months. By comparison, Candid and Byte, leading competitors to SmileDirectClub, both include retainers in the cost of treatment. While it would be great if Smile Direct Club included retainers in the purchase price, it is not a huge deal. When a patient purchases Invisalign, for example, retainers are always an added cost (and often $150 or more instead of $99).
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 $1,895 lying around. SmileDirectClub has a convenient payment plan option where you can pay $85 per month over 24 months, plus an $250 initial deposit. This means you’ll be paying an effective interest rate of just over 20%.
SmilePay does not require a credit check or any additional paperwork. All customers are eligible to opt into SmilePay. SmileDirectClub and byte are currently the only at-home aligner companies that guarantee all customers will qualify for financing. Other companies in this industry require a credit check to qualify for financing, and you may be declined if your credit is not strong enough. In our view, SmilePay is potentially a game changer if you’re hoping to spread out payments for your treatment and haven’t yet built a strong credit history.
Overall, SmileDirectClub is a very affordable way to improve the appearance of your smile. Guaranteed financing through SmilePay makes purchasing SmileDirectClub even more accessible. We rate SmileDirectClub 4.5/5 on affordability.
Aside from cost, one of the biggest barriers to pursuing a more comfortable smile is the time commitment of traditional orthodontics. We all have busy lives and repeated visits to the dentist office don’t exactly count as leisure. Nevermind taking time off work every month to make a trip to the dentist. Not only that, but perhaps you have a big event coming up this year (not two or three years down the road) and you want to finish treatment ASAP.
Home aligner companies like SmileDirectClub make this kind of treatment much more convenient by shipping the aligners to your home so you’re not spending time in the patient chair. Additionally, with most home aligners (SmileDirectClub included) you can usually complete treatment in less under half a year, compared to the typical 18 months for braces and 12 months for Invisalign.
At-home teeth straightening is by definition more convenient than seeing a dentist month after month. That said, SmileDirectClub goes above and beyond to make teeth straightening as accessible and convenient as possible.
SmileDirectClub makes it easier than ever to get started with treatment.
With most at-home aligner products, the only way to get evaluated for treatment involves ordering an impression kit to your home and taking a mold of your teeth on your own. These kits typically cost between $50 and $100, and many customers report that taking a good impression can be surprisingly difficult. In addition, going through this process can delay the start of treatment by a few weeks.
SmileDirectClub makes it possible to skip this step by visiting one of its SmileCenters (SmileDirectClub branches). If you’d rather not deal with taking impressions, you can pop into a SmileCenter where a dental assistant will scan your teeth, making it possible to get started quickly as possible. You’ll leave the SmileCenter with free teeth whitening gel and the excitement of having jumpstarted your teeth straightening journey. Best of all, getting your teeth scanned at a SmileCenter is completely free.
SmileDirectClub has opened over 250 SmileCenters over the past two and a half years, and has plans to open 100+ new locations across in 2019 through a partnership with CVS. If you live in a major population center, chances are good there’s a SmileCenter near you. And if there’s not, or you are unable to visit a SmileCenter during working hours, you can always order an impression kit and do things the old fashion way. The bottom line is that there’s a sure-fire way to get started with SmileDirectClub, no matter your daily schedule or location.
Once SmileDirectClub has received your impression or scan, within 72 hours they will send you a “Smile Plan” – a preview of how your teeth are expected to look following treatment. From there you can decide whether or not you want to go through with treatment.
New, nightime only treatment option takes convenience to the next level.
SmileDirectClub recently launched a new, nighttime only treatment plan. Selecting this plan means that you’ll only need to wear your clear aligners for ten hours of the day, presumably at night while you sleep. If you’re a regular snacker or have an on-the-go lifestyle, this is potentially a huge convenience. With normal clear aligners that you wear all day, you’ll need to remove them before each meal, and are advice to brush and floss before putting them back in. With nighttime only aligners, you can avoid all this and make popping in your aligners part of your regular bedtime routine.
If you’re considering this option, check out our article covering the pros and cons of SmileDirectClub’s Nighttime Clear Aligners.
Aligners take 4-6 weeks to ship, and delays seem to be common.
After you confirm your treatment and order your aligners, SmileDirectClub will manufacture your aligner trays and ship them to you. It takes 4-6 weeks to manufacture and ship to your door. Some customers report delays in this process, which increases the time it takes to receive your aligners and start treatment. This is something to keep in mind if you’re in a hurry to get started with your home aligners.
Teeth whitening is included with your treatment plan. Whiten your smile while you improve the alignment of your teeth!
One final thing to consider is teeth whitening. All of the top home aligner systems including SmileDirectClub offer a whitening product as a free add-on. You simply apply whitening gel inside your aligners so that your teeth get visibly brighter while they are realigned.
SmileDirectClub has mastered making getting started with treatment a convenient process. With Smile Centers in most major cities, it’s easy to get approved for treatment and get going on your smile transformation. What’s more, an exciting, new nighttime only treatment plan makes getting your teeth straightened easier than ever. All of this more than compensates for minor shipping delays. We rate SmileDirectClub 5/5 on convenience.
When it comes to getting straighter teeth, most adults agree that the best looking option is the one that is least visible. A key selling point of all clear aligner products is that they are much less noticeable than braces. For this reason, all clear aligners products tend to score well in terms of Aesthetics, and SmileDirectClub is no exception.
With that said, not all clear aligners are created equal in terms of appearance. While all clear aligners are made from transparent, BPA-free plastic, each brand looks a bit different due to variations in materials and manufacturing processes.
SmileDirectClub aligners have historically been matte in appearance, reasonably resistant to staining, and with with a cut straight across at the top of the gumline.
Up until now (Summer, 2019), all of SmileDirectClub’s aligners have been made of a frosted-appearing plastic. The frosted appearance of the aligners is an added bonus compared to alternatives like Smilelove (which use a shiny plastic) because less-shiny aligners look most natural. Natural teeth are porous (that’s why teeth can absorb stains from coffee and red wine). Those pores make natural teeth appear more matte. Our opinion is that less shiny clear aligners look best for this reason.
In addition, SmileDirectClub aligners have cut straight across at the top of the aligners (rather than scalloped to follow the gumline like Invisalign), which affects both the appearance and effectiveness of the aligners. Most home aligners are cut this way for an important reason.
With Invisalign treatment, a dentist will typically place special attachments on the teeth that help the clear aligners get a better hold on the teeth and shift them more effectively. Since home aligners like SmileDirectClub don’t involve in-person visits, this is not possible. A straight cut, though arguably less ideal in terms of appearance and comfort, helps grip the teeth better and is able to apply up to 4x the amount of force on teeth.
All clear aligners are susceptible to stains from food and beverages — that’s why it’s important to remove them before eating or drinking anything other than plain water. As clear aligners go, our current understanding is that SmileDirectClub aligners are reasonably resistant to staining, although we certainly wouldn’t recommend drinking coffee or red wine with your aligners in.
The appearance of SmileDirectClub’s aligners may change significantly in the coming months.
SmileDirectClub used to have all of their aligners made by Aligntech, the company behind Invisalign. Both companies have announced that they will no longer be working together as of Fall, 2019. Therefor, if you are looking into buying SmileDirectClub, you should be aware that the appearance and build quality of these aligners may change in the coming months.
If you feel uneasy about wearing aligners over your teeth during the day, SmileDirectClub’s new nighttime only treatment plan may be a game changer?
While invisible aligners are very discreet, they still aren’t 100% invisible. From a close distance, others may notice you are wearing clear trays over your teeth. In addition, it’s common for clear aligners to cause a slight lisp, especially for the first few days after change to new trays. If you happen to have a job or occupation where this may be an issue, SmileDirectClub’s recently announced Nightime Clear Aligner option may be a great fit for you.
SmileDirectClub’s Nighttime Clear Aligners are intended to be worn for just 10 hours per day, which means you only need to wear them after dinner and while you sleep. SmileDirectClub is currently the only clear aligner company out there that offers a treatment plan that does not involve day-time use.
SmileDirectClub aligners are generally less noticeable than some of its competitors, though this may change in coming months to do a supplier change. Meanwhile, it’s new, nighttime only treatment plan offers 100% incognito treatment. We rate SmileDirectClub 4/5 on Aesthetics.
Dental treatment is expensive, and you only have one set of teeth. It’s important that you feel completely confident that the company you decide to work will treat you right and have your back in the event that something goes wrong.
Customer support appears to be less responsive than the alternatives.
SmileDirectClub is a large company with a longer track record than other providers in this space. They have put a lot of time into creating online resources for customers, which is great, but some could argue that the company has grown too quickly and that customer support has trouble keeping up. Customers report that delays are relatively common, and that they sometimes have to go back and forth with support a good amount.
Refunds and return policies make SmileDirectClub a safe bet.
SmileDirectClub also offers a pretty good refund policy. If, after completing an impression kit or getting your teeth scanned, the company determines you aren’t a good candidate for home aligner treatment, they will refund you. Also, even if you are approved for treatment and get started on a treatment plan, you have a 30-day window to get a refund for any reason. Additionally, assuming you follow all the steps they prescribe (checking in online every 90 days, for example), but aren’t happy at the end of treatment, they may work with you to extend your treatment with more aligner trays free of charge.
While SmileDirectClub’s customer support may not be the best, their extensive policies to refund or extend treatment plans if needed make it a good company in terms of Customer Friendliness — 4/5.
What are SmileDirectClub Customers Saying?
When we review a company like SmileDirectClub, we start out by digging through customer reviews to understand the common issues customers face.
With SmileDirectClub, there are many genuine online reviews detailing people’s experiences with the product.
The overall sentiment we’ve seen with SmileDirectClub is that people feel generally positive about their experience, despite some hiccups along the way. Customer support appears to be hit-or-miss, but the company appears to generally keep their promises and help you, though it may take extra effort.
Each set of aligners appears to be well-made (most people don’t need to file down any rough edges on their aligners), and the treatment process is reportedly only mildly painful. Most customers report increased pain for the first day or two of each set of aligners, especially when removing them after wearing them for a long period of time. This pain subsides quickly, and, for most customers, is not a major concern. Most customers continue on to complete their treatment and feel satisfied with the results.
Below are two of the most helpful user reviews we came across. We hope you find them helpful too!
Alternatives to SmileDirectClub
While SmileDirectClub is a great clear aligner company, there are other options to consider, both in-office and others that you can do from home. Invisalign is the primary in-office option, and while it is more expensive than home aligners, dentists can achieve more advanced teeth movements with attachments they place on your teeth to work with the clear aligners. There are also several other home aligner options that are worth looking into.
Invisalign vs SmileDirectClub
For more intensive cases of teeth misalignment, in-person care can’t be beat. If that sounds like you, Invisalign treatment may be the best option, as you may end up dissatisfied with SmileDirectClub’s treatment outcome given the limited ability to move the teeth without special attachments that are possible with in-office care like Invisalign.
Candid vs SmileDirectClub
Candid is the second most popular at-home aligner company after SmileDirectClub. It’s also our highest rated option. Unlike SmileDirectClub, Candid stands out by working exclusively with orthodontists. Similar to SmileDirectClub, Candid offers dozens of retail locations where you can get your teeth scanned, making it easier to get started.
Byte vs SmileDirectClub
Byte is much newer to the home aligner market than SmileDirectClub. Byte stands out in their innovation — they offer a treatment plan that takes only three months, thanks to their Hyperbyte system. They don’t have any retail stores like SmileDirectClub, but if treatment time is most important to you, Byte may be a good option.
Out of the top five home-based clear aligner products we reviewed, we rank SmileDirectClub #2 overall. If you are looking for the most convenient option and aren’t too worried about whether an orthodontist oversees your care or subpar customer support, then SmileDirectClub is a great option. Otherwise, we invite you to check out our reviews for Byte and Candid, our other top-rated home aligner companies.