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What is Smile Direct Club?
Smile Direct Club, also known as SDC, is a service that ships custom invisible aligners to your door, making it more convenient than ever to straighten your teeth. Their aligners look and feel like Invisalign — they fit right over your teeth and are much less visible than traditional braces. They gradually straighten your teeth over the course of four to five months.
Smile Direct Club was started in 2013. It is the first and currently most popular alternative to having your teeth straightened by a local dentist or orthodontist using braces or Invisalign.
Smile Direct Club vs Invisalign
When comparing Smile Direct Club versus Invisalign, the biggest difference is that treatment with Invisalign is overseen in-person by a dentist or orthodontist, while with Smile Direct Club, a dentist or orthodontist oversees your case remotely and communicates with you online.
A second difference is the ability to choose your dental provider. With Smile Direct Club, you do not get to choose which dentist or orthodontist oversees your treatment. If you instead opted to get Invisalign from a dentist in your city, you could choose which dentist or orthodontist you would like to work with.
Another difference between the two is the scope of treatment. If your teeth need a lot of work, a local dentist or orthodontist can place “attachments” on your teeth during your Invisalign treatment. The attachments make it possible to move the teeth in more directions than is possible with clear aligners alone, making them useful for treating patients who need to move more than a couple teeth. Because attachments can only be placed in-person by an orthodontist or dentist, Smile Direct Club cannot offer this service.
The fourth difference is the cost. Dentists and orthodontists pay a lot of money to become licensed distributors of Invisalign and to purchase the equipment and software needed to offer Invisalign in their dental offices. These costs get passed along to patients, typically with a significant markup. This results in much higher prices for teeth straightening services. Smile Direct Club sells aligners direct to the customer, so they can charge you less for a similar service.
Smile Direct Club vs Other Home Aligner Services
Over the past few years, several new companies have launched home aligner services similar to Smile Direct Club. Based on our research, the top four at-home invisible aligner services are: Candid Co, Smile Direct Club, Smilelove, and SnapCorrect.
Here’s how Smile Direct Club stacks up:
- Of the top home aligner services we reviewed, we rank Smile Direct Club ranks #2 out of 4.
- Smile Direct Club has SmileCenters (physical locations) in many major cities, making it convenient to get started with treatment. Candid Co is beginning to offer this service, but currently only have a couple of locations.
- Unlike all other home aligner services, Smile Direct Club does not include a set of retainers with the purchase price. They are available for purchase as an add-on cost.
- With Smile Direct Club, you cannot ensure that an orthodontist (a dentist with advanced teeth straightening training and experience) will oversee your case. With Candid Co, your case will be taken care of by an orthodontist.
- Like all other home aligner services, Smile Direct Club includes whitening gel with their aligner system.
Who is Smile Direct Club Right For?
If you would feel most comfortable purchasing your clear aligners from a more established brand name and do not feel that your case requires the attention of an orthodontist, Smile Direct Club may be a great option for you.
The total cost to purchase an aligner kit from Smile Direct Club is $1,850. This makes SmileDirectClub significantly cheaper than Invisalign, which usually costs more than $4,000, and comparable in price to similar home aligner services.
Something that really sets Smile Direct Club apart from other clear aligner services is their SmilePay financing. With SmilePay, you’ll pay $80 per month for 2 year plus $250 upfront, for a total cost of $2,170. SmilePay is available to all Smile Direct Club customers and does not require a credit check.
Other aligner services, such as Candidco and Smilelove, offer the option to apply for financing through a third party service (Affirm). Unlike SmilePay, applying for financing through Affirm will require your consent to a credit check and can involve additional financing fees, adding to your total cost.
Here’s another big plus – Smile Direct Club includes a “bright on” teeth whitening kit with every purchase. They claim this gel will brighten your teeth their whitest natural shade within a week.
On the other hand, Smile Direct Club 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, Candidco, a competitor to Smile Direct Club, includes 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).
Overall, Smile Direct Club is an excellent value for the cost.
Service Quality –
The aligners offered by Smile Direct Club are top of the line since they are made by AlignTech, the same company that owns Invisalign. Aligners are 3D printed using an advanced, patented technology that is designed to shift your teeth in a comfortable and natural way. AlignTech manufactures millions of invisible aligners every year, so mistakes in manufacturing are unlikely. You can expect these aligners to be fit correctly and move your teeth reliably.
While the aligners they make are likely to be high quality, it is important to note that the treatment plan you receive will not be crafted by an orthodontist. Instead, your treatment plan will be created by a dental technician who is trained to use 3D teeth modeling software. A dentist or orthodontist will oversee your case and approve you for treatment, but they are not responsible for the details of your treatment plan.
By comparison, CandidCo, one of Smile Direct Club’s competitors, works with orthodontists to create your treatment plan from start to finish. This difference may affect the final result of your smile transformation.
At-home teeth straightening is by definition more convenient than seeing a dentist month after month. That said, Smile Direct Club goes above and beyond to make teeth straightening as accessible and convenient as possible, earning them five stars for Convenience.
When getting started with Smile Direct Club, there are three different ways to send the company images of your teeth. The most common option is to have a teeth impression kit sent to your home. The impression kit is used to make a mold of your teeth so Smile Direct Club can make a care plan for your unique smile.
However, if you’re eager to start treatment, you could instead pop into a SmileCenter (a Smile Direct Club branch) where a dental assistant will scan your teeth so they can get started on your care plan as quickly as possible. You’ll leave the SmileCenter with free teeth whitening gel and the excitement of having jumpstarted your teeth straightening journey.
Your third option is to stop by a participating Macy’s store to pick up a New Smile Kit which includes three different sizes of impression trays (so you can find the right fit). You’ll also receive teeth whitening gel so you can get started improving your smile while you wait for the rest of your impression kit to arrive.
There is a sure-fire way to get started with Smile Direct Club, no matter your daily schedule or location.
Customer Support –
Smile Direct Club’s customer support has received mixed reviews. Some customers are dissatisfied with the level of support they receive and experience frustrating delays in receiving their aligners. These poor experiences are likely due to the rate at which Smile Direct Club is growing. Because the company is growing quickly, there may be kinks in the customer experience.
While some customers have a bad experience with Smile Direct Club, other customers have a positive experience overall.
Because customer experiences are inconsistent, Smile Direct Club earns 2.5 stars for Customer Support. We expect that customer support will improve as time goes on and the company matures.
With Smile Direct Club, there are three primary ways to pay for your care: pay upfront, or finance your care using either SmilePay or CareCredit.
No matter how you choose to pay, you will also need to pay $79 for an impression kit (or scan your teeth for free at a SmileCenter). The cost of the impression kit does not apply to the cost of your treatment plan and aligners. The impression kit is not covered by insurance, even if your clear aligners are.
Option 1: Pay Upfront
Your first option is to pay out of pocket the $1,850 for Smile Direct Club. You’ll also need to pay $99 for your first set of retainers. If you opt to do an at-home impression kit rather than going to a SmileCenter, you’ll also tack on $79 to the cost. Your total will be $2,028.
Option 2: SmilePay
Smile Direct Club offers their own financing option. No matter your credit score (they won’t even do a credit check), you’ll pay $80 a month for 24 months after paying $250 at the beginning of your treatment. This adds up to a total of $2,150. If you opt to do an at-home impression kit instead of stopping by a SmileCenter, you’ll need to add $79 to that cost. Once you add the cost of your first set of retainers to help you maintain your new smile, the total cost is $2,328.
Option 3: CareCredit
If you have a good credit score and you want to finance your clear aligners, but don’t want to pay extra, you can apply for CareCredit. CareCredit is a credit card that you can use for your dental care. You can choose between 6 or 12-month repayment plans with zero interest. CareCredit is the best financing option for patients who have a good credit score because you will be paying the same as you would if you paid upfront. If you finance your aligners with CareCredit instead of SmilePay, you will save about $300.
With CareCredit, you’ll pay the $1,850 for your aligners, plus $99 for your retainers. If you purchase an impression kit, you’ll add $79 to the cost. Your total will be the same as paying upfront (option 1): $2,028.
No matter how you pay, you can tack on additional savings if you have an eligible dental insurance plan or a health savings plan. These savings can significantly reduce the cost of your aligners.
- Insurance Refund: If you have dental insurance, your insurance plan may offer you a $500 refund on clear aligners. Once you purchase your aligners, your insurance provider will send you a refund check!
- Health Savings Accounts (HSA) or Flexible Savings Account (FSA): If you happen to have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can use funds in this account to pay for your clear aligners.
Smile Direct Club is the most popular teeth straightening service for a reason: Their partnership with Invisalign sets them apart, their financing options are great, and it’s easy to get started. Their customer service still needs improvement and they don’t exclusively work with orthodontists, but they are a great option for many people.