Home teeth alignment is revolutionizing the way people transform their smiles. Historically, the only way to correct teeth gaps, crowding, and bite issues was having your dentist or orthodontist administer braces or Invisalign, but that’s no longer the case. At-home clear aligner companies like SmileDirectClub make achieving your ideal smile both affordable and convenient.
SmileDirectClub was one of the very first home aligner brands to hit the market. They’ve been transforming smiles since 2014, and today they’re the largest and most popular home aligner brand out there. But is SmileDirectClub right for you and your smile goals? Read on to find out.
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What is SmileDirectClub?
Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, SmileDirectClub is an online company that offers convenient and affordable teeth aligners. SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners look and feel similar to Invisalign — they fit the contours of your teeth perfectly and have a much lower profile than traditional braces. However, unlike Invisalign, treatment doesn’t require a single trip to the dentist’s office. Instead, SmileDirectClub’s licensed dentists will develop your treatment plan remotely and ship you aligners to administer at home.
SmileDirectClub is primarily a cosmetic treatment. Their aligners are only designed to treat mild-to-moderate cases of spacing and crowding, along with minor bite issues. If your case is severe, or if you have a bite misalignment (like overbite or underbite) it certainly doesn’t preclude you from treatment; however, the results you want might require the intensive in-office care of braces or Invisalign.
Treatment with SmileDirectClub costs $1895, much less than traditional orthodontics. This price difference is because dentists typically charge considerable markups for their services administering and overseeing their treatments. By taking office visits out of the equation, SmileDirectClub is able to streamline the treatment and eliminate a large percentage of the cost.
When SmileDirectClub first hit the market in 2014, the concept was groundbreaking – they were the first company to offer home-based clear aligner treatment on a wide scale. Before that, a handful of dentists across the U.S. sold custom clear aligners via mail order, but their reach was limited as few customers knew about it. SmileDirectClub popularized at-home clear aligner treatment via extensive marketing campaigns after receiving a $60 million investment from Invisalign producer Align Tech. As of 2019, SmileDirectClub has treated over 500,000 patients, making it the second most popular clear aligner treatment on the market (Invisalign is still #1).
SmileDirectClub’s success has created healthy competition in the home teeth alignment industry. In recent years, several other providers (such as Candid, byte, and Smilelove) have sprouted up, each with its own unique advantages. However, SmileDirectClub still stands out as the largest and most experienced at-home clear aligner brand.
How Does SmileDirectClub Work?
To ensure that their aligners are capable of delivering your desired results, SmileDirectClub will send you a special kit to collect a 3D impression of your teeth. Or, if you live near a SmileShop location, you can schedule an appointment for a teeth scan. This preliminary impression or scan is so that SmileDirectClub’s dentists can evaluate whether or not their aligners can deliver the results you’d like.
If you’re a good candidate, SmileDirectClub’s licensed network dentists will use the impression to develop your customized treatment plan. After getting your approval, they will design, manufacture, and mail out your aligners. Then you’re good to go! Wear them for at least 22 hours per day and they will shift your teeth into the desired position over 4-6 months. Or, opt for their new Nighttime aligners and wear them 10 hours per night for 10 months.
Is SmileDirectClub a Good Option? Our Perspective.
Even though SmileDirectClub and other at-home aligners offer more flexibility, convenience, and financial freedom than traditional orthodontic treatments, they aren’t a perfect solution for everyone. Our comprehensive guide to home teeth alignment provides a lot more information on the difference between at-home and in-office aligners, as well as what makes someone a good candidate for each.
Like all home teeth aligners, SmileDirectClub’s aligners are designed to treat mild-to-moderate cases of crowding and spacing, along with minor bite issues. For these conditions, the company can deliver impressive transformations for less time and money than both braces and Invisalign. Our research shows that a majority of SmileDirectClub users are ultimately satisfied with their treatment results.
In our comprehensive ranking of the top five home-based clear aligner products, SmileDirectClub came in at #4 overall. We based these rankings on an extensive five-point analysis of each company’s 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 them combined.
- SmileDirectClub has over 250 SmileShops located across the U.S. You can visit one of these shops today for a teeth scan and immediate treatment approval, free of charge. Other providers require you to mail in an impression of your teeth – a slower and more cumbersome process.
- SmileDirectClub offers guaranteed financing over 24 months. byte and Smilelove are the only other home aligner companies offering financing options that don’t involve a credit check.
- SmileDirectClub is one of two companies (along with byte) that offer a nighttime-only treatment plan. Instead of 22 hours per day, this alternative plan only requires users to wear their aligners for 10 hours per night.
- SmileDirectClub has a mixed track record of customer service quality. Some online reviews warn of long shipping delays and inconsistent communication when issues arise during treatment.
- SmileDirectClub does not guarantee orthodontist’s oversight for your treatment, so you may or may not get optimal results.
- Invisalign recently announced that it would cease producing SmileDirectClub’s aligners starting this year (2019). That means new SmileDirectClub customers won’t have the benefit of Invisalign’s market-leading technology.
- SmileDirectClub charges an additional $99 fee for retainers after treatment. In contrast, competitors like Candid and byte offer this important after-care service for free.
Who is SmileDirectClub Right For?
Looking to purchase at-home clear aligners, but unsure which company is the best fit for your goals? SmileDirectClub could be an ideal choice if you’re someone who prefers to purchase from an established brand name and isn’t overly concerned about possible delays and spotty customer support. Bonus points if you live near a SmileShop location.
Though more affordable than other treatment options, home teeth alignment is still an investment, so you’ll want to choose a provider that can deliver the exact results you’re after. As previously mentioned, SmileDirectClub can effectively correct most mild teeth misalignment issues. But it’s wise to evaluate each at-home aligner company’s advantages and limitations, as they can affect your treatment’s overall quality.
Scroll through reviews from patients with mild crowding or spacing issues, and you’ll notice a trend: satisfaction and impressive smile transformations. Most (though certainly not all) of the numerous videos, reviews, and testimonials for SmileDirectClub are positive. But just because SmileDirectClub has helped patients achieve their smile goals doesn’t mean it’s effective for everyone. In fact, in the course of our research, we discovered that SmileDirectClub actually falls short of its competition in a couple of 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 developed by a dental technician trained in 3D teeth modeling software. Then, a licensed dentist (though not necessarily an orthodontist) will review your case and approve you for treatment.
Sounds great, right? Yes and no. You can rest assured that your treatment has been authorized by a licensed dentist, but it won’t have the benefit of an orthodontist’s specially-trained eye for dental alignment.
By comparison, Candid, byte, and Smilelove work exclusively with orthodontists who create and oversee your treatment plan from start to finish. After completing dental school, Orthodontists receive two extra years of specialized training focused on correcting misalignments of the teeth and jaw. The skill and experience of the person directing your plan can significantly impact your treatment outcome. Worst-case scenario, accepting treatment from a less experienced professional could leave you with an annoying bite issue that requires more work down the road.
As of 2019, Align Technology (makers of Invisalign) will no longer produce SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners. This concerns us.
Prior to this year, SmileDirectClub worked with Align Technology (Align Tech) to produce its clear aligners. Align Tech is one of the most trusted clear aligner manufacturers out there. Producer of Invisalign, Align Tech’s patented technology minimizes the discomfort associated with tooth and jaw shifts. It is our understanding that Align Tech also provided SmileDirectClub with the software they use to model teeth movements.
We were always big fans of this partnership. It meant that SmileDirectClub customers would benefit from the same industry-leading aligners and supporting technology as Invisalign users.
But, unfortunately, the SmileDirectClub-Align Tech collaboration is over. We were disappointed to learn that Invisalign will be ending its partnership with SmileDirectClub because of a legal dispute between the two companies. SmileDirectClub is in the process of transitioning to a new invisible aligner manufacturer but has not announced a new partnership. At this stage, we are concerned that this transition may result in service disruptions and potentially affect overall treatment quality.
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 aligner companies like SmileDirectClub is the affordable price point compared to traditional treatment options. The innovation of home alignment technology has made orthodontic treatment much more accessible. Home aligner products typically cost around $2,000, significantly less than Invisalign or braces, which can set you back more than $4,500.
SmileDirectClub’s total cost is $1,895, which is fairly standard among home aligner companies. Plus, they throw in a nice bonus: free whitening.
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. You’ll also pay $49 for an impression kit, but you can avoid this cost by getting a free scan at a local SmileShop (if you live near one).
Similar to other at-home aligner companies, SmileDirectClub includes a “bright on” teeth whitening kit with your purchase. Just five minutes a day, they say, will get your teeth to their “brightest bright” in one week.
Although retainers are a required part of the treatment process, SmileDirectClub does not include them in the sticker price. So, you can expect to pay an extra $99 at the end of your aligner treatment for retainers, which must be replaced every six months. Candid and byte, on the other hand, both include retainers in the initial price, so there are no surprise costs at the end.
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 $1895 lying around, so many patients opt to finance their treatment. To take advantage of SmilePay, you just need to put down $250, then you’ll pay $85 per month for 24 months. This means you’ll be paying an effective interest rate of just over 20%.
Here’s the best part: SmilePay does not require a credit check or any additional paperwork. All customers are eligible, so everyone can have access to a transformed smile. SmileDirectClub, byte, and Smilelove are currently the only at-home aligner companies that guarantee all customers will qualify for financing. Other companies require a credit check, and you may be declined if your credit is not strong enough.
If you ask us, SmilePay is potentially a game-changer if you’re hoping to spread out your payments and haven’t yet built a strong credit history.
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’s office don’t exactly count as leisure. Nevermind taking time off work every month for your appointments. 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 faster than traditional methods will allow.
Home aligner companies like SmileDirectClub make the whole process much more convenient by shipping the aligners directly to your home. That means you’ll spend a lot less time in the patient’s chair. And even without in-person dentist visits, these aligners work quickly. Most home aligners (SmileDirectClub included) can achieve your desired results in 6 months or less, compared to the typical 18 months for braces and 12 months for Invisalign.
At-home teeth straightening is, in general, more convenient than seeing a dentist month after month, but SmileDirectClub goes above and beyond to make teeth straightening as accessible and user-friendly as possible.
SmileDirectClub makes it easier than ever to get your treatment started.
The first step for most home aligner companies is to evaluate your smile by examining impressions of your teeth. You will order an impression kit – which typically costs $50-100 – and use it to make molds of your top and bottom dental arches. On the surface, it seems simple enough, but many customers report that taking a good impression on their own can be surprisingly difficult. It’s not uncommon for customers to make multiple attempts, which can delay the start of treatment by a few weeks.
SmileDirectClub makes it possible to skip this step by visiting one of its SmileShops (SmileDirectClub branches). If you’d rather not deal with taking impressions on your own, pop into a local SmileShop where a dental assistant will scan your teeth for free. This ensures a perfect impression in one try and helps to expedite your treatment start date. After your quick scan, you’ll leave the SmileShop with free whitening gel and the excitement of having jumpstarted your teeth straightening journey.
Over the past two and a half years, SmileDirectClub has opened over 250 SmileShops, and the company has plans to open 100+ new locations in 2019 through a partnership with CVS. If you live in a major population center, chances are good there’s a SmileShop near you, or there will be very soon. But if you’re unable to visit a SmileShop 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 receives your impression or scan, within 72 hours they will send you a “Smile Plan” – a preview of how your teeth will look post-treatment. If you like what you see, you can approve the plan and get the ball rolling. But if the plan doesn’t match your expectations and goals, there’s no obligation to move forward.
New, nighttime-only aligners take convenience to the next level.
Some people can’t (or don’t want to) wear their aligners for 22+ hours per day. To make treatment more flexible and accessible for these customers, SmileDirectClub recently launched a new, nighttime-only aligner series. Selecting this plan means that you’ll only need to wear your clear aligners for ten hours per day, presumably while you sleep. If you’re a regular snacker or have an on-the-go lifestyle, this could be a huge convenience.
Regular aligners require a bit more work – you need to take them out before eating and/or drinking, then brush and floss before putting them back in. Nighttime-only aligners let you skip the hassle, popping them in as part of your bedtime routine, and taking them out in the morning. The only other company currently offering this option is byte, although we wouldn’t be surprised if other companies jump on the bandwagon soon.
If you’re considering nighttime-only treatment, check out our article covering the pros and cons of SmileDirectClub’s Nighttime Clear Aligners.
Aligners take 4-6 weeks to ship, with seemingly frequent delays.
After you confirm your treatment and order your aligners, SmileDirectClub will produce your aligner trays and ship them out. You will probably be excited to start transforming your smile, but you’ll need to exercise some patience, as the aligners take 4-6 weeks to manufacture and arrive at your door. This time frame is fairly comparable to other home aligner companies. Although, some SmileDirectClub customers report delays in the process, which increases the wait time. Keep this in mind if you’re in a hurry to get started with your home aligners.
Start to finish, treatment takes 6 months on average, or 10 months for the nighttime-only option.
Most SmileDirectClub customers complete their treatment within six months, much faster than the 12-18 months required by Invisalign and braces. Nighttime-only aligners, because you wear them for fewer hours per day, take an average of ten months.
These turnaround times are impressive, but SmileDirectClub still isn’t the fastest option out there. byte reports an average treatment time of three months thanks to its proprietary Hyperbyte technology. Check your calendar before starting treatment to see if SmileDirectClub’s timelines align with yours. If you want to smile confidently for your graduation photos in four months, for example, you might not see the results you’re after in time.
Teeth whitening is included with your treatment plan, so you can whiten your smile while you transform 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. Simply apply the whitening gel inside your aligners and your teeth will get visibly brighter while they are realigned.
Adults seeking straighter teeth can be hesitant to choose a highly-visible treatment, opting instead for more discreet options. They might be self-conscious about sporting metal brackets to an interview, date, or special occasion, making less-noticeable options like clear aligner products much more attractive. Consequently, all clear aligners score well in the aesthetics category, and SmileDirectClub is no exception.
That said, not all clear aligners are created equal in terms of appearance. They are all made from transparent, BPA-free plastic, but each brand looks a bit different due to variations in materials and manufacturing processes.
SmileDirectClub aligners have historically been matte, reasonably resistant to staining, and cut straight across at the top of the gumline.
Up until now (Summer 2019), all of SmileDirectClub’s aligners have been made from a plastic that makes them appear frosted. This is an added bonus compared to alternatives like Smilelove (which use a shiny plastic) because less-shiny aligners look most natural. Teeth are naturally porous – which is why that cup of coffee or wine can stain them – and these pores make them look matte. Less-shiny aligners match this natural appearance more closely, which is why we prefer them.
In addition, SmileDirectClub aligners are cut straight across at the top (rather than scalloped along the gumline like Invisalign), which affects both their appearance and effectiveness. Most home aligners are cut this way for an important reason.
When administering Invisalign, a dentist will typically affix special attachments to the teeth that ensure a secure fit, shifting teeth more effectively for the scalloped aligners. Since home aligners like SmileDirectClub don’t involve in-person office visits, these attachments are not possible. A straight cut, though arguably less ideal for appearance and comfort, helps grip the teeth better and can apply up to four times the amount of force.
All clear aligners are susceptible to stains from food and beverages, so it’s important to remove them before eating or drinking anything other than plain water. 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. Therefore, if you are looking into SmileDirectClub, keep in mind that they are transitioning to a new manufacturer, so details about their production and materials could change over the next several months.
If you feel uneasy about wearing aligners during the day, SmileDirectClub’s new nighttime-only treatment plan could be a game-changer.
While invisible aligners are very discreet, they still aren’t 100% invisible. From up close, others may notice that you have your clear trays in. Moreover, it’s common for aligners to cause a slight lisp, especially for the first few days after changing to new trays. If you have a job where this may be an issue, SmileDirectClub’s recently-announced Nighttime Clear Aligners may be a better fit for you.
SmileDirectClub’s Nighttime Clear Aligners are intended to wear just 10 hours per day, so you only need to have them in after dinner and while you sleep. This could be a perfect option for anyone who feels uncomfortable wearing aligners during the day or who doesn’t like removing and replacing them to eat and drink. If this piques your interest, we also recommend taking a look at byte, whose nighttime option has a shorter treatment time (6 months on average) than SmileDirectClub.
Dental treatment is expensive, and you only have one set of teeth. It’s important to feel completely confident that your treatment provider will treat you right and have your back if anything goes wrong. SmileDirectClub fits the bill, making up for mediocre customer service with strong return and refund policies.
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 helpful online support resources for customers, which is great. On the other hand, some could argue that the company has grown too quickly and that their customer support has trouble keeping up. Customers report that communication delays are relatively common and that they sometimes have to go back and forth with support numerous times.
Customers might be able to find answers to most of their questions through SmileDirectClub’s extensive resources, but when it comes to more unique inquiries, it appears their personal customer service has room to improve.
Refunds and return policies make SmileDirectClub a safe bet.
Despite the complaints about customer service delays, most customers are satisfied with SmileDirectClub’s 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 in full (including your kit).
Let’s say you are approved for treatment and get started on a treatment plan, but change your mind right away. Cancel your treatment in the first 30 days for any reason and you’ll receive a full refund (excluding your kit). Additionally, assuming you follow all the steps they prescribe (checking in online every 90 days, for example), but aren’t happy with the final results, SmileDirectClub dentists will generally work with you to extend your treatment with more aligner trays free of charge.
While SmileDirectClub’s customer support may not be the most responsive, their policies to refund or extend treatment plans if needed make it a good company overall in terms of customer friendliness.
What are SmileDirectClub Customers Saying?
When we review a company like SmileDirectClub, we start out by digging through customer reviews to understand common issues and concerns.
Given SmileDirectClub’s multi-year history, there are many genuine online reviews detailing customer experiences with the product.
Generally, SmileDirectClub customers feel positive about their experiences, despite some hiccups along the way. Customer support seems to be hit-or-miss, but the company generally keeps its promises. Although, it may take some extra effort on the customer’s end.
Each set of aligners seems well-made (most people don’t need to file down any rough edges or irregularities, unlike some other brands), and the treatment process is reportedly only mildly uncomfortable. Most customers report increased discomfort for the first day or two of each aligner set, especially when removing them after a long period of time. This pain subsides quickly and, for most customers, is not a major concern. A majority complete their treatment and feel satisfied with the results.
Below are two of the most helpful user reviews we found. We hope you find them helpful too!
Alternatives to SmileDirectClub
While SmileDirectClub is a great clear aligner company, there are other at-home and in-office options to consider. Invisalign is the primary in-office option, and while it is more expensive than home aligners, dentists can achieve more advanced teeth movements with additional attachments. If you’re set on completing treatment from home, there are also several other home aligner options that are worth looking into.
Invisalign vs SmileDirectClub
For more intensive cases of teeth and jaw misalignment, in-person care can’t be beat. Sound like you? Invisalign may be an ideal option given its versatility and comprehensiveness. Invisalign’s in-person oversight allows for supplemental attachments, elastics and other appliances that induce more drastic and/or nuanced tooth and jaw movements. If you have a bite misalignment or a severe case of crowding or spacing, SmileDirectClub’s home aligners might simply be too limited for the results you’re after.
In addition, if customer support is one of your top priorities, Invisalign may be a better option for you. You’ll have plenty of one-on-one time with your dentist (at least once per month) to discuss any concerns.
Candid vs SmileDirectClub
Candid is the second most popular at-home aligner company after SmileDirectClub. It’s also #2 on our overall rankings. Candid stands out by working exclusively with orthodontists, while SmileDirectClub uses general dentists. They even offer Remote Monitoring, which means you’ll have regular digital check-ins with your orthodontist to evaluate your progress every step of the way. Similar to SmileDirectClub, Candid offers dozens of retail locations where you can get your teeth scanned, streamlining the startup process. Candid carries a slightly higher sticker cost ($2,400) but includes retainers and the Remote Monitoring equipment/service in this initial price.
Byte vs SmileDirectClub
byte is newer to the home aligner market than SmileDirectClub. Even so, byte stands out in their innovation — they offer a treatment plan that takes only three months, thanks to their Hyperbyte system, which uses High Frequency Vibrations to reduce discomfort and provide a better aligner fit. Like Candid, byte works exclusively with orthodontists to design their treatment plans. And like SmileDirectClub, they offer nighttime-only treatment and 100% approval on financing. It seems like byte has combined some of the best perks other companies offer, and that’s why they’re our top choice for home aligner treatment. They don’t have any retail stores, but if a short treatment timeline is most important to you, byte may be a good option.
How Does SmileDirectClub Stack Up to the Competition?
Out of the top five home-based clear aligner products we reviewed, we rank SmileDirectClub #4 overall. If you are looking for the most convenient option and aren’t concerned 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.