When they hit the scene in 2014, SmileDirectClub took the industry by storm. And as the company has grown, they’ve discovered new ways to make their treatment more convenient and affordable.
Like SmileShops, the retail locations that provide free teeth scans to help streamline the startup process – no snail mail or tricky impression kits involved. Sounds great, right? But you might have a few outstanding questions. Who’s working at these SmileShops? Is it better to get a 3D teeth scan or complete an impression kit? What do SmileShop appointments entail? Is SmileDirectClub even legit?
You’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll clear up some of the most common questions about SmileShops, address the pros and cons of using SmileDirectClub, and discuss some alternative home teeth straightening services in case SmileDirect isn’t the right fit for you.
Table of Contents
What Is a SmileDirectClub SmileShop?
Most people are considered good candidates for home aligners, but your case will still need to be approved before you can start treatment. As we previously mentioned, impression kits are the most common way to determine a patient’s candidacy. However, some home aligner companies, including SmileDirectClub, discovered that they can make treatment even more accessible by offering physical locations.
The only thing standing between certain customers and their aligners is the required impression kit. Impressions need to be accurate to ensure a safe and effective treatment. So, it can take several tries to get a good mold, especially if you’re working alone. But SmileShops give customers a way to bypass these tricky kits.
SmileDirectClub was the first home aligner company, and they were also the first to introduce physical locations. They opened their first SmileShop in 2016, and now they have over 300 nationwide. Although they aren’t the only home aligner brand with retail locations, SmileDirectClub certainly has the largest footprint. And, their business has grown tremendously as a result.
SmileShops are staffed with dental professionals called “SmileGuides” who are trained and certified to take 3D scans of your teeth. The scans are quick and painless. And, because the images are created digitally by a professional, they’re highly accurate.
Are SmileShops Dental Offices?
SmileShops may appear to be very similar to a dental office. They employ dental professionals and house equipment typically only found in a dentist’s office. However, SmileShops are not the same as an actual dental office. SmileShops were created for one purpose — to offer 3D scans of patients’ teeth for home aligner treatment.
SmileShops don’t offer any other dental services. So, the entire store is dedicated to helping you prepare for SmileDirectClub treatment. You won’t be able to visit a SmileShop for a comprehensive dental exam, and they don’t offer services like cleanings or cavity fillings. Instead, SmileShops focus on providing a quick and painless experience to get started with home aligner treatment. In fact, SmileDirectClub has focused their in-store branding on making the shops feel more relaxed and stress-free than the typical dental office.
SmileDirectClub’s SmileGuides are typically dental assistants who have been trained to operate 3D scanning technology and take photos of your teeth. There are no dentists or orthodontists at SmileShop locations, so their services are very limited. SmileGuides can offer you free whitening gel, which is included in your SmileShop appointment and intended for home use. But you’d need to visit an actual dentist for a more extensive, in-office whitening treatment.
Because SmileShop appointments are free, you won’t have to fill out a ton of forms or insurance information. SmileShop visits are designed to be quick and hassle-free. Although they can’t offer the same services as an actual dental office, SmileShops are a convenient way to start home aligner treatment.
How Do SmileShop Appointments Work?
Booking a SmileShop appointment is pretty straightforward. SmileDirectClub has a comprehensive list of locations on their website, so you can easily search to find the nearest store. After choosing your store, you can select a time and book an appointment through the website. They also list each location’s phone number, so you can call to schedule or change your appointment if you’d prefer.
Once you’ve booked your appointment, SmileDirectClub will send emails and texts with instructions to help you prepare for your visit. On the day of your appointment, you’ll be greeted by a SmileGuide, who will take your 3D scan and photos of your teeth. The scan is quick and painless. Your SmileGuide will slowly pass a wand over your dental arches to carefully record the contours of your teeth and gums. You can even watch the formation of your digital smile on a screen next to you.
SmileGuides are also trained to answer any questions you may have about SmileDirectClub treatment. However, they won’t be able to evaluate your teeth or determine whether or not you’re a candidate for aligners.
Your entire SmileShop appointment will take about 30min. Then, your SmileGuide will send your scan and photos to SmileDirectClub’s team of dentists for review. As a bonus, you’ll receive free whitening gel at the end of your visit.
Is It Better To Do a Teeth Scan Or an Impression Kit?
Both 3D scans and impression kits are viable options to start home aligner treatment. Which option you choose largely depends on what’s important to you. Impression kits cost $49, although the cost is refunded if you’re not accepted for treatment. In contrast, 3D scans are completely free.
Impression kits are great for busy people who would prefer to start treatment without having to make an appointment. However, 3D scans only take about 30 minutes to complete, so an appointment won’t take up a large chunk of your free time. Plus, they include promotions like free whitening that aren’t available if you order an impression kit.
As we mentioned earlier, creating an accurate impression can be challenging. The mold needs to be precise so that your aligners will fit comfortably. 3D scans are produced digitally using innovative technology, so mistakes are less likely. They also provide a more thorough and detailed picture of your teeth. So, 3D scans are often more effective than an impression kit.
Is There a SmileShop Near Me?
SmileDirectClub has over 300 SmileShops nationwide, with locations in all major U.S. cities. So, you’ll likely find one within driving distance of your hometown. Each store is slightly different, but they all offer free 3D scans and have dental professionals on-site who can answer your questions about home aligner treatment.
While other companies have just started opening retail locations, SmileDirectClub is well on its way to having SmileShops in all 50 states. In just under three years, the company has transformed its brand and made SmileDirectClub a household name. They’re continuing to expand and recently partnered with CVS to open hundreds more SmileShop locations in CVS pharmacy stores. This partnership will more than double their physical footprint and make home aligners more accessible than ever before.
To find the SmileShop that’s closest to you and/or schedule an appointment, visit SmileDirectClub’s website for a comprehensive list of SmileShop locations and contact info.
Pros & Cons of SmileDirectClub Treatment
Like any dental treatment, SmileDirectClub has both pros and cons. Home aligners are still new, and the treatment process is constantly evolving. So, you should weigh your options carefully to decide whether it’s the right choice for you.
These are SmileDirectClub’s top pros and cons:
- Convenient: Home teeth aligners don’t require any office visits, so you won’t have to worry about making time in your schedule for trips to the dentist.
- Affordable: All home aligners cost less than in-office options, like braces. SmileDirectClub’s treatment price is $1,950.
- Fast: SmileDirectClub treatment takes an average of 6 months. In contrast, in-office aligners like Invisalign can take 12-15 months.
- Inconspicuous: Like all clear aligner brands, SmileDirectClub’s aligners are nearly invisible and much more discreet than braces.
- Reputable: SmileDirectClub has over 300 SmileShop locations nationwide. Even if you aren’t comfortable using an impression kit, you’ll likely be able to find a store near you to get a 3D scan instead.
- No Choice in Dentist: Since treatment is completed remotely, you won’t get to choose your dentist. You also won’t receive the one-on-one care that you would with a traditional treatment like braces or Invisalign. Because of this, it’s important to visit a dentist before and after treatment to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy.
- Spotty Customer Service: 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.
Is SmileDirectClub My Only Option for At-Home Treatment?
Although you may be most familiar with SmileDirectClub as the leading home aligner treatment, it is not the only option available. Since SmileDirectClub started offering home aligners in 2014, several brands have joined the industry, each with their own unique advantages. Check out our top recommendations for home aligner providers below:
#1: byte ($1,895, or $2,295 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.
SmileShops have made SmileDirectClub treatment more convenient, and their business has grown as a result. Introducing free 3D scans as an alternative to impression kits has taken the home aligner industry to a new level. And, we expect that they’ll continue to expand.
As the home aligner industry continues to grow, more companies are expected to open physical locations, giving SmileDirectClub some serious competition. If you’ve been considering home aligners to straighten your teeth, visiting a SmileShop could make it much easier and more convenient to start treatment. Check out the SmileDirectClub website to schedule an appointment and find out if home aligners are the right choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Works at SmileShops?
SmileShops are staffed with SmileGuides, dental assistants who have been trained and certified to take 3D scans and photos of your teeth. They’re also trained to answer any questions you may have about SmileDirectClub’s treatment process. However, they won’t be able to determine your candidacy for treatment.
What Services are Available at SmileShops?
The primary purpose of SmileShops is to provide a place for people to get 3D scans as an alternative to impression kits. Their staff of SmileGuides can help you get started with SmileDirectClub treatment. They can also take your contact and payment information to mail you your aligners as fast as possible once you’re accepted for treatment.
Is a Teeth Scan the Same as an X-Ray?
SmileDirectClub’s 3D scans are not the same as an x-ray. While they do create a 3D image of your teeth, they aren’t used to detect cavities or evaluate the health of your teeth and gums. There’s also no radiation involved.
Can I Get My Teeth Cleaned at a SmileShop?
No. There are no dentists or dental hygienists employed at SmileShops, so no one on their staff is trained to clean teeth. Their SmileGuides are typically dental assistants, but they aren’t qualified to provide cleanings.
Will I Get My Aligners at My SmileShop Appointment?
No. While you can submit your 3D scan and provide your payment information during your appointment, you’ll need to wait for your case to be approved before starting treatment.
Your SmileGuide will send your scan to SmileDirectClub’s team of dentists to review. And, within 7-10 business days, the company will notify you if you’re a good candidate. Then, they’ll send you a digital treatment preview. Once you approve the proposed treatment plan, they’ll mail your custom aligners directly to your home.
Do Other Home Aligner Companies Have Physical Locations?
Currently, the only other home aligner company besides SmileDirectClub that has retail locations is Candid. Candid calls their locations Candid Studios, and they have about 25 locations nationwide. However, they also have plans to expand. Candid just started selling aligners in 2017, so it makes sense that they have fewer locations — but since they’re quickly becoming a major competitor, we wouldn’t be surprised to see many more Candid studios crop up soon.
Is SmileDirectClub the Most Affordable Option?
Most home teeth straightening companies have a similar price-point. However, if you’re searching for the cheapest option, we’d recommend AlignerCo. Their $1,145 price point is hundreds lower than every other home aligner company.
Is There a Faster Treatment Option Available?
SmileDirectClub treatment takes about 6 months to complete. byte currently offers the shortest treatment time available at just 3 months. How? HyperByte, their “exclusive dental movement acceleration device,” sends gentle vibrations to stimulate bone structures in your mouth. By using the HyperByte just 5 minutes per day, you can effectively cut your treatment time in half.