SmileDirectClub took the orthodontic industry by storm when they began delivering clear aligner treatment to customers’ homes in 2014. And as the company has grown, they’ve discovered new ways to make their treatment more convenient and affordable.
Case in point: SmileShops, which are 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 create molds of my teeth at home? What happens at a SmileShop appointment? Is SmileDirectClub even legit?
You’ve come to the right place. This guide will 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 SmileDirectClub isn’t the right fit for you.
Table of Contents
What Is a SmileDirectClub SmileShop?
Most people are good candidates for home aligners, but SmileDirectClub still needs to examine your teeth before you can start treatment. As we previously mentioned, evaluating the dental molds from impression kits is the most common way to determine a patient’s candidacy. However, SmileDirectClub discovered that they can make treatment even more accessible by offering in-person dental scans.
The only thing standing between certain customers and their aligners is the required impression kit. Impressions must 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.
Just like they pioneered at-home aligner treatment, SmileDirectClub pioneered retail locations that let you bypass the impression kit process. They opened their first SmileShop in 2016, and now they have over 100 nationwide, significantly extending their reach and growing their business.
SmileDirectClub staffs their SmileShops with dental professionals called “Smile Guides” who are trained and certified to take 3D scans of your teeth. These scans are quick, painless, and much more precise than the molds you would make at home.
Are SmileShops Dental Offices?
On the surface, SmileShops might look similar to dental offices. They employ dental professionals and house equipment typically only found in a dentist’s office. However, SmileShops only serve one purpose — to offer 3D scans of patients’ teeth.
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.
Smile Guides 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 limited. Smile Guides 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 powerful whitening treatment.
Because SmileShop appointments are free, you won’t have to fill out a ton of forms or insurance information. The whole experience is designed with quickness and convenience in mind.
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 find a store near you. 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.
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, a Smile Guide will greet you, then take 3D scans and photos of your teeth. The scan is quick and painless. Your Smile Guide will slowly pass a wand over your dental arches to map all the intricate contours of your teeth and gums. You can even watch the formation of your digital smile on a screen next to you.
Your Smile Guide can also answer some of the questions you may have about SmileDirectClub treatment. However, they won’t be able to evaluate your teeth or determine whether you’re a candidate for aligners.
Your entire SmileShop appointment will take about 30 minutes. Afterward, your Smile Guide will send your scan and photos to SmileDirectClub’s dental team for review. They’ll then send you off with free whitening products.
Is It Better To Do a Teeth Scan Or an Impression Kit?
Both 3D scans and impression kits are viable options to kick off your home aligner treatment, but the best option for you depends on your priorities. Impression kits cost $59, although SmileDirectClub will issue a refund 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 they’re highly accurate. They also provide a more detailed picture of your teeth.
Is There a SmileShop Near Me?
SmileDirectClub has over 100 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 questions about home aligner treatment.
In just under three years, the company has transformed its brand and made SmileDirectClub a household name. They’re well on their way to having SmileShops in all 50 states, and they’ve partnered with CVS to open hundreds more SmileShop locations in pharmacies nationwide. This partnership will more than double their physical footprint and make home aligners more accessible than ever.
To find the nearest SmileShop 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, 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 $2,250.
- Fast: SmileDirectClub treatment takes an average of 4–6 months. In contrast, in-office aligners like Invisalign can take 12–18 months.
- Inconspicuous: Like all clear aligner brands, SmileDirectClub’s aligners are nearly invisible and much more discreet than braces.
- Reputable: SmileDirectClub has over 100 SmileShop locations nationwide. 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: You’ll complete treatment entirely from home, so you won’t get to choose your dentist. You also won’t receive the one-on-one care you would with a traditional option like braces or Invisalign. That’s why 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 past 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 brand, it’s not the only option available. Since SmileDirectClub started offering home aligners in 2014, several brands have introduced similar treatments, each with their own unique advantages. Check out our top recommendations for home aligner providers below:
#1: Byte ($1,999)
Byte prides themselves on efficiency and innovation, claiming an average treatment plan length of just 4-5 months. 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 convenience, affordability, and intriguing orthodontic technology, but don’t want to sacrifice quality, Byte could be your best bet.
Take a look at our in-depth Byte review to learn more.
#2: Candid ($3,500+)
Candid differs from SmileDirectClub in that they use a hybrid at-home and in-person treatment model. After an initial in-person consultation and examination with a local dentist, you’ll check in virtually via their CandidMonitoring service every 14 days for the rest of your treatment. By keeping a local dentist involved the entire time, Candid offers a level of quality care that sets them apart from other services on this list.
However, this level of involvement comes with a major trade-off: Candid treatment costs $3,500+, which is significantly more expensive than fully remote options like SmileDirectClub or Byte.
You can find more details on Candid in our full review.
#3: AlignerCo ($995)
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.
By implementing SmileShops, SmileDirectClub has shown their dedication to delivering efficient, reliable, and streamlined treatment. 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?
Dental assistants called Smile Guides who have been trained and certified to take 3D scans and photos of your teeth. They can also answer most questions about SmileDirectClub’s treatment process. However, they won’t be able to determine your candidacy for treatment on the spot.
What services are available at SmileShops?
SmileShops’ primary purpose is to provide 3D scans as an alternative to impression kits. Their staff of Smile Guides can help you get started with SmileDirectClub treatment, plus 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 X-rays. They create a 3D image of your teeth, but they can’t 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. Their Smile Guides 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 Smile Guide will send your scan to SmileDirectClub’s dental team for review. 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 to your home.
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 $995 price is hundreds lower than every other home aligner company we reviewed.