A million dollar smile is great and all, but what about getting one as an adult? No one past their teen years wants to deal with the “brace face” life—or worse, relive it if they’ve already had braces.
Thankfully, home clear aligners make it possible to straighten your teeth without ever leaving your house. No braces, no wires, no brackets.
And no office visits. These clear aligners have become a popular alternative to braces. Why? They’re much cheaper than both braces and Invisalign. Their convenience is a nice plus, too.
Australia has a fair variety of home clear aligners. Smile Direct is one of the biggest names, but what about some of their competitors, like Byte? No two aligner companies are identical, and these two are no exception. In this comparison review, we’ll help you decide which of these two services is the better option for your unique circumstances.
The Rundown: How Byte and Smile Direct Stack Up
Smile Direct is one of the biggest clear aligner companies in the entire industry; even worldwide. That’s no secret. If you’re comparing on the basis of numbers, Byte can’t really compete. But in our opinion, Byte has done a great job as the “new kid on the block” (especially in the U.S.). They’ve established a fantastic reputation, and we expect that to continue. So while Smile Direct might be bigger than Byte now, we don’t think that’ll last forever.
|Customers served||200,000+||1.5 million|
|Claim to fame||Shortest treatment lengths thanks to their proprietary HyperByte device||Best brand power in the industry|
|No food restrictions||✓||✓|
|No office visits||✓||✓|
|Covered by insurance (w/ orthodontic benefits)||✓||✓|
|Personalized customer service||✓|
|Free retainers||✓||Only with SmilePay|
|Price tag||Byte All-Day: $2,749|
Byte At-Night: $3,399
|Financing||Byte All-Day: $53/fortnight for 24 months (plus $244 account fee) |
Byte At-Night: $66/fortnight for 24 months (plus $244 account fee)
|$299 down, $119 per month for 24 months|
|Treatment length||Byte All-Day: 4 months |
Byte At-Night: 5 months
|Daytime: 6 months |
Nighttime: 10 months
|Start-up process||Impression kit only||Impression kit or 3D scan at a Smile Shop|
Intrigued? That’s just the flyby! Let’s dig into the differences between Smile Direct and Byte in more detail.
At first at glance, all clear aligners may look identical. That’s understandable, as there are plenty of similarities across providers. For example, all clear aligners are made from safe, BPA free plastic that will gradually move your teeth into alignment. Beyond these baseline similarities, there are some differences worth noting.
There are two main ways to trim the tops of clear aligners: straight across, or scalloped to match the gumline. The straight cut can exert more force, since its overlap with your gums acts as an anchor. Since scalloped aligners don’t overlap with the gums, they have a slightly more discreet look, but aren’t quite as forceful; so it’s a bit of a tradeoff either way.
Some providers make their aligners from clear, shiny plastic; while others opt to use plastic with a slightly frosted appearance. This may sound a little counter intuitive, but frosted aligners actually have a lower profile than ultra clear looking aligners. Since our teeth have a porous surface, a frosted aligner better mimics our natural matte smile; whereas a shiny aligner tends to be a little more noticeable.
Let’s take a closer look at how your aligners from Byte and Smile Direct compare:
|Byte||Smile Direct Club|
|Manufacturer||Dentsply Sirona||Smile Direct Club|
|Materials||BPA free, PETG plastic (basically a modified, more affordable polyurethane) |
At-Night aligners are made for a thicker, more durable plastic than their all-day aligners
|BPA free, “Comfort Sense” plastic; which uses plastics of varied firmness to provide a better aligner fit|
|Aligner Cut||Straight cut||Straight cut|
|Aligner Transparency||Clear, shiny plastic||Slightly frosted plastic|
Smile Direct used to be top of the class in terms of quality since their aligners were made by Align Technology (the company behind Invisalign’s aligners). But that partnership has dissolved, and Smile Direct is now manufacturing their aligners in-house. We can’t truly speak to the quality of their aligners since this transition—hopefully their quality won’t drop without this partnership, but we don’t know for sure.
We love that Byte’s At-Night aligners are more durable than their all-day aligner option. You can rest assured knowing that these aligners can handle some overnight teeth grinding. Smile Direct, on the other hand, uses the same aligners for both of their treatments.
Smile Direct’s aligners are a touch more discreet than Byte’s, thanks to their frosted plastic. That said, some people prefer having a little gleam in their smile, and would rather go with the most transparent clear aligners they can find. Appearance is subjective—all you need to worry about is finding the aligner that’s best for you.
Both providers keep an eye on your progress via photos you’ll submit throughout your treatment. Though the basis of this oversight is similar, each provider approaches this in their own way. Here we’ll explore how Byte and Smile Direct oversee your remote treatment.
|Byte||Smile Direct Club|
|Frequency of check-ins||Every 3-4 weeks||Every 90 days|
|Photos sent via||Patient portal||Smile Direct app|
|Treatment Length||Daytime treatment: 4 months |
Byte At-Night: 5 months
|Daytime treatment: 6 months |
Nighttime only: 10 months
|Customer Support||Available via phone, email and social media—7am-5pm PST||Available via app, chat, email and phone. Smile Direct says their team is available 24/7|
Not sure how to capture quality images of your teeth? Not to worry—both of these providers include a cheek retractor in your treatment bundle to help get your pesky cheeks out of the way so you can take clear photos of your smile.
You’ll get eyes on your treatment more frequently with Byte than Smile Direct Club, but there’s something to be said about the streamlined app Smile Direct uses.
Outside of these photo check-ins, if you need anything during your treatment you’ll reach out to customer support.
Smile Direct has some room for improvement in the customer service department, but we’re glad to see the changes they’ve made already. For perspective, Smile Direct experienced near-explosive growth in 2017 and their service department couldn’t quite keep up (you’ll see more complaints from 2017 than any other year on online reviews).
In contrast, Byte puts their customers at the center of all they do. They’re prompt, responsive, and extremely helpful. And we especially love that Byte gives a personal Byte advisor to each customer. Anytime you contact them for support, you get to chat with someone who’s seen your case the whole way through.
Both Smile Direct and Byte offer the flexibility of nighttime-only treatment, but Byte’s treatment lengths are much shorter. Smile Direct’s treatment isn’t necessarily long, though; they match the industry average. However, Byte blows the competition out of the water with their HyperByte. This little device uses tiny, rapid vibrations to gently move your teeth to their final destination. It’s an integral part of both Byte’s daytime and nighttime treatment regimens.
Bang For Your Buck
A million dollar smile is tempting, but you shouldn’t have to spend a million dollars to get it. In this section, we’ll dig into the pricing details; everything from impression kits to aftercare retainers from Byte and Smile Direct.
|Byte||Smile Direct Club|
|Startup Costs||$95 impression kit||$79 impression kit or free scan|
|Aligner Kit||All-day treatment:$2,749 |
Byte At-Night: $3,399
|Add-Ons||Byte Protection Plan: $899 for all-day treatment, $999 for At-Night treatment||Smile Direct doesn’t currently sell add-ons like whitening in Australia|
|Financing||All-day: $53/fortnight for 24 months (plus $244 account fee) |
At-Night: $66/fortnight for 24 months (plus $244 account fee)
|$299 down, $199 per month for 24 months|
|Post-Treatment||First set of retainers is free, then $165/set afterwards||$165 per retainer set|
We like that Smile Direct charges the same price for both their all day and the nighttime only treatment. Byte uses premium materials for their At-Night treatment, so we understand the markup.
Both Byte and Smile Direct offer financing with 100% approval, so you can proceed with affordable treatment even if your credit score isn’t your best feature.
Byte loads your aligner package with free extras. You’ll receive a set of free aftercare retainers, a bottle of BrightByte whitening gel, and the HyperByte device. Smile Direct offers free whitening too, but the bulk of their extras are given when you opt to pay for your treatment with their in-house financing option, SmilePay. If you use SmilePay, your treatment package will include two free sets of aftercare retainers ($330 value).
If you spring for the Byte Protection Plan, you won’t need to think about purchasing aligners for the first five years, post-treatment. The Byte Protection Plan offers free replacements for lost or broken aligners during treatment, and covers your aftercare retainers for 5 years. A new set will automatically be mailed to you every 6 months. There are different payment plans available if you’d like to finance your purchase of the Byte Protection Plan.
The cost and quality of your treatment are important, but so is how you’re treated throughout the process. Let’s take a look at what you can expect from the customer experience when you choose Byte and Smile Direct for your clear aligner treatment.
For many shoppers, customer reviews can make or break purchase decisions. If you’re one of those shoppers, we’ve got you covered. We’ve done the legwork for you to see what customers across the web are saying about Byte and Smile Direct.
|Top loves||Excellent customer service (even mentioning representatives by name); visible results within a couple weeks; easy to use||SmileShops are convenient and the staff is friendly; convenient reminders to switch out aligners; affordable|
|Top complaints||Mix-ups can occur with insurance reimbursements (not covered by medicare, but some people with additional orthodontic benefits can get help with the cost); monthly financing adds a substantial amount to the treatment cost||Mixed quality of treatment and customer service, especially concerning refinements to the original treatment plan; sometimes customers receive the wrong aligners; delayed payment cancellation when withdrawing from Smile Direct Club|
Smile Direct had some rough patches with their reviews around 2017. And while they’re not perfect just yet, they have made some improvements. The most common complaint they still get concerns re-evaluations for treatment (more on that in a moment). That isn’t ideal, but it’s the biggest drawback to any home aligners, no matter which company you choose.
Smile Direct may be improving, but Byte definitely comes out on top in the customer reviews department. An overwhelming majority of Byte’s reviews are positive, and the few negative reviews they have are due to the limitations of home treatment, not the company itself. We attribute much of Byte’s success to their personal care assistants.
Let’s be clear; moving teeth from one place to another is never going to be a completely pain-free experience. That comes with the territory—even braces and Invisalign cause discomfort.
You can count on most of the soreness occurring when you switch to a new set of aligners; since these will have a snugger fit than the previous set. That’s where Byte’s proprietary HyperByte device comes in. Its small micropulses loosen your tooth’s ligaments to help alleviate discomfort and shorten your treatment.
Like we mentioned earlier, Smile Direct is working on their “Comfort Sense” aligners. Though a new feature, it’s possible this could improve the wear experience of their customers.
As with any purchase, there’s always the nagging question: what if it doesn’t work out? Byte and Smile Direct both have very individualized approaches for refunds and guarantees.
Strictly speaking, Byte has only one refund policy: their impression kit. If you’re not a candidate for treatment, you’ll be refunded for the impression kit. However, Byte stands by their product with their “Byte for Life” guarantee.
This guarantee is essentially a lifetime warranty. If your teeth ever shift after treatment, even years down the road, Byte will send you new aligners to correct it. To hold up your end of the bargain, just keep up with wearing and replacing your aftercare retainers.
With Smile Direct, you have 30 days to change your mind about your aligners. If you try it out and decide it’s not right for you within that first month, you can return them for a full refund.
Smile Direct also offers free touch-ups for life! If your teeth ever shift out of alignment—and you’ve worn and replaced your aftercare retainers as suggested—then Smile Direct will provide additional aligners to get your smile back to its former glory; all for free.
What if I break an aligner?
If you break or lose an aligner, reach out to your provider right away. They’ll help you determine if you need a replacement, or if you can simply move on to the next set of aligners in your treatment plan.
If you’re enrolled in the Byte Protection Plan, your replacement will be free. Otherwise, it will be $179 for an all-day aligner replacement, and $199 for an At-Night replacement. Smile Direct generously replaces one broken or lost aligner for free. You will need to pay for subsequent replacements, but the exact amount will be determined by Smile Direct’s dental team.
Sometimes teeth can be a little stubborn, and you may need a few more aligners than your treatment plan planned for. These extra aligners are called refinements; and some providers charge extra for them—but not Byte or Smile Direct.
If you reach the end of your Byte treatment and you’re not satisfied, you can request a re-evaluation. As long as you’ve followed your prescribed treatment plan, Byte will provide free refinements to achieve the results you’re after.
To be eligible for refinements with Smile Direct, you must check in with your assigned doctor every 90 days, follow your prescribed treatment to a T, and submit any request for re-evaluation within 30 days of finishing treatment. It’s a little more limited than Byte’s policy, but still better than paying for refinements.
That being said, Smile Direct’s reviews are full of customers mentioning long waits on their refinements. It’s one thing to have a generous policy, but it’s another to see it through. To be fair to Smile Direct though, many providers receive similar feedback; the process of refinements seems far from seamless at this point, industry-wide.
Which is the Best Home Aligner for You?
When it all comes down to it, Byte and Smile Direct are both good options. But at the end of the day, you can only pick one.
If you want our honest opinion, we prefer Byte. Smile Direct is not a bad service in any sense. But Byte is our favorite service across the board. We love their lifetime guarantee, their treatment efficiency, and their excellent customer service.
Choose Byte if
You want to perfect your smile ASAP with top-quality customer service. Byte is twice as fast as all of the other companies on the market and offer personalized customer support. Their lifetime satisfaction guarantee is great, too.
Choose Smile Direct if
You want the confidence that comes from working with a well-established brand. Smile Direct has served more than 1.5 Million customers, so they’ve probably already seen a case just like yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either provider offer discounts?
Technically, both services offer discounts. Neither service offers run-of-the-mill discounts extremely frequently, though. Smile Direct has a referral program along with discounts for students, teachers, and military members. Likewise, Byte offers discounts for military, students, and first responders.
Are Byte and Smile Direct legit?
Your mom warned you about things that sound too good to be true, right? Thankfully home aligner companies like Byte and Smile Direct aren’t. These companies leverage a competitive product with competitive prices. But they don’t sacrifice quality to do it. How? They don’t have the overhead costs of a physical office like a traditional orthodontist’s office, so they can invest those savings in measures that ensure treatment quality.
Which home aligner is more customer-focused?
Byte is a bit more customer-centric than Smile Direct in a couple of different ways. They assign a personal care assistant to each customer. Plus, Byte has a smaller customer base that allows them to give more attention to each individual.
How exactly do at-home clear aligners work?
They’re nearly invisible, but they’re not magical. Technically speaking, at-home clear aligners use roughly the same technology that Invisalign uses. This starts with your impressions; a dental professional analyzes those impressions to design a series of clear trays that gently and gradually move your teeth to their final destination.
How do Byte and Smile Direct compare to Invisalign?
They’re distant cousins, really. Invisalign pioneered the clear aligner alternative to traditional braces. However, Invisalign adds one aspect to the aligners: devices affixed to your teeth to secure the aligners. Those devices have to be attached in-office by a qualified orthodontist. Home aligners don’t use those, allowing you to complete your entire treatment at home.
How do these home aligners compare to SmilePath and EZ Smile?
Smile Direct and Byte are pretty similar to both EZ Smile and SmilePath. Strictly speaking, SmilePath is the most affordable option on the market (by hundreds of dollars). EZ Smile is a touch more expensive, but they have a huge variety of financing plans that make treatment accessible for all budgets.
Is there an age requirement for using either Byte or Smile Direct?
With both Byte and Smile Direct, you must have all permanent teeth present to begin treatment (you don’t want to dump thousands into teeth that will just fall out, anyway). Both Byte and Smile Direct require their patients to be at least 12 years old. Minors must have parental consent to receive treatment.
Does either service offer free whitening treatment?
Byte includes one free bottle of their whitening treatment with your aligners, and you can use it simultaneously with the aligner treatment. A replacement bottle costs $39. Smile Direct also includes free whitening with their aligner treatments, and you can use it in conjunction with your aligners, but they don’t currently sell the whitening outright.
Do Byte and Smile Direct have aggressive upsells?
Thankfully, no. Both companies “bait you in” (mildly) by giving you one set of their whitening treatment for free. But since there’s no obligation to buy a replacement kit once yours runs out, it’s not a true upsell.
How do I know if at-home aligners are right for me?
Many people are good candidates for at-home treatment. In general, the only people who should automatically steer clear of at-home aligners are people with significant bite issues. If a condition like overbite or underbite is the cause of your teeth’s misalignment, then clear aligners likely won’t be able to permanently correct your issue.
Individuals with implants may still be able to get treatment. To know for sure, you’ll need to take an impression kit with either service. They’ll let you know for sure if you are a candidate or not. If you are not a candidate, you’ll get a refund for the price of the impression kit.
Will either of these home aligners make me talk less funny?
Most people take a few days to adjust to the feeling of aligners—after all, there’s a foreign object in your mouth—but very few experience long-lasting issues. The average observer can’t detect that you’re wearing aligners, even while talking.
If I lose my aligners during or after treatment, do I have to pay for new ones?
Byte will send you a $179 replacement for all-day aligners and $199 replacement for their At-Night aligners. Smile Direct will send you one replacement for free, but you’ll need to pay for any additional replacements (the exact cost will be determined by their dental team). But with either company, you should wear the corresponding tray from your previous set of aligners to keep your teeth from shifting too far back.
Can I drink coffee when using Byte or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from Byte and Smile Direct are fairly stain-resistant, but you should generally avoid eating or drinking colored liquids and foods while wearing your aligners. Water is a safe bet, though.
Are there any hidden costs?
Byte doesn’t really have any hidden costs. What you see is what you get. Smile Direct does have one unadvertised cost, but it isn’t exactly hidden. You’ll need to pay $165 for post-treatment retainers; Byte includes the first set for free. With either company, however, you’ll need to purchase new post-treatment retainers occasionally. They do wear out over time.