No one likes to go to the dentist. Frankly, it’s a hassle: you have to set up an appointment and endure the annoyance of the dentist’s office.
Then they give you a referral to the orthodontist, making you repeat the process. All. Over. Again. Is a straight smile worth all the trouble?
Luckily, there’s an alternative: you can get a million-dollar smile from the comfort of your own home with home clear aligners. Using a home alignment system, you can ditch the dentist and straighten your teeth on your own. Home aligners aren’t just convenient, either. For many people, they’re also faster and cheaper than braces or Invisalign.
There are a lot of different options for at-home teeth aligners in Australia, so how do you know if Smile Direct is right for you? In this review, we’ll give you the full scoop on Smile Direct and their home clear aligner system.
How Does Smile Direct Club Work?
Smile Direct is relatively simple: to start, they need 3D images of your teeth (more on this in a moment). Smile Direct’s specialists analyze these images and create a personalized treatment plan. They’ll send you a digital preview of how your teeth will move every step of the way. If you like it, then it’s time to start treatment!
Smile Direct will ship you the aligners included in your treatment all in one box. For most people, treatment lasts 6 months. Here’s a fly-by of what to expect when using Smile Direct:
- Step 1: You send Smile Direct a 3D image of your teeth. You can get that image in two ways. First, you can visit your nearest SmileShop and get images taken in person. If you don’t live near a SmileShop, you can order an impression kit from their website. Using their kit, you’ll create molds of your teeth, then send them back. Shipping is easy thanks to a prepaid shipping label.
- Step 2: Smile Direct’s dental team analyzes your molds or scans you’ve created to create a treatment plan that’s unique to you.
- Step 3: Pay for your treatment all in one go, or sign up for SmilePay and pay as you go.
- Step 4: You wear the custom aligners sent to you by Smile Direct and gradually make your way to a straighter smile.
What Sets Smile Direct Club Apart?
Smile Direct does a fair amount of advertising, so there’s a good chance you’re more familiar with them than some of their competitors. Smile Direct is, in short, the oldest, most established home clear aligner system on the market. They started in the U.S. back in 2014. That’s not an incredibly long time to be in business, but since their start they have served over 1.5 million customers worldwide.
Thanks to their global brand power, Smile Direct can offer a few advantages: SmileShops, where you can have a scan taken of your teeth for free; Nighttime Clear Aligners, and 100% approval financing with SmilePay.
Smile Direct has a lot going for them, but it’s important to understand at-home clear aligners aren’t able to treat everyone. Some extreme cases are best served by an orthodontist. With Smile Direct, there’s no risk, though. You can try out an impression kit at home. If it turns out that you’re not a candidate, they’ll refund you—no worries, no commitments.
✔ Best Overall Value
✔ Excellent Customer Support
✔ Thousands of Positive ReviewsVisit Website
– Many Locations
– Good Customer Support
– Thousands of Positive Reviews
Smile Direct uses the technology Invisalign created, they’ve just adapted it for remote care. These clear aligners apply pressure to your teeth to gradually move them into a straighter smile. But what are these aligners made of? Let’s take a closer look.
Smile Direct used to be top of the class in terms of quality since their aligners were made by Align Technology (the company that makes Invisalign’s aligners). But Align Technology no longer produces Smile Direct’s aligners, and they’ve shifted to manufacturing their aligners in-house. As a result, we can’t truly speak to the current quality of their product. Hopefully, the quality won’t drop without this partnership, but we don’t know for sure.
That said, Smile Direct’s aligners are still made of safe, BPA-free plastic. Since switching their manufacturing to in-house, they’ve started using “Comfort Sense” materials, which use soft, medium, or firm plastics to give your aligners a more tailored and comfortable fit.
Oftentimes adults are drawn to clear aligners because of their low profile. All clear aligners are more discreet looking than metal braces, but some clear aligners are less noticeable than others.
There are two ways to cut the tops of clear aligners: straight across, or scalloped to match your gumline. It’s a bit of a trade-off: the straight across cut can exert more force, but the scalloped cut is less noticeable since they don’t overlap with your gums. Smile Direct has straight-cut aligners, so they’re as effective as possible.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the clearest clear aligners aren’t necessarily the lowest profile. Smile Direct makes their aligners with slightly frosted, matte-looking plastic. This tends to have a more natural appearance since the surface of your teeth is porous; not shiny.
Smile Direct aligners are pretty low profile. That said, appearance is subjective—all you need to worry about is finding the aligner that’s best for you.
You might be wondering: if your treatment takes place from the comfort of your own home, how does Smile Direct keep an eye on your progress? With Smile Direct, your treatment oversight happens via Smile Check-ins.
Every 90 days, you’ll submit photos through the Smile Direct app for their dental team to review. It’s nice that you have a streamlined way to keep Smile Direct in the loop during your treatment, but we should note that this oversight is a bit less robust than some of their competitors. For example, Byte requires photo check-ins every 3-4 weeks, and SmilePath requires these updates every 10-14 days. Smile Direct’s oversight also lacks in comparison to in-office options, which require appointments every 4-8 weeks.
Smile Direct matches the industry average for treatment lengths. Most people will wear their aligners for about 6 months with daytime treatment and 10 for nighttime treatment. That’s not fast and it’s not slow.
If you need to contact customer support during your treatment, you can reach out through Smile Direct’s app. There you can chat, text, email, call, or set up a video call. Smile Direct says their customer service team is available 24/7.
Smile Direct’s customer support is a mixed bag. Basically, if you chat with someone in person, then your experience will be great. The online support? Not so much. They’re a little slower to respond than most competitors. We suspect that’s because Smile Direct’s customer base has grown more rapidly than their own customer service department. You may have to wait a bit or endure some back-and-forth with their support team.
On the upside, Smile Direct offers a lot of online resources, from FAQs to impression guides and more. Odds are, you can find an answer to your question on their website. But if you have a very specific, personalized question, then you may need to wait for your answer. The best contact method is by phone; you’ll get a quicker response, and you’ll get to talk to a human. You can also email them, but this method is more prone to delay.
Bang For Your Buck
By now you probably know that at-home clear aligner treatments are more affordable than in-office options like braces and Invisalign. But how much savings are we talking about, exactly? Let’s take a closer look at how much you can expect to spend when you choose Smile Direct for your clear aligner treatment.
Smile Direct’s $79 impression kit gets the ball rolling. Keep an eye out for sales, we’ve seen the impression kit down to $20. Alternatively, if you head to a SmileShop, you can get your teeth scanned for free! Smile Direct’s retail locations are regularly praised in their reviews. If you go get your free scan, you can expect a friendly and informative staff member to answer all your questions about treatment with Smile Direct. Sometimes they even include a free whitening kit!
Smile Direct’s $2,825 aligner system includes everything you’ll need to straighten your teeth without stepping foot in the orthodontist’s office. You’ll get all the aligners for your treatment in one box.
One thing we appreciate about Smile Direct Club is that they charge the same price for their all-day treatment as they do their nighttime-only treatment. Oftentimes providers change a couple of hundred dollars more, so it’s nice that they keep their price the same across the board.
Smile Direct offers two payment options: you can pay the $2,825 all in one go, or you can enroll in SmilePay. There is no credit approval needed, so anyone with a less-than-stellar credit score can still get a straight smile. SmilePay requires a $299 down payment, and then it’s $119/month for 24 months—a total of $3,155.
Since Smile Direct is a cosmetic service, it’s not covered by Medicaid. If you have additional private benefits, then it’s possible some of your treatment could be covered. Be sure to check with your individual provider to learn what your options are.
After you finish your treatment, you’ll need to wear post-treatment retainers to keep your smile in place. Some companies include your first set for free, but with Smile Direct you’ll need to buy these outright for $165. The retainers are strong, but they don’t last forever. Typically you’ll need to replace your retainers every 6 months or so.
Which treatment plan is right for me?
Aligners are way more convenient than traditional treatment options, but they still require some maintenance. You’ll need to remove them at mealtimes, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before replacing them. If your days are already stuffed to the gills, even minor upkeep like this can be difficult to incorporate.
With nighttime only treatments, you won’t need to think about your treatment until the evening. Just carry on with your day as usual, then pop in your aligners a few hours before you go to sleep, and dream your way to a new smile.
Once Smile Direct reviews your impressions or scans, they’ll be able to let you know which treatment options are available to you. Though clear aligners can treat mild to moderate cases, nighttime-only options are best suited for conditions on the milder side. So if you’ve got a packed schedule and some minor crowding/spacing, then nighttime-only treatment may be a great fit for you!
Of course the affordability and quality of your clear aligner treatment are important, but so is how you’re treated throughout the process. Let’s see what you can expect when you choose Smile Direct.
Buying anything on the internet is convenient, but sometimes it’s hard to trust. In the “old days,” you could just ask your family and neighbors for their recommendations. Now, word of mouth often gets replaced with online customer reviews. What are other customers saying about Smile Direct?
It’s important to account for both the good and the bad. So, here are a few of the things customers like about Smile Direct:
- Friendly, prompt customer service
- SmileShops are convenient and helpful
- Additional impression kits sent at no cost if the first one doesn’t work
But there are a few drawbacks, too:
- 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
We’ll be honest; the negatives are a bit concerning. After all, you want your smile to be perfect, and someone else’s aligners aren’t going to help you get there. However, the positive reviews far outweigh the negatives. For example, the Better Business Bureau has nearly 2,000 reviews for Smile Direct and their overall score is 4 out of 5 stars.
On the positive side, review after review noted that Smile Direct’s staff members are courteous, friendly, and helpful. Many customers even mentioned their representative by name.
Let’s be clear: teeth alignment is never going to be totally painless. That comes with the territory—even braces and Invisalign come with their fair share of discomfort.
Typically the soreness is the strongest when you switch to a new aligner, since it will be tighter than the previous one. This should only last a day or two, and if you want some extra help an over the counter pain reliever usually does the trick.
We recommend changing your aligners in the evening, so that you sleep through as much of the soreness as possible.
As we mentioned earlier, Smile Direct has been working on their “Comfort Sense” technology. Though still a new feature, it’s possible this will improve the wear experiences of their customers.
Smile Direct has some pretty generous guarantees at every stage of treatment. If you’re not happy with your clear aligner treatment within the first 30 days, you can qualify for a full refund. Even after the first 30 days are over, you can still return all of your unopened aligners for a prorated refund.
If you stay up to date on wearing and replacing your retainers, you’ll be qualified for a free annual aligner touch up for life. Retainers do a great job keeping your smile in check, but it’s nice to know you can rely on this touch-up program if your teeth ever shift down the line.
What if I break an aligner during treatment?
If you break an aligner, let the Smile Direct know as soon as possible. If you’re close to moving on to your next aligner, Smile Direct may suggest you just move on a few days early. However, if you’ve only just started with that aligner, Smile Direct will replace it. The first replacement is free, and any additional replacements will cost $99.
Sometimes teeth can be a little more stubborn than expected. Smile Direct knows this, which is why they have a flexible touch-up policy. If Smile Direct determines that your treatment plan needs some adjusting, you could qualify for free touch-ups (additional aligners).
Similarly, if you reach the end of your treatment and your teeth haven’t quite moved as much as your smile preview predicted, you’ll likely qualify for free additional aligners. Competitors charge up to $200 for refinements, so it’s nice to know Smile Direct provides these for free.
However, their reviews are filled with customers whose touch-up experiences haven’t been great. It’s one thing to have a generous policy, but it’s another thing to consistently deliver those promised results. Many customers had long delays with this process, so it’s possible this could extend your treatment.
Smile Direct Alternatives
Is Smile Direct right for you? After all, treating your smile is a big decision. You keep it for life! So, you may want to consider some alternatives to Smile Direct. Here are four other options to keep in mind:
If you’re looking for the fastest treatment on the market, check out Byte. They offer both daytime and nighttime treatments. And thanks to their proprietary HyperByte system, they have the shortest treatment lengths on the market. In some cases, all-day treatment can wrap up in just 4 months, and Byte At-Night in just 5 months.
Smile Direct is many things, but “cheapest” isn’t one of them (though we think they’re a fair value). That honor goes to SmilePath. SmilePath prides themselves on being the most affordable mail-order clear aligner treatment—and their $1,899 sticker price proves it.
EZ Smile makes it easy to kick off your treatment thanks to their dental network across Australia. Intraoral scans are super easy (no messy impressions here). Plus, they have a fantastic 90-day money-back guarantee and a competitive sticker price.
There’s not a ton of flexibility with most aligner companies, but WonderSmile is an exception to that. With both in-person scans and impressions, both nighttime and daytime treatment, and the option to treat just one dental arch, WonderSmile makes it easy to pick what works for you.
Should You Use Smile Direct?
Smile Direct has a lot of positives, but that doesn’t mean that they’re right for everyone. Let’s talk about when you should use Smile Direct and when you should steer clear.
✔ When to use Smile Direct:
Smile Direct can treat most mild and moderate cases of crowding and spacing, even if you’ve had braces before. If you live near a Smile Direct location, then you’re in luck. The SmileShop is the easiest way to get your treatment rolling. Also, if you want to use a nighttime-only treatment, then Smile Direct is a great choice.
✖ When NOT to use Smile Direct:
If you have a bite issue like underbite or a severe case of crowding or spacing, then you’re probably not a good candidate for any home alignment system—Smile Direct or otherwise. Pre-existing issues like implants, wisdom teeth, and cavities complicate your treatment. If you have “textbook” teeth that just need a small adjustment, however, you’re probably okay. You should also look into other options if you’re looking for the most affordable or fastest treatment.
All told, Smile Direct is a well-established name in the industry. They have an easy startup process and flexible treatment schedules. If you want to work with the most well-established home aligner company, then look no further. That said, we have other companies we prefer over Smile Direct, such as Byte and SmilePath.
✔ Best Overall Value
✔ Excellent Customer Support
✔ Thousands of Positive ReviewsVisit Website
– Many Locations
– Good Customer Support
– Thousands of Positive Reviews
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Smile Direct ever offer discounts?
Smile Direct is already an affordable way to straighten your teeth, but they also occasionally offer discounts and special promotions. For example, we’ve seen sales for free impression kits or $100-$200 off your aligners. The only year-round discount they have is for students, teachers, and military members: $150 off.
What if I’m not happy with the outcome?
Smile Direct promises a Club Warranty. Essentially, if you follow all of your prescribed treatment but you aren’t satisfied with your results, then Smile Direct will give you a free re-evaluation of your case and do their best to make it right.
Smile Direct also offers a full refund (minus shipping costs) for your treatment if you decide to cancel within 30 days.
Does Smile Direct offer nighttime-only treatment?
Yes! Smile Direct is one of the few companies to offer nighttime-only treatment. If you opt to use nighttime-only treatment, the average total treatment time jumps from 6 months to 10. That said, you’ll only need to wear the aligners for 10 hours per day (as opposed to the traditional 22 hours).
Do I need an X-ray before Smile Direct treatment?
No X-rays needed with Smile Direct! The impression kit or in-office scans are all you need to get started. These images measure the spaces and orientation of your teeth, not your bone structure. That’s assuming you have a relatively normal bone structure, though. If you suspect that your jaw is a slightly different shape or that you have a bad overbite or underbite, then you may want to get an X-ray (and consult with your dentist) to be sure that your jaw won’t hinder your treatment.
How does Smile Direct compare to Byte, SmilePath, WonderSmile, and EZ Smile?
Smile Direct is the most well-established name in the entire industry. So if you’re looking for a company with a proven track record, then Smile Direct is the best choice. SmilePath is the cheapest; EZ Smile has the best warranty policy in the industry. Last but not least, Byte has the fastest treatment times and a fantastic lifetime guarantee.
Is Smile Direct better than braces and Invisalign?
Honestly, it all depends on what you mean by “better.” Braces, Invisalign, and Smile Direct will all get the job done and leave you with an impressive grin. The real questions are how fast does treatment go, and how much are you willing to spend? Of these three options, Smile Direct is the cheapest and quickest way to get treatment.
Is Smile Direct cheaper than braces or Invisalign?
Yes! Smile Direct is cheaper than both traditional braces and Invisalign. Without discounts, Smile Direct costs $2,825 ($3,155 with financing). Invisalign can cost several thousand dollars. The same goes for braces. Ultimately, Smile Direct can cost thousands less.
Does Smile Direct treatment last forever?
Occasionally, teeth will shift post treatment. As you age (or during pregnancy), your teeth have a tendency to move. To prevent that, Smile Direct provides post-treatment retainers for $165. By wearing these retainers, you can reduce the risk that your teeth will shift back to their original positions.
Does Smile Direct offer teeth whitening services?
Yes! Smile Direct includes free whitening treatments, called Bright On, with each aligner kit purchased. If you run out, you can purchase more from Smile Direct.
I’m in a rush – is Smile Direct the fastest at-home treatment option available?
Smile Direct is pretty average; most people can expect their treatment to last for 6 months. If speed is your top priority, then Byte is your best bet. Some Byte customers can wrap up treatment in just 4 months.
Does Smile Direct have a refund policy?
Smile Direct has a refund policy that’s a bit more flexible than some of their competitors. There are two key refunds with Smile Direct. For one, you’ll get a refund on the impression kit if you are not a candidate for treatment.
In addition, Smile Direct has a 30-day refund policy. If, at any point during the first 30 days or your treatment, you change your mind, Smile Direct will give you a full refund. After 30 days, you cannot get any refunds. But if you are not satisfied once your treatment ends, you can request a reevaluation to make it right.
What happens if I mess up my impressions?
If you choose to use the impression system and take your own images at home, you’re not alone. It’s a very convenient option, especially if you don’t live near a SmileShop. But it’s possible to mess them up. If you do, don’t panic. Contact customer support, and they’ll get a new kit sent your way.
Does Smile Direct have upsells?
Smile Direct doesn’t have any hard upsells during their order process. They do have a soft one by including a free set of their whitening treatment, but that’s it. And since there’s no commitment to buy the whitening treatments after you run out, it’s not really a true upsell.
Is there an age requirement for using Smile Direct?
Smile Direct treats anyone ages 12 and up. However, they do need written parental consent to treat anyone younger than 18.
A related note: it’s a good idea to think about your wisdom teeth before getting aligner treatment. If you suspect you’ll need them removed, it’s in your best interest to take care of that first. Then your treatment will be the most effective.
Will Smile Direct make me talk funny?
With any home aligner system, you have a foreign object in your mouth. That’s unavoidable. So, your mouth might feel a bit funny, and you could have the slightest hint of a lisp. For most people, though, the aligners are minimally invasive and practically imperceptible to others.
How many hours a day should I wear my Smile Direct aligners?
That depends. If you subscribe to nighttime-only treatment, then you need to wear your aligners for 10 hours each night. So, if you sleep less than ten hours (i.e., if you’re like most of us), you should put them on a little before bed.
If you use traditional treatment, you need to wear them for 22 hours each day. In general, plan on wearing them all day unless you’re eating or drinking.
Can I drink coffee while using Smile Direct?
With any aligners, you should not eat or drink anything (except water) with your aligners in. That said, you can remove them during meals and snacks, drink, replace them, and repeat as needed.
What happens if I lose my aligners (or retainers)?
If you lose an aligner, contact Smile Direct’s support right away to order a replacement. A replacement tray costs $50. While you’re waiting for it to ship, Smile Direct recommends that you wear the tray from your previous set. That will prevent your teeth from shifting back too far.
Is Smile Direct covered by insurance?
Since Smile Direct is a cosmetic service, it’s not covered by Medicaid. If you have additional private benefits, then you might be covered. You’ll have to check with your individual provider to know for sure.
How can I contact Smile Direct’s customer support?
You can contact Smile Direct most easily by email or phone. Their email is [email protected] If you need a quicker response, it’s best to call them at 1.800.515.198.