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 relive it if the effects of their braces have worn off).
Thankfully, home teeth aligners make it possible to straighten your teeth from the comfort of your home. No braces, no wires, no office visits.
These clear aligners have become a popular alternative to braces. Why? They’re much cheaper than braces and Invisalign. They’re also much more convenient.
There are a few popular home teeth aligner companies on the market today, including WonderSmile and Smile Direct. 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 WonderSmile and Smile Direct Stack Up
Smile Direct Club was the very first company to bring clear aligners directly to the consumer using a teledentistry platform. Thanks to the fact that they were the first, they established a large customer base. Meanwhile, WonderSmile has certainly established a pretty good reputation in a relatively short time. But they aren’t as much of a household name as Smile Direct seems to be.
Both providers have plenty going for them, let’s see how they compare:
|Customers served||10,000+||1.5+ million|
|Claim to fame||Flexible treatment offerings with both nighttime and single arch treatments||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||All-day treatment: $2,900 |
Nighttime only treatment: $2,970
|Financing||20% down, then 12 monthly payments||$299 down, $119 per month for 24 months|
|Treatment length||Daytime treatment: 6 months |
NightClear treatment: 9 months
|Daytime: 4-6 months |
Nighttime: 10 months
|Start-up process||At-home impression kit or scan at a retail location||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 WonderSmile in more detail.
At first it might seem like all clear aligners are exactly the same. Which makes sense, after all; the clear aligners we review are made of safe, BPA free plastic and gradually align your smile. Aside from some core similarities, there are a few differences worth noting, too.
Typically there are two ways to trim an aligner: straight across, or scalloped to match the gumline. There are pros and cons to each approach. Straight cut aligners overlap with the gums, so the aligners can use the gums as an anchor and exert more force. However, that overlap makes them more noticeable than scalloped aligners, which are more discreet. It’s a tradeoff either way, but we typically prefer the straight cut.
Another way in which clear aligners differ across providers is their transparency. This probably sounds a little counter intuitive, but ultra clear looking aligners aren’t necessarily the most discreet. Some providers opt to make aligners from slightly frosted plastic, which blends in better with the porous surface of our teeth. Highly transparent plastic has a slight shine, which can draw attention to your treatment.
Let’s see the ways WonderSmile and Smile Direct manufacture their aligners:
|WonderSmile||Smile Direct Club|
|Manufacturer||Unknown||Smile Direct Club|
|Materials||BPA free plastic; NightClear aligners are made from a stronger, more durable resin than 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|
All things considered, Smile Direct’s aligners are slightly more discreet than WonderSmile’s, since they are made with frosted plastic. That said, don’t forget that appearance is subjective; so all you need to worry about is choosing the aligner that works for you.
We wish that WonderSmile disclosed who manufactured their aligners. Many providers partner with respected dental suppliers, and this relationship helps their customers feel confident in the quality of the product. One thing we love about WonderSmile’s treatment is that their nighttime aligners are made of thicker materials. So if you’re an overnight teeth grinder; don’t worry, you won’t have to rule out WonderSmile’s NightClear treatment.
Smile Direct recently pivoted to manufacturing their aligners themselves. So far it seems like you can expect the same high quality aligners as before (when their aligners were manufactured by Align Technology). Since transitioning to making their own aligners, Smile Direct has introduced their Comfort Sense system, which uses plastic of varied firmness all throughout the aligners to offer a better fit. It’s still a new offering, but it could make the aligners more comfortable.
These treatments happen remotely, but that doesn’t mean your providers leave you high and dry. WonderSmile and Smile Direct Club each keep an eye on your progress through photo updates you’ll submit throughout treatment. Each provider goes about their oversight a little differently, though; let’s take a look at how WonderSmile and Smile Direct compare.
|WonderSmile||Smile Direct Club|
|Frequency of check-ins||Month 1, 3, 6, and 12 of treatment||Every 90 days|
|Photos sent via||WonderSmile app||Smile Direct app|
|Treatment Length||6 months for all-day treatment, 9 months for NightClear treatment||4-6 months for all-day treatment, 10 months for Nighttime Aligners|
|Customer Support||Available via phone, email, and chat; 7 days a week||Available via app, chat, email and phone. Smile Direct says their team is available 24/7|
WonderSmile has slightly more frequent treatment oversight than Smile Direct, but the systems are pretty comparable overall. We love that both providers use a streamlined app for their photo check-ins.
If you’re stressing about capturing quality images of your teeth, don’t worry—both WonderSmile and Smile Direct include a cheek retractor to move your cheeks aside to help you take clear photos of your smile.
Outside of these regular check-ins, if you need anything during your treatment you can reach out to customer support.
Customer service is one of the categories where WonderSmile truly shines. In their third party online reviews, customers frequently thank their support reps by name.
Smile Direct has some room for improvement in their customer service department, but we’re happy to see the changes they’ve already implemented. 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 general, we’ve found that Smile Direct support is adequate, but WonderSmile is much more consistent and helpful thanks to a smaller customer base.
Bang For Your Buck
A million dollar smile is exciting, but you shouldn’t have to pay a million dollars to get it. Let’s take a look at the nitty gritty expenses from WonderSmile and Smile Direct.
|WonderSmile||Smile Direct Club|
|Startup Costs||Free in-person scan or a $99 impression kit||$79 impression kit or free scan|
|Aligner Kit||All-day treatment: $2,900 |
|Add-Ons||Whitening: $149||Free bottle of BrightOn in your treatment bundle|
|Financing||20% downpayment, then fortnightly payments determined by a credit score||$299 down, then $199 per month for 24 months|
|Post-Treatment||Aftercare retainers are $99/set||$165 per retainer set|
WonderSmile and Smile Direct both offer free 3D scans at retail locations, as well as at-home impression kits for purchase. If you’re hoping for a convenient treatment startup, then it’s hard to beat the free scans offered by WonderSmile and Smile Direct.
If these scan locations aren’t convenient for you, then you can always opt for the at-home impression kit. The price of WonderSmile’s impression kit gets refunded if you choose to buy aligners, but if you opt out of treatment, you’re out of luck.
The most notable price perk of WonderSmile is their single-arch treatment: qualifying customers who only need the top or bottom teeth treated will get $500 off their aligner kit. This isn’t an extremely common occurrence, but it’s worth noting for eligible customers.
Smile Direct’s aligner package includes a nice number of perks. You’ll get all of your aligners, two sets of post-treatment retainers (SmilePay customers only), and a bottle of BrightOn whitening. One thing we do appreciate is that Smile Direct charges the same amount for both daytime and nighttime treatment.
Can’t pay all at once? Thankfully, both services offer financing without any credit checks, so anyone can get financing.
A big perk to WonderPay is that you won’t spend anything extra for financing; you’ll just spread it out. First, you’ll need to pay at least a 20% downpayment. For example, for daytime treatment, that would be $478. After that, you’ll pay the remaining balance over 12 months.
Smile Direct’s in-house financing plan, SmilePay, requires a $299 deposit followed by 24 monthly payments of $119.
If you’re planning on breaking your treatment price up into affordable monthly payments, then go with WonderSmile. It’s tough to argue with the fact that WonderSmile doesn’t charge anything extra for financing.
Of course price and quality are important factors to consider when deciding on a provider; but so is how you’re treated throughout the process. In this section we’ll cover what you can expect from the customer experience when you choose WonderSmile or Smile Direct.
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 WonderSmile and Smile Direct.
|Top loves: Friendly customer service; minimal discomfort; simple adjustment process||Top loves: Friendly customer support; affordable; convenient to treat at home|
|Top complaints: Sometimes retainers break; mix-ups sometimes occur during account set-up||Top complaints: Billing mix-ups; sometimes aligners break; requesting re-evaluations is tedious|
|Average score: 4.6/5||Average score: 4.3/5|
Smile Direct has a mixed bag of reviews depending on what third-party website you look at. For example, they don’t rate so well on Consumer Affairs, but Trustpilot gives them a better score. This mixed bag is largely due to their mixed customer support experience. But they do have thousands of those reviews, so we’re pretty confident in their score.
WonderSmile doesn’t have the same sheer number of reviews, but most of them are positive. Yes, there are negatives, but they’re largely pretty well-received by their customers (most complaints are from people who misunderstood terms and conditions of the process).
As with any purchase, there’s always the nagging question: what if it doesn’t work out? WonderSmile and Smile Direct both have very individualized approaches for treatment guarantees.
WonderSmile promises to correct your smile at no extra cost if your teeth shift back out of alignment within the first year after treatment. To be eligible for this guarantee, you must wear your aligners and post-treatment retainers compliantly. Additionally, this guarantee only applies to the teeth originally treated by WonderSmile. Implants, bridges, or similar dental procedures may void the guarantee.
Smile Direct gives you 30 days to change your mind about your nighttime aligners. If you try it out and decide it’s not right for you, you can return them for a full refund.
Additionally, Smile Direct offers free touch-ups for life. If your teeth ever shift out of alignment—even years later—Smile Direct will send you free aligners to bring your smile back to its former glory. Just stay on top of wearing and replacing your aftercare retainers to stay eligible.
What if I break an aligner?
If you break an aligner, be sure to reach out to your provider right away; they’ll consider where you’re at in your treatment plan and determine the next steps.
Generally, WonderSmile advises their customers to move on to the next aligner if one is lost or broken. But if WonderSmile determines that it would be best to replace the aligner, they’ll do so for $50. It takes time to manufacture and ship additional aligners; so it’s usually best if you can avoid this delay in treatment.
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.
If you reach the end of your original treatment plan and your teeth need a bit more movement, you’ll need refinements (extra aligners). Both WonderSmile and Smile Direct have generous policies when it comes to refinements.
As long as you’ve stayed on top of your aligner wear and are up to date with your photo check-ins, your refinements will be covered by WonderSmile.
If you’re not totally satisfied with your Smile Direct results at the end of the treatment, you can request a re-evaluation and get new aligners to finish the job.
To be eligible for free refinements you must check in with your assigned doctor every 90 days and follow your prescribed treatment to a T. You’ll also need to submit for refinements within 30 days of completing treatment in order to be eligible.
Teeth can be a little stubborn sometimes, so generous refinement policies can give you peace of mind throughout your treatment that your results are essentially guaranteed.
Which Is the Best Home Aligner for You?
When it all comes down to it, WonderSmile 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 WonderSmile, but it’s not by a huge margin. Frankly, the two are pretty comparable. The biggest difference is that WonderSmile has better customer reviews across the board. If you rely on word of mouth “advertising,” then you will probably feel more peace of mind with WonderSmile.
Choose WonderSmile if
You want an easy start-up process, or you think you might be a good candidate for single-arch treatment and you’d like to save $500.
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 home aligner kit offer discounts?
Technically, both services offer discounts. For example, WonderSmile will occasionally offer discounts for $100-$200 off their aligners, but you’ll need to subscribe to their email list. Smile Direct offers a year-round discount for students, teachers, and first-responders. They also run occasional sales, but you’ll need to jump on the special offers first.
Are WonderSmile and Smile Direct legit?
Your mom warned you about things that sound too good to be true, right? Thankfully home aligner companies like WonderSmile 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?
WonderSmile is a bit more customer-focused. They do pretty well on the customer service front, and thanks to their smaller customer base, they’re able to serve their customers effectively.
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 or scans; 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 WonderSmile 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 EZ Smile and SmilePath and Byte?
WonderSmile and Smile Direct are both pretty similar to other clear aligner companies on the market, but each competitor has its own perks. EZ Smile has the best financing options in the industry. SmilePath has the most affordable treatment package. And last but certainly not least, Byte has the shortest treatment lengths and a fantastic lifetime guarantee.
Is there an age requirement for using either WonderSmile or Smile Direct?
With both WonderSmile 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 WonderSmile and Smile Direct will treat ages 12 and up. Minors must have parental consent prior to treatment.
Does either service give free whitening treatment?
WonderSmile doesn’t, but Smile Direct does. They include one free bottle of BrightOn, and it’s safe to use in conjunction with your aligners. If you want to whiten your teeth during WonderSmile treatment, you can buy their kit for $149.
Do WonderSmile and Smile Direct have aggressive upsells?
Not really. You could argue that Smile Direct has a soft one because the first bottle of whitening is free, but since there is no obligation to buy additional bottles once the first one is gone, it can’t be classified as 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 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?
It depends on your treatment provider. Usually, WonderSmile will recommend that you move on to your next aligner (or go back to the previous one) until you’re scheduled to move to the next step. If you’d still like (or need) a replacement, you’ll need to pay $50.
With Smile Direct, you should get in touch with customer support. They’ll help you determine if you need to replace the lost aligner or just move on to the next one. If you do need a replacement, they won’t charge you for the first one. You will need to pay for subsequent replacements (the exact price will be determined by their dental team).
With either company, you should wear your previous aligner until a replacement arrives. That will keep your teeth from shifting too far back.
Can I drink coffee when using WonderSmile or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from WonderSmile 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?
Not exactly. With both Smile Direct and WonderSmile, the price you see is the price you pay. But one additional expense you might not expect will be post-treatment retainers. Both companies are pretty clear that these retainers are a necessity, but they don’t list them in the initial treatment price. Smile Direct gives two sets of retainers to SmilePay customers, but others will pay an extra $165. With WonderSmile, each set of retainers cost $99.