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 convenience of your house. 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 SmilePath 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 SmilePath and Smile Direct stack up
|Claim to fame||Most affordable treatment on the market||Making treatment as flexible as possible with both nighttime treatment and in-person scans|
|No food restrictions||✓||✓|
|No office visits||✓||✓|
|Start-up process||Impression kit only||In-person scan at a SmileShop or an impression kit|
|Treatment speed||Daytime: 6 to 11 months|
Nighttime: 8 to 12 months
|Daytime: 4 to 6 months Nighttime: 10 months|
|Price tag||Daytime: $1,899 Nighttime: $1,999||$2,825|
|Financing||SmileFlex (daytime): 18 monthly payments of $117|
SmileFlex Easy (daytime): $299 downpayment, then 12 monthly payments of $150
|$299 downpayment (no credit check), followed by 24 monthly payments of $119|
|Free retainers||First two sets included|
Intrigued? That’s just the flyby! Let’s dig into the differences between Smile Direct and SmilePath in more detail.
Company Track Records
Home teeth alignment is a fairly new industry. Even so, it’s important to consider each company’s respective track record. Here’s how the two compare:
|Founded:Tough to find their exact date, but they started in the U.S. earlier than in Australia||Founded: 2014 (stateside start)|
|Customers served: Thousands, especially by their U.S. counterpart, SmilePath||Customers served: well over 1.5 Million when you factor in U.S. customers|
|Company focus: Make treatment more accessible with the most affordable price in the industry||Company focus: Make treatment easy to fit in your busy lifestyle|
SmilePath is a relatively new company, but to be fair, the whole home clear aligner industry is pretty new. Smile Direct Club, however, was actually the first company to bring clear aligners directly to the customer. So it’s hard to compete with Smile Direct’s longevity. That said, SmilePath has established a pretty solid reputation for themselves in a short amount of time.
No two smiles are exactly alike. So, regardless of what company you choose for treatment, your treatment could be longer or shorter than someone else’s. Your treatment speed largely depends on the severity of your crowding or spacing.
That said, each company’s product affects your treatment speed as well. Here are the average treatment times for SmilePath and Smile Direct:
- SmilePath: 6 to 11 months for daytime treatment, 8 to 12 for nighttime treatment
- Smile Direct: 4 to 6 months for daytime treatment; 10 months for nighttime
If you’re looking for the fastest treatment on the market, you won’t get it in Smile Direct or SmilePath (the “speediest” honor goes to Byte). Smile Direct advertises times as low as 4 months, but typically, we find that they take close to 6 months. SmilePath is usually even slower. But compared to the speed of braces and Invisalign, both SmilePath and Smile Direct are both pretty fast.
Pricing & Features
Let’s talk about bang for your buck. In this section, we’ll dig into the details about the pricing details for impression kits, treatment, and whitening from SmilePath and Smile Direct.
With any home aligner company, you’ll kick off your treatment by taking impressions of your teeth. Most companies require you to use an at-home impression kit. However, a few companies, including Smile Direct, maintain retail locations that make the impression kit more convenient.
Here’s how the kit prices stack up:
- SmilePath, $75 or FREE: SmilePath includes everything you’ll need to kick off your treatment: putty, trays, a prepaid shipping label, and of course, detailed instructions. The $75 price tag isn’t too bad, but if you decide to pay for all of your treatment up front, SmilePath will throw in the kit at no extra charge. So in a sense, you get the impression kit for free if you pay up front (Note: SmilePath will refund the entire cost of treatment if it turns out that you aren’t a good candidate, so there’s no risk to paying the full cost right away if you want).
- Smile Direct, $79 or FREE: One big perk to Smile Direct is that they maintain retail locations across Australia, affectionately named SmileShops. At these shops, you can get a scan taken for free. But if you’d rather DIY this step, you can still order an impression kit for $79.
Many customers complain that impression kits are tricky to complete on their own, so it’s a big perk that Smile Direct offers both in-person scans and kits. That way, if you choose, you can let a professional handle all the tricky parts. It’s also a nice way to ask any questions you have before purchasing.
SmilePath only offers impression kits at this time, but they don’t leave you hanging without any help. They offer video support sessions for impression kits. If you schedule one, you’ll use video chat to meet with a customer support representative. They’ll coach you through the process, ensuring that you nail your impressions on the first try.
Once you complete your impressions or scans, SmilePath or Smile Direct will create your personalized treatment plan. This includes all of the aligners you’ll need to shift your smile from meh to wow. Regardless of how many aligners you need, your price will be the same. Let’s start out by discussing the base prices for each service.
- SmilePath, $1,899 ($1,999 for nighttime treatment): SmilePath has the most affordable treatment price in the industry. And as a nice plus, nighttime treatment only costs $100 more. They don’t include a ton of “bells and whistles” in the kit; you’ll just get the aligners you need to perfect your smile. But with such an affordable price tag, it’s hard to complain about a simple kit.
- Smile Direct, $2,825: Smile Direct is one of the pricier treatment kits on the market, but they do give you 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.
Smile Direct isn’t an all-out price gouge, but it is pretty pricey. Thanks to the perks they include, we think they’re a fair value. But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, you’re better off pursuing SmilePath.
Can’t pay all at once? Thankfully, both services offer financing. And as long as you pay the down payment, there’s a 100% approval rate.
- SmileFlex, $2,106 (daytime): SmileFlex is SmilePath’s financing plan that requires a credit check; if you pass the check, you’ll get a simple payment schedule of $117 for 18 months, no downpayment necessary. The terms are just slightly different for nighttime treatments.
- SmileFlex Easy, $2,099 (daytime): SmileFlex Easy doesn’t require a credit check. Instead, you’ll pay a $299 downpayment and slightly bigger monthly payments of $150. But the monthly payments only last 12 months. And like standard SmileFlex, the terms are just a little different if you opt for nighttime treatment.
- Smile Direct, $3,155: No matter what your credit score is, you’ll be eligible for SmilePay, their financing plan. It requires a $299 deposit and then 24 monthly payments of $119. If you subscribe to financing, you also get two sets of free post-treatment retainers.
Smile Direct is considerably pricier than SmilePath, but it’s a decent value. However, we love the sheer affordability of SmilePath. They’re roughly $1,000 cheaper than the single payment option of Smile Direct. And since the only real difference between their treatment kits is whitening (you essentially pay extra for two retainers with SmilePay), we have to say that for most people, SmilePath is a better value.
No one anticipates having issues with their aligners, but stuff happens. That’s life. When it does, you’ll need to talk with customer support. We’ve tested them ourselves, and here’s how the two compare:
|Contact methods: Phone, chat, and email||Contact methods: Phone, email, and chat|
|Response times: really quick by chat and phone, especially during their 12-hour service window||Response times: fastest by phone, but notoriously slow compared to their competitors|
|Friendliness: Personal, kind, and helpful||Friendliness: Professional, but sometimes a bit pushy|
|Takeaway: Thanks to their small customer base, SmilePath can offer excellent support to each customer. Customers frequently thank their support reps by name.||Takeaway: Smile Direct usually does well responding in a timely manner and answering questions. But every now and then, customers wait a while for responses.|
A little word of disclaimer here: for the most part, Smile Direct does pretty well with their customer support teams. But back in 2017, Smile Direct experienced near-explosive growth, and their customer base surpassed their team size. Since then, customer support has improved, but it’s still a touch spotty.
In an ideal circumstance, you won’t even have to get in touch with customer support (we hope your entire treatment goes off without a hitch, after all). But life happens, and when you do need to chat, you want to know you’ll get prompt, friendly support. All told, you’ll get support from both, but SmilePath is a bit more reliable.
Ease of Getting Started
Ease is the name of the game when it comes to at-home aligner treatment. But not all aligner companies use the same process. Some are a bit easier than others.
The same goes for SmilePath and Smile Direct, and Smile Direct definitely takes the win here. Thanks to their retail locations across the country, it’s fairly easy to get started with a 3D in-person scan. As an added plus, it’s a nice way to get quick answers to any questions you have before you make any monetary commitments.
SmilePath, however, doesn’t have retail locations. If you’d rather use SmilePath (or you can’t visit one of Smile Direct’s locations), you’ll need to order an impression kit and complete the process from home. Their video support sessions are really helpful; having a customer service rep coach you through the process ensures you get the impressions right the first time.
What if I get it wrong?
Impression kits are a tad tricky, so don’t panic if you mess them up. If the impressions are iffy—they could work, but you’re not sure—send them in. The orthodontists will let you know if you need to try again.
If you’re sure you’ve botched the impressions, contact customer support at SmilePath or Smile Direct. They’ll get another kit sent your way. This will delay your start-up process a bit since you’ll have to wait for shipping both ways. But it’s essential to get a good impression to ensure your aligners fit perfectly once they’re manufactured.
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 SmilePath and Smile Direct.
|Top loves: small company feel; friendly support; extremely affordable; easy to complete the process||Top loves: Friendly customer support; very affordable; convenient to treat at home|
|Top complaints: frequent emails; sometimes photos get lost; written impression instructions can be tricky||Top complaints: billing mix-ups; sometimes aligners break; requesting re-evaluations is tedious|
|Average score: 4.7/5||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.
Meanwhile, SmilePath doesn’t seem to have lots of reviews at first glance. But when you account for the fact that they also operate under the name AlignerCo in the States, they have a pretty solid sampling of reviews. Their score is a bit higher than Smile Direct’s, but for the most part, both companies receive pretty good rankings from their customers.
Refund Policies & Satisfaction Guarantees
As with any purchase, there’s always the nagging question: what if it doesn’t work out? SmilePath and Smile Direct both have very individualized approaches for refunds and satisfaction guarantees.
SmilePath’s Satisfaction Policy
SmilePath doesn’t have as fantastic of a guarantee as some of their competitors. If you reach the end of your treatment and you’re not pleased with your smile, SmilePath won’t leave you high and dry. For an additional charge, SmilePath will give you an adjustment and send new aligners your way. Other competitors will give you this adjustment for free as long as you’ve worn your aligners compliantly.
Smile Direct’s “Club Warranty”
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.
Then there’s the Club Warranty. Smile Direct promises its “club members” (AKA customers) that if they’re not totally satisfied with the results at the end of the treatment, they can request a re-evaluation and get new aligners to finish the job.
To be eligible for this warranty, you must check in with your assigned doctor every 90 days and follow your prescribed treatment to a T. You have to wear your aligners for 10 hours each night (so slightly before you actually go to sleep) and switch each aligner as scheduled. If you’ve followed your treatment, then all requests for re-evaluation must be submitted within 30 days of finishing treatment to be eligible for the warranty.
Which Is the Best Home Aligner for You?
When it all comes down to it, SmilePath 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 SmilePath. Smile Direct is a huge brand, but a higher treatment cost and some slip-ups on the customer support front drops them to our #5 spot. SmilePath, however, ranks at #2. It’s hard to argue with their budget-friendly price point.
Choose SmilePath if:
You want the most budget-friendly (but still effective and safe) treatment on the market without lots of extra bells and whistles.
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 thousand 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, while we’re writing this guide, SmilePath is running a sale for more than $400 off their aligners. Smile Direct runs seasonal sales on top of their year-round discounts for students, teachers, and first-responders. If you find a good sale, you’ll want to jump on it.
Are SmilePath and Smile Direct legit?
Your mom warned you about things that sound too good to be true, right? Thankfully home aligner companies like SmilePath 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?
We think the small-company feel of SmilePath makes them more customer-focused. Smile Direct does an adequate job, but they don’t really compare to Smile Direct.
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 SmilePath 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 WonderSmile and Byte?
SmilePath and Smile Direct are both pretty similar to the other clear aligner companies on the market, but each competitor has its own perks. EZ Smile has the best financing plans in the industry, while WonderSmile offers a lot of flexibility with nighttime treatment and single-arch treatment. Last but certainly not least, Byte has the fastest treatment speed and a fantastic lifetime guarantee.
Is there an age requirement for using either SmilePath or Smile Direct?
With both SmilePath 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). Smile Direct will treat ages 12 and up; SmilePath bumps that number up to 14. That said, minors should get parental consent prior to getting treatment.
Does either service give free whitening treatment?
Currently, SmilePath keeps their treatment as affordable as possible by only including your aligners without any extras. Smile Direct, however, does offer one free bottle of BrightOn in your aligner kit. If you run out, you can purchase more from their Smile Accessories shop.
Do SmilePath and Smile Direct have aggressive upsells?
Not really. Smile Direct has a soft one because they include one free bottle of their whitening treatment. But since there’s no obligation to purchase any more once your first bottle runs out, 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 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?
It depends on your treatment provider. 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. Subsequent replacements will cost you $50, though. SmilePath customers, however, might get free replacements if they purchase the WorryFree Protection Plan (others will need to pay a small fee). With either company, though, you should wear your previous aligner until your replacement arrives. That will keep your teeth from shifting too far back.
Can I drink coffee when using SmilePath or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from SmilePath 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. The price you see at the get-go is the price you pay from start to finish. Where some “hidden” costs come in is with maintaining your smile after treatment. You’ll need post-treatment retainers. If you subscribe to SmilePay, you’ll get two sets for free. But if you opt for SmilePath (or you pay the lump sum with Smile Direct), you’ll need to pay extra. These costs aren’t exactly hidden, but not all customers realize that those costs are ongoing to protect your smile forever.