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
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. Not to mention their sister companies (AlignerCo in the U.S. and Straight My Teeth in the U.K.), which increase SmilePath’s experience and reach.
|SmilePath||Smile Direct Club|
|Customers served||Thousands||1.5 million|
|Claim to fame||Most affordable treatment in the industry||Best brand power in the industry|
|No food restrictions?||✓||✓|
|No office visits?||✓||✓|
|Personalized customer service?|
|Free retainers?||✓||Only with SmilePay|
|Price Tag?||All-day treatment: $1,899 |
|Financing Available?||Both treatment plans have two financing options; one that requires a credit check; and one that requires a downpayment||100% approval for in-house financing, SmilePay|
|Treatment Length?||All-day treatment: 4-6 months |
NightOnly treatment: 6-8 months
|All-day treatment: 4-6 months |
Nighttime Aligners: 10 months
|Start-Up Process?||At-home impression kit||At-home 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 SmilePath in more detail.
When you first start researching clear aligner companies, it may seem like the clear aligners themselves are all identical. That’s totally understandable, since there are plenty of similarities across companies. For example, they’re all made from medical grade, BPA-free plastic. There are many core similarities, but there are some differences worth noting, too.
There are two main ways to trim an aligner: straight across, or scalloped to match the gumline. Both designs have their advantages and disadvantages. The straight cut overlaps with your gums, and it uses that overlap to exert more force. However, the overlap also makes straight cut aligners a little more visible. Scalloped cut aligners are more discreet by comparison, just a little less powerful.
Some providers make their clear aligners from ultra clear plastic, while others use plastic that has a slightly frosted look to it. Most people assume that the clearer the aligner, the more invisible it is. However, frosted aligners are actually the most low profile option. Our teeth have a porous surface, so a frosted, matte aligner better blends in with our natural grins. A clear, shiny aligner can catch the light, making treatment a little more noticable.
Let’s take a look at choices SmilePath and Smile Direct have made for their clear aligner designs:
|SmilePath||Smile Direct Club|
|Manufacturer||RaintreeEssix||Smile Direct Club|
|Materials||Medical grade, BPA free plastic||BPA free, Comfort Sense plastic; which uses plastics of varied firmness to provide a better aligner fit|
|Aligner Cut||Scalloped||Straight cut|
|Aligner Transparency||Clear, shiny plastic||Slightly frosted plastic|
SmilePath has their aligners manufactured by RaintreeEssix, a trusted dental supplier that’s been making clear aligners since 2005.
Smile Direct used to be first in their class when it came to aligner quality since they had a partnership with Align technology (the company behind Invisalign’s aligners). They’ve dissolved that partnership and now make their aligners in-house. So far we don’t see any evidence that their quality has dipped since this transition.
SmilePath prioritizes a low profile look by making aligners that are scalloped to match the gumline. These trays can’t exert as much force, but your treatment is sure to fly under the radar.
Smile Direct focuses on effectiveness, by trimming their aligners straight across the top in order to exert more force. This makes them a little more visible, but we think it’s well worth it for the added aligner strength.
SmilePath’s aligners are made from clear, shiny plastic. Smile Direct, on the other hand, makes their aligners from the more subtle, matte option. Though we think Smile Direct’s aligner plastic makes them the more low profile choice, don’t forget that appearance is subjective. Some people like having an added shine to their smiles. All that’s important is you find the aligner that works for you.
Just because these treatments happen remotely doesn’t mean you’ll be left high and dry. Instead of office visits, at-home clear aligner providers oversee your progress through photos you’ll submit throughout your treatment. The sophistication and frequency of these check-ins varies from company to company, so let’s take a look at how SmilePath and Smile Direct handle your treatment oversight.
|SmilePath||Smile Direct Club|
|Frequency of check-ins||Every 10-14 days||Every 90 days|
|Photos sent via||Smile Direct app|
|Treatment Length||All-day treatment: 4-6 months |
NightOnly treatment: 6-8 months
|All-day treatment: 4-6 months |
Nighttime Aligners: 10 months
|Customer Support||Available phone, email, and webchat; 7 days a week||Available via app, chat, email and phone. Smile Direct says their team is available 24/7|
SmilePath gets their eyes on your treatment progress more frequently than Smile Direct. That said, frequency isn’t everything. We like that Smile Direct streamlines their process through their easy to use app. SmilePath handles their oversight through email, which can be a little more chaotic.
If you need anything outside of these regular check-ins, you can reach out to customer support.
Thanks to their small customer base, SmilePath can offer excellent support to each customer. In their online reviews, customers frequently thank their support reps by name. Their webchat is a great way to get a speedy response, but their other methods are also viable.
SmilePath’s advertised treatment lengths aren’t necessarily consistent with the treatment lengths we see reported in their customer reviews. Their sister companies receive the same feedback, so consider taking their projected timeline with a grain of salt. Of course your treatment might conclude within that time frame, but it could also take much longer.
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.
Smile Direct usually does well responding in a timely manner and answering questions. But every now and then, customers wait a while for responses.
All told, you’ll have consistent support and oversight from both companies, but SmilePath is a bit more reliable.
Bang For Your Buck
One of the main draws of remote treatments is their comparative affordability to traditional options like braces and Invisalign. But how much can you expect to pay from start to finish? In this section, we’ll dig into the nitty gritty details of pricing from SmilePath and Smile Direct.
|SmilePath||Smile Direct Club|
|Startup Costs||$75 impression kit||$79 impression kit or free scan|
|Aligner Kit||All-day treatment: $1,899 |
|Add-Ons||Whitening: $59.99||Smile DIrect includes their BrightOn whitening for free in their aligner kits|
|Financing||Both treatment plans have two financing options; one that requires a credit check; and one that requires a downpayment||$299 down, followed by $199 monthly payments for 24 months|
|Post-Treatment||First set of aftercare retainers are free; then you can purchase them in bulk ($512 for 8 sets)||$165 per retainer set|
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 startup process more convenient.
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.
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.
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.
SmilePath has the most affordable treatment prices in the industry. And as a nice plus, nighttime treatment only costs $100 more. Even with their low cost, SmilePath still manages to include a free set of aftercare retainers in your treatment bundle.
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. We appreciate that Smile Direct charges the same amount for both daytime and nighttime treatment.
Can’t pay all at once? Thankfully, both services offer financing.
With SmilePath, each treatment option has two different financing plans: one that requires a credit check, and one that requires a downpayment.
Pending a credit check, for all-day treatment you’ll make 18 monthly payments of $117. Alternatively, you can make a $499 downpayment followed by 6 monthly payments of $300. NightOnly pricing is similar, the payments are just a bit higher. For NightOnly, pending a credit check, you can make 18 monthly payments of $122. Or you can make a downpayment of $555 followed by 6 monthly payments of $316.
No matter what your credit score is, you’ll be eligible for Smile Direct’s financing plan, SmilePay. It requires a $299 deposit and then 24 monthly payments of $119. If you subscribe to financing, you also get two sets of post-treatment retainers for free.
Smile Direct is considerably pricier than SmilePath, but it’s a decent value. But you can’t argue with 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.
Many of us know how to scout out a low price on a high quality item. But when you’re shopping for clear aligner treatment, it’s also important to consider how your provider treats their customers. After all, this is your smile we’re talking about! Let’s see what you can expect from the customer experience when you choose SmilePath 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 SmilePath and Smile Direct.
|SmilePath||Smile Direct Club|
|Top loves:||Small company feel; friendly support; extremely affordable; easy to complete the process||Friendly customer support; very affordable; convenient to treat at home|
|Top complaints:||Frequent emails; sometimes photos get lost; written impression instructions can be tricky||Billing mix-ups; sometimes aligners break; requesting re-evaluations is tedious|
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, and Straight My Teeth in the U.K., 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.
As with any purchase, there’s always the nagging question: what if it doesn’t work out? SmilePath and Smile Direct take very different approaches to guaranteeing your treatment.
SmilePath offers the industry standard guarantee: if SmilePath determines you aren’t eligible for treatment, they’ll refund you the cost of the impression kit (and anything you’ve already put towards treatment).
Smile Direct also offers a refund on their impression kits for those not qualified for treatment, but they take their refunds a step further. Smile Direct gives you 30 days to change your mind about your aligners. If you try it out and decide it’s not right for you, you can return them for a full refund.
Smile Direct also offers a lifetime guarantee on your smile. If your teeth ever shift after treatment, Smile Direct will send you free aligners to get your smile back to its former glory. To stay eligible for this offer be sure to stay on top of wearing and replacing your aftercare retainers.
What if I break an aligner?
Accidents happen—if you break an aligner, be sure to reach out to your provider right away. They’ll advise you on what steps to take based on where you’re at in your treatment plan.
SmilePath doesn’t replace aligners, so they usually suggest their customers to move on to the next aligner in their treatment plan.
Smile Direct may advise for you to move ahead with the next aligner, other times they may recommend a replacement. Smile Direct generously offers one replacement for free. You’ll need to pay for subsequent replacements; the exact price will be determined by Smile Direct’s dental team. Be sure to wear your most recent aligners while you wait for a replacement to arrive, so your teeth don’t shift too far out of position.
If you finish your original treatment plan and your smile still needs an adjustment or two, you’ll need refinements (extra aligners). Every provider approaches this process a little differently.
If you reach the end of your SmilePath treatment and you’re not satisfied with your results, SmilePath will give you an adjustment and send new aligners your way. However, their refinements cost an additional $270. It’s never fun to spend extra money, but we think SmilePath’s low sticker price helps soften the blow of this potential expense.
Smile Direct handles refinements through their 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 for free 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 the prescribed daily amount, 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.
Let’s face it—teeth alignment is never going to be a completely painless experience. It just comes with the territory. Even traditional options like braces and Invisalign come with their fair share of aches and pains. Typically the soreness is strongest when you switch to a new aligner, since these will have a snugger fit than the previous set. It should only last a day or two, and switching your aligners at nighttime is a great way to sleep through most of the discomfort.
Since Smile Direct’s pivot to making their aligners in-house, they’ve introduced the Comfort Sense system. Essentially this uses plastics of varying firmness throughout the aligners to offer a more comfortable wear experience. It’s not totally clear yet if this makes an appreciable difference for their customers, but it’s worth noting.
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 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 treatment: 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 shortest treatment lengths 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.
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 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. You’ll need to pay for subsequent replacements—the exact amount will be determined by Smile Direct’s dental team. Be sure to wear your previous aligner until your replacement arrives. That will keep your teeth from shifting too far back.
With SmilePath, you should also reach out to customer support right away. However, SmilePath doesn’t replace aligners, so they’ll likely recommend you move on to the next aligner in your set.
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.