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 clear 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? Not only are they more convenient, their treatment lengths take just a fraction of the time of traditional options.
There are a few popular at-home clear aligner companies on the market today, including Candid and Smile Direct. In this comparison review, we’ll help you decide which of these two providers is the better option for your unique circumstances.
Spoiler | Candid Wins
We highly recommend Candid. They offer high-quality aligners at a reasonable price.
3 Things They Have in Common
For the bulk of this review, we’ll talk about the ways Candid and Smile Direct are different. But they do have a fair bit in common. On the obvious side, both companies will help you perfect your grin. But the commonalities between Candid and Smile Direct go much deeper than that:
- Convenience: Traditional treatment options like braces and Invisalign require in-person appointments every 4-8 weeks of your treatment. That’s no small feat for a busy adult. With at-home clear aligners like Candid and Smile Direct, the bulk of your treatment is completed from the comfort of your own home.
- Discreet: Candid and Smile Direct use slightly different aligners, but you’d hardly know by looking at them. In fact, when they’re in, either company’s aligners are practically invisible.
- Safe: We get it. Home dentistry (also called teledentistry) sounds a bit sketchy. But in reality, it isn’t. Both Candid and Smile Direct use teams of qualified dental professionals to create a custom treatment plan just for you. They combine your dental impressions or scans with advanced technology to craft a personalized series of aligners. Basically, they’ve taken the technology Invisalign perfected and brought it to the comfort of your home.
That covers the main similarities. For the remainder of this review, we’ll dig into the differences so you can pick the clear aligner company that’s best for you.
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: 2017||Founded: 2014|
|Customers served: 70,000+||Customers served: 1.5 million+|
|Company focus: Offering a hybrid clear aligner treatment that combines at-home convenience with in-office expert oversight||Company focus: Making dental care more accessible to the estimated 80% of Americans who need it|
Smile Direct dwarfs its competitors when it comes to customer volume. Honestly, only Invisalign has served more clients. But for as young (relatively speaking) as Candid is, they’ve treated an impressive base, too.
Candid began as a premium at-home clear aligner provider. However, they’ve recently made a switch to “CandidPro,” a hybrid at-home/in-office treatment model that offers the flexibility of remote treatments, but with the hands-on attention of a local dentist.
If you’re hoping to work with the most well-established brand in the industry, go with Smile Direct. If you’re hoping to find the highest level of treatment oversight in at-home treatments, then Candid may be a better fit for you.
You’ll receive a high quality treatment with both Candid and Smile Direct, but the way the treatment process actually unfolds will look a bit different from one company to the next. With Smile Direct, you’ll submit photos every 90 days to your provider so that they can see how your treatment is progressing. They call these updates their Smile Check-Ins.
Candid offers more consistent oversight with their remote monitoring system: CandidMonitoring. Using your smartphone and a special imaging device, you’ll submit photos every 10-14 days for the Candid team and your local dentist to review. These frequent updates can help your treatment stay on track. Due to CandidMonitoring, if an issue ever arises, the Candid team and/or your local dentist can intervene early without causing treatment delays.
Additionally, Candid offers a more comprehensive treatment than Smile Direct Club. Candid is able to move every tooth, including the molars. The rest of their at-home aligner competitors (Smile Direct Club included) mainly focus on the upper and lower front six teeth (also known as “the social six”).
So long story short, you get convenient orthodontics with both Smile Direct and Candid. Candid just provides a little more oversight throughout the process, and is able to treat your whole smile.
No two smiles are exactly alike. So, regardless of what company you choose, your treatment could be longer or shorter than someone else’s. Your treatment length largely depends on the severity of your crowding or spacing.
That said, each company’s product affects your treatment length as well. Here are the average treatment times for Candid and Smile Direct:
- Candid: 6-9 months average
- Smile Direct: 6 months for standard treatment, 10 months for nighttime-only
Candid only offers traditional daytime treatment. Both of these companies meet the industry averages for treatment length. That said, with Candid, there is a chance that you’ll be able to move on to your next aligner a little sooner than expected due to the oversight of CandidMonitoring. If your teeth respond well to treatment, this could shorten your treatment by a few weeks.
A word of caution, though: you should never move on to your next aligner without the go-ahead from the Candid team or your dentist. Moving on too soon can do more harm than good. Only a dental professional can judge when it’s safe to do so, so be sure to wait for their go-ahead.
Pricing & Features
Let’s talk about bang for your buck. In this section, we’ll dig into the pricing details for start-up costs, treatment, and whitening from Candid and Smile Direct.
Treatment Start-Up Costs
In order to build your treatment plan, your provider needs to see your teeth. With Smile Direct this can happen one of two ways: either by a scan at one of their hundreds of retail scanning locations, or with an at-home impression kit.
With Candid you’ll begin your treatment with an appointment with one of their partnered dentists. Unfortunately the in-person nature of this option means that if you don’t live near a Candid dentist, you’ll need to choose another provider for treatment. That being said, Candid has already partnered with over 200 dentists, and they’re expanding all the time.
Here’s how the start-up prices stack up:
- Candid, FREE: To kickstart your Candid treatment you’ll need to book a free consultation with a local partnered dentist. At this appointment your dentist will determine whether or not you’re suitable for treatment, take intraoral scans, photos, and X-rays, and have an in-depth conversation about what your treatment goals are. With that information they’ll collaborate with the Candid orthodontics team to craft a treatment plan just for you.
- Smile Direct, FREE or $59: One of Smile Direct’s biggest edges over the competition is their 300+ SmileShops. You can visit one of these shops and have images taken in person instead of taking impressions. If you do, it’s free! There’s no obligation to proceed with treatment, either. But if you don’t live near a SmileShop, you can still take your impressions at home. Their $59 kit is often on sale, so keep your eye out for that. We’ve seen the price drop below $20 before.
If you send in impressions and it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, Smile Direct Club will refund the kit price. If you are a candidate, though, you’ll pay the kit price regardless of whether or not you decide to proceed.
The treatment plan that Candid and Smile Direct build for you will include every aligner you need to transform your teeth into a smile you’re proud of. Let’s outline the base prices for these services.
- Candid, $3,500+: Candid’s pricing is determined by the partnered local dentist who oversees your treatment. The base price is $3,500, but it could be more. This price covers your aligners, the CandidMonitoring system, all in-person appointments, plus a bottle of whitening foam. This is significantly more expensive than fully remote clear aligner options, but that’s to be expected because of the added costs of in-person care.
- Smile Direct, $2,050: With Smile Direct, the price you see is also (usually) the price you get. Like Candid, they include all the aligners you’ll need to treat your smile. If you start treatment off with a scan, you’ll receive a free bottle of whitening. Post-treatment retainers are available at an additional cost ($99).
Can’t pay all at once? Let’s explore each provider’s financing options.
- Candid, Varies: The financing terms of your treatment will vary from office to office, just like the cost. Be sure to ask what your financing options are during your initial treatment consultation with your dentist.
- Smile Direct, $2,564: Smile Direct has a 100% approval rate, so your credit score doesn’t matter. To kick off financing, they require a fairly standard down payment of $250. After that, you’ll pay $89 per month for 26 months.
Both Candid and Smile Direct offer whitening treatments that are safe to use during your aligner treatment. Typically the first bottle is complimentary. If you want additional whitening down the road, then you’ll need to shell out a little extra cash:
- Candid, $25: The first bottle is included in your aligner kit for free. It’s safe to use during your treatment; in fact, it doubles as a cleanser for your aligners.
- Smile Direct, $40-45: Like Candid, Smile Direct includes one free whitening kit with your treatment (if you opt to begin treatment with a scan). After that, the price for extra whitening depends on the size of the supply. Each kit includes teeth whitening pens. The more expensive ones also include an LED light to speed things up. You can purchase a 6- or 12-month supply (note that the 12-month supply doesn’t include the LED light; if you need an LED replacement, you can get one for $22).
Candid and Smile Direct both offer quality treatment, each at a different price point. But to be fair, we don’t think Candid is a price gouge in any sense. Candid’s hybrid treatment option is naturally more expensive, since it requires the collaboration and oversight of a partnered local dentist. But if affordability is a top priority for you, then Smile Direct may be a better match for you.
No one anticipates having issues with their aligners, but stuff happens. That’s life. When it does, you’ll need to talk with your provider’s support team.
We’ve tested the support teams from both services ourselves, and here’s how the two compare:
|Contact methods: Phone, email, webchat, social media, & video call (occasionally)||Contact methods: Phone, email, webchat, social media|
|Hours: Daily from 9 a.m to 7 p.m. EST||Hours: “Customer Care Available 24/7” (per their website)|
|Speed: Traditional methods like email and phone usually get a same-day response; social media queries can take 24 hours||Speed: Hit-or-miss; phone gets a same-day response (occasional hold times); email delay up to 24 hours, webchat typically the fastest|
|Friendliness: Receptive, knowledgeable, & professional||Friendliness: Professional & upbeat|
|Takeaway: Candid’s patient support isn’t perfect, but most of the time, you’ll get prompt responses from helpful, friendly representatives.||Takeaway: Smile Direct’s support team is adequate, but there’s some room for improvement. And they’re working on it.|
Smile Direct’s support team definitely has room for improvement, but we’re glad to see the progress they’ve already made. 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 of online reviews).
Candid’s patient support isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than Smile Direct’s, especially in terms of responsiveness. Most people won’t wait around as long for a response from Candid. Plus, you’ll have the support of your local dentist office as well. The dentist’s availability will vary from practice to practice, but you can count on two-fold support when you choose Candid.
Ease of Getting Started
Ease is the name of the game when it comes to at-home clear aligner treatment. But not all aligner companies use the same process. Some are a bit easier than others.
The same goes for Candid and Smile Direct. These two home clear aligner companies are giants of the industry, but they approach treatment start up differently. Smile Direct Club offers the option between a complimentary in-person scan at their 300+ SmileShops, or an at-home impression kit. Customers rave about their experience at the SmileShops, but if the locations aren’t convenient for you then you can always opt for the impression kit.
Candid kickstarts treatment with an in-person appointment with a Candid partnered dentist. There your dentist will determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for treatment, take intraoral scans, photos, and X-rays, and answer any questions you may have. This means that if you do not live near a partnered Candid dentist, you will need to choose a different treatment option.
What if I get it wrong?
Impression kits are a tad tricky, so don’t panic if you mess up. If your impressions are iffy—they could work, but you’re not sure—send them in to Smile Direct. The orthodontists will let you know if you need to try again.
If you’re sure you’ve botched the impressions, contact Smile Direct’s support team. They’ll get started on sending another kit your way. Smile Direct promises that they’ll refund the cost of the replacement kit when you purchase your aligners.
For many shoppers, online 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 Candid and Smile Direct.
|Top loves: Excellent support, CandidMonitoring keeps things on track; convenient, effective treatment||Top loves: Friendly customer support; very affordable; convenient to treat at home|
|Top complaints: Requests for refinements are a hassle; a little more discomfort than other aligners; emails can get spammy||Top complaints: Billing mix-ups; sometimes aligners break; requesting re-evaluations is tedious|
|Average score: 4.2/5||Average score: 4/5|
Like we mentioned earlier, online reviews indicate that Smile Direct’s support team had some rough patches around 2017. And while they’re not perfect just yet, they have made some improvements. The most common complaint they still receive has to do with treatment re-evaluations. That is concerning, but that’s the biggest drawback to any home aligners, no matter what company you choose. Making amendments remotely is more challenging than in person.
All told, Candid has slightly better reviews across the board. The ratio of positives-to-negatives is more favorable, and the negatives the patients express are less concerning than Smile Direct’s. Yes, people say that the aligners cause some discomfort, but that’s somewhat unavoidable.
We should mention that because the transition to CandidPro is so recent, there are virtually no reviews detailing this new hybrid treatment form. We’ll keep checking back for those, but we definitely think their overall positive reviews from their fully remote treatment should still be taken into account.
Refund Policies & Satisfaction Guarantees
As with any purchase, there’s always the nagging question: what if it doesn’t work out? Candid and Smile Direct approach refunds and guarantees differently.
Like other in-office treatment options, Candid doesn’t have refunds or overarching guarantees about the results of your treatment. All of those policies are determined by the dentist administering your care.
Smile Direct’s “Club Warranty”
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.
Then there’s the Club Warranty. Smile Direct promises its club members 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, follow your prescribed treatment to a T, and submit any request for re-evaluation within 30 days of finishing treatment.
Best Alternatives to Candid and Smile Direct Club
Candid and Smile Direct are just two of many clear aligner companies on the market today. And they’re good options, too. But there are other great options you should consider.
Our absolute fave is Byte. At $1,895 (or $2,295 for nighttime), Byte’s basic aligner kit is relatively affordable. But what’s better: Byte offers the shortest treatment length on the market. Their average treatment lasts just 4 months. You can also skip the hassle of wearing your aligners for 22 hours each day with Byte At-Night. And last but not least, Byte has a fantastic Byte-for-Life guarantee.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for the most affordable option, check out AlignerCo. At just $1,145, they’re the most budget-friendly method available. You won’t get a lot of bells and whistles, but you will get the smile of your dreams at a fraction of the cost. And like Byte, they also offer nighttime treatment, but it doesn’t cost nearly as much. AlignerCo’s NightOnly program will run you $1,345.
Which is the Best Clear Aligner for You?
When it all comes down to it, Candid 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 Candid. Smile Direct is not a bad service in any sense. But Candid’s hybrid treatment strives for the best of both worlds: the convenience of at-home clear aligner treatment with the robust oversight of an in-office option.
- Choose Candid if: you want to strike a balance between flexibility, hands-on dental expertise, and sophisticated treatment oversight.
- Choose Smile Direct if: you want the confidence that comes from working with a well-established brand. Smile Direct has treated over a million smiles, so they’ve probably already seen a case just like yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either clear aligner provider offer discounts?
Smile Direct has a referral program, and often offers sales on their impression kits. Candid operates a bit differently than 100% remote providers, your dentist will determine the price for your treatment. This means that there aren’t any overarching deals for Candid.
Are Candid and Smile Direct legit?
Your mom warned you about things that sound too good to be true, right? Thankfully clear aligner companies like Candid and Smile Direct aren’t. Though these providers approach treatment differently, we believe you’d be in good hands with either one. Smile Direct is able to offer competitive pricing since they’re a 100% remote treatment option. Whereas Candid costs more than fully at-home options, but usually less than Invisalign and braces.
Which home aligner company is more customer-focused?
We have to give Candid the win for patient focus. With their hybrid treatment option, not only do you begin treatment with an in-depth dentist consultation, but both your dentist and the Candid team can oversee your treatment from start to finish via CandidMonitoring. That kind of two-fold support makes Candid a great option for someone seeking clear aligner treatment with a high level of oversight and support.
How do Candid 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 that help secure them. These devices have to be attached in-office by a qualified orthodontist. Candid and Smile Direct don’t use attachments, which restricts the conditions they can treat. Candid’s hybrid treatment option is somewhere in between Invisalign and Smile Direct.
How do these clear aligners compare to AlignerCo and Byte?
AlignerCo and Byte are pretty similar to Smile Direct. Byte has the shortest treatment length on the market, just 4 months on average. AlignerCo, however, takes the prize for the industry’s most affordable aligner kit; their price is just $1,145, but they don’t sacrifice quality to their price, either. Candid, however, is the only provider capable of moving the molars and treating your entire smile.
Does either service offer free whitening treatment?
Candid includes one free bottle of their whitening treatment with your treatment. Smile Direct includes free whitening with their aligner treatments (if you opt for their in-person scan), and you can use it in conjunction with your aligners. Their replacement kits cost $40-45, depending on the size you choose.
Can I use Candid and Smile Direct if I live outside the USA?
If you live in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or Australia, then you can use Smile Direct. Candid does not operate internationally.
Do Candid and Smile Direct have aggressive upsells?
Thankfully, no. They both “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 complete an impression kit/scan with Smile Direct, or schedule an in-person dental consultation with Candid. They’ll let you know for sure if you are a candidate or not. If you are not a candidate, Smile Direct will give you 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 when you’re talking.
If I lose my aligners during or after treatment, do I have to pay for new ones?
With Smile Direct, you should get in touch with their support team. 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 $99, though.
You should also contact Candid’s support team right away. They’ll evaluate if you can move onto your next aligner ahead of schedule, or if you need to purchase a replacement.
Can I drink coffee when using Candid or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from Candid 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.