Waiting years to straighten your teeth with braces? Those days are long gone…for most people, anyway.
Today, Smile Direct Club (and other at-home aligner companies like them) deliver beautiful new smiles in just a matter of months. Most at-home treatments last about six months start to finish, making them an intriguing option for today’s busy adults.
But is Smile Direct Club treatment permanent? Will your new smile last forever after you finish wearing your aligners?
Or will your teeth shift back to their original positions? That’s not the easiest question to answer. But here’s the short version: your new smile will need some routine upkeep to stay in place. Fortunately, that upkeep isn’t as much of a hassle as your actual treatment, but it’s still incredibly important.
In this guide, we’ll explain why that’s true, as well as what you’ll need to do to maintain your smile.
What Happens During Smile Direct Club Treatment
Orthodontic treatment in general sounds pretty complicated, but in all honesty, Smile Direct Club treatment is pretty simple. Without going into all the technical details, here’s how it works.
To start out, you’ll order an impression kit and take 3D molds of your teeth. Smile Direct Club (or whatever at-home aligner company you choose) analyzes those molds and creates a set of custom clear aligners for you. Throughout your treatment, you’ll wear each pair of aligners for roughly two weeks, 22 hours a day.
By wearing your aligners for the prescribed amount of time, you give the plastic time to work its magic. The plastic exerts constant, gentle force on your teeth, pulling them into new positions. Once you’ve worn each pair, your smile should look like a million bucks.
Everyone’s smile is unique, so it’s impossible for us to predict just how long your treatment will last when using an at-home aligner company like Smile Direct. Most treatments fall in the neighborhood of six months, but we’ve seen some as quick as 4 months and others at 11 months.
That said, home aligners typically work faster than in-office options like Invisalign and braces. The primary reason for this difference is that home aligners can only treat mild to moderate cases, which naturally take less time to correct. Braces and Invisalign handle tough and mild cases alike, but they usually take longer. Pair that with the extra time it takes to schedule orthodontist appointments, and at-home aligners are far more convenient.
What Happens After Smile Direct Club Treatment
Once you reach day 14 of wearing your last set of aligners, your treatment is technically finished. But that doesn’t mean your teeth will magically stay put in their new positions. Teeth have a tendency to shift throughout your life. After all, everyone’s bones soften a bit as they age, the jawbone included. Your teeth are anchored in your jaw, so if your bones soften, the teeth may naturally shift, too. (Teeth can shift during pregnancy, too.) Those shifts also allow for your orthodontic treatment to begin with.
Your teeth are especially vulnerable to those gradual shifts after orthodontic treatment; the force your aligners exerted on your teeth gradually softened your bone structure enough to allow your teeth to shift into new, straightened positions. Eventually, the bones will reharden, but they’ll need time.
If left to themselves, your teeth tend to shift back to their original positions, commonly known as relapsing. If that happens, you could require another round of orthodontic treatment down the road—potentially even sooner than 10 years after the first treatment. Thankfully, it’s possible to prevent relapse with the right tools.
How To Keep Your Smile in Place
Avoiding a relapsed smile is simple: you’ll need to wear your post-treatment retainers. You need your bone structure to re-harden with your teeth in their new positions, and retainers make that possible.
There are a few different types of retainers, but Smile Direct Club uses nearly invisible, removable ones. On the surface, your retainers look exactly like your aligners. However, their retainers are designed to hold your smile in place, not shift your teeth further.
There is no universal standard for how long you need to wear your aligners. For example, some orthodontists recommend wearing them full time for 4 to 6 months and then only at night for the rest of your first year after treatment. Others say you should wear it for life.
With Smile Direct, you’ll need to wear your post-treatment retainers at night only. Other companies require you to wear them for 22 hours for the first two weeks and then only at night. In the long run, what matters is the fact that you wear the retainers as prescribed to keep your teeth from shifting. Even one or two days without it can cause your retainers to fit poorly, so religious wear is vital.
Some companies provide your first set of post-treatment retainers for free, but that’s not true for Smile Direct. You’ll need to spend $99 for your first set and every set afterwards. Retainers tend to wear out over time, so at-home aligner companies recommend that you replace them every six months.
Do Any At-Home Providers Have Better Post-Treatment Support?
Smile Direct Club isn’t the only at-home teeth straightening service, and they’re not necessarily the best, either—especially when it comes to post-treatment support. Below we’ll introduce the company that offers solid features and services when it comes to making your new smile last.
Byte is our favorite at-home aligner company in general, and they also top the industry in terms of post-treatment extras. First of all, byte offers your first set of post-treatment retainers for free. And it’s not like they jack up the price to accommodate for that “freebie,” either. For example, Byte’s price is a bit less than Smile Direct’s, but Byte includes the first set of retainers for free.
But that’s not even the best part: Byte offers a Byte-for-Life guarantee. Essentially, if your smile ever shifts after treatment, Byte will provide you with as many aligners as you need to correct your smile a second time—also for free. Byte truly goes above and beyond to ensure that you keep smiling with teeth you’re proud of.
Intrigued by Byte? Check out our full review.
For us, including a free set of post-treatment retainers is a pretty big deal. After all, most companies charge roughly $100 for each set of retainers. By including one set free, they save you that cash.
AlignerCo offers the first set of aftercare retainers free, too. Not only that, they also have the lowest treatment prices in the industry; making it that much easier to keep up with the costs of post-treatment care.
NewSmile also offers a set of free aftercare retainers! Plus, they’re the second most affordable clear aligner provider on the market. However, it’s worth mentioning that their aftercare retainers (when bought outright) are $149—a fair bit higher than the industry average of $100.
All home aligner companies help you maintain your new smile, but some offer better warranties and freebies than others. The honor of most aftercare support goes to: