Every now and then, a game-changer product hits the market. Two decades ago, that was Invisalign.
It offered the first effective alternative to braces, giving orthodontic patients choice and agency in correcting their smiles.
For a while, Invisalign was the only clear aligner option, but competitors hit the scene soon after. Now, online clear aligners like Smile Direct Club offer a faster and more affordable treatment alternative for busy adults on a budget.
But how do Smile Direct Club’s clear aligners stack up against the most well-known provider, Invisalign? By the time you finish this review, you’ll have your answer.
In this comparison review, we’ll put Smile Direct Club and Invisalign to the test in terms of cost, treatment oversight, the customer experience, and more. In the end, you’ll be armed with the information you need to make the right decision.
Spoiler | Smile Direct Club Wins
4 Things They Have in Common
Invisalign and Smile Direct Club are unique companies, but their products are at their core quite similar. It comes as no surprise, then, that they have a few things in common:
1) Discreet: Both Invisalign and Smile Direct Club are far less visible than braces. This is a major benefit of clear aligners over metal braces. The most noticeable part of having aligners is the slight lisp that some people have when they first wear them, but this usually goes away.
2) Safe: When it comes to your smile, you just can’t take risks. But rest assured, both Invisalign and Smile Direct Club are safe ways to straighten your teeth. The technology for these systems is similar, and both use medical-grade BPA-free plastic.
3) Convenient: Ask anyone who has ever had braces and they’ll tell you they aren’t exactly convenient. Clear aligners eliminate most issues, such as dietary restrictions and relearning to brush and floss.
4) Insurance coverage: Both Smile Direct Club and Invisalign may be covered by your insurance. So long as your plan includes orthodontic benefits, you could have part or all of the cost paid for. Just keep in mind that not all policies are open to teledentistry companies like Smile Direct Club.
5 Ways They Differ
You can’t have a comparison review without a few differences, right? Here are five key ways Smile Direct Club and Invisalign differ from each other.
1) Who can get treatment: One of the biggest differences between Invisalign and Smile Direct Club is who can receive treatment. Smile Direct Club can only treat mild to moderate cases of crowding and spacing. Invisalign, on the other hand, can address even severe conditions, like overbite and problems with jaw shape.
2) Cost: Invisalign does not set the price of treatment as a company; the final price tag is determined by the individual dentist or orthodontist and reflects everything from their overhead costs to the complexity of your treatment. On average, most people will spend between $3,000 and $8,000. With Smile Direct Club, though, there are very few overhead costs, so your treatment will be much more affordable: $2,050, which is fairly standard among home aligner companies.
3) Treatment length: Most people who choose Invisalign are in treatment for 12-18 months, though if you have a complex case, you might need 24 months or more. Smile Direct Club has much shorter treatment lengths, with their average treatment clocking in at roughly 6 months. They might not be the fastest at-home treatment, but they hold their own.
4) One-on-one care: The biggest disadvantage of at-home aligner companies like Smile Direct Club is that you don’t actually meet in person with an orthodontist, which puts a cap on how individualized it can be. But with Invisalign, you’ll see your doctor in person every few weeks.
5) Financing: Both Smile Direct Club and Invisalign offer financing. Smile Direct Club approves every customer (regardless of credit score) for a down payment of $250 and then $89 per month. Invisalign’s financing is a bit different, as your orthodontist’s office will arrange the details of your payment plan.
The Rundown: How Invisalign and Smile Direct Stack Up
Invisalign has been the biggest name in clear aligners since they hit the market in 1998. While alternatives have emerged, they remain a household name. The system is available all around the world and has helped more than 12 million patients.
Invisalign is known for their ability to treat complex cases as well as cosmetic ones. This is thanks to their SmartForce attachments and the doctor oversight in-person treatment delivers. As such, it is an option even when other systems can’t get the job done.
Smile Direct Club is the original at-home clear aligner company, allowing people to choose Invisalign-like treatment that skips the dental office. In fact, for a while, Smile Direct Club’s aligners were provided by Invisalign. That’s not true anymore, but thanks to this previous partnership, Smile Direct Club was able to establish themselves as the top at-home aligner company in the industry.
Since their inception in 2014, Smile DirectClub has served more than 1.5 million customers. If you’re looking for the at-home option with the most brand power, look no further. Thanks to that brand power, Smile Direct Club can offer some options that many of their competitors can’t, including nighttime treatment and physical retail locations.
|Invisalign||Smile Direct Club|
|Customers served||12+ million||1.5+ million|
|Claim to fame||First clear aligner company||Best brand power in the industry|
|No food restrictions?||✓||✓|
|No office visits?||✓|
|Covered by insurance (with orthodontic benefits)?||✓||✓|
|Personalized customer service?||✓|
|Free retainers?||Only with SmilePay|
|Price Tag?||Varies, most people pay between $3,000-$8,000||$2,050|
|Financing Available?||Varies office to office||$250 down, then $89 for 26 months|
|Treatment Length?||12-18 months on average||6 months for all-day treatment, 10 months for nighttime only treatment|
|Start-Up Process?||In-person appointment with your Invisalign dentist or orthodontist||Impression kit or 3D scan at a Smile Shop|
At first it may seem like all clear aligners are identical. And there’s plenty of similarities from company to company. For instance, all clear aligners are made from safe, BPA free plastic. Aside from core similarities, there are some differences worth noting, too.
Typically there are two ways to trim the top of an aligner: straight across, or scalloped to match the gumline. Each of these cuts come with their pros and cons. A straight cut aligner overlaps with the gums, which allows it to exert more force. Scalloped aligners don’t have this same force, but since they don’t overlap with the gums they are more low profile.
Some clear aligner providers make their aligners from clear, shiny plastic. Others opt for aligners made from plastic with a slightly frosted appearance. This may seem a bit counter intuitive, but frosted aligners are usually less noticeable than ultra clear looking aligners. Since our teeth have a matte, porous surface, the frosted aligners better mimic our natural grins.
That being said, some people like the added shine that ultra transparent looking clear aligners offer. Appearance is subjective; it’s all about choosing the aligner that’s right for you.
Let’s take a look at the aligners you’ll get from Invisalign and Smile Direct Club:
|Invisalign||Smile Direct Club|
|Manufacturer||Align Technology||Smile Direct Club|
|Aligner Cut||Scalloped, to match gumline||Straight cut|
|Aligner Transparency||Slightly frosted plastic||Slightly frosted plastic|
Invisalign’s aligners are top-notch. They invented this technology, and their aligners have withstood the test of time and industry innovation. Invisalign is also able to implement supplemental attachments to aid in complex movements. Because of these attachments, it really isn’t a detriment that Invisalign’s aligners are a scalloped cut; since the effectiveness is already handled.
Smile Direct was once the top of their class in terms of aligner quality, since their aligners were manufactured by Align Technology (the people who make Invisalign’s aligners). However, they’ve recently shifted to making their own clear aligners instead. We are hopeful that the end of this partnership won’t affect their quality, but it’s still too early to say for sure.
Both of these providers keep an eye on your treatment progress, but they approach this in very different ways. Here we’ll look into how Invisalign and Smile Direct oversee your clear aligner treatment from start to finish.
|Invisalign||Smile Direct Club|
|Frequency of check-ins||Every 4-8 weeks||Every 90 days|
|Check-ins via||In-person appointments throughout treatment||Photos sent via Smile Direct app|
|Treatment Length||12-18 months||All-day treatment: 6 months |
Nighttime only treatment: 10 months
|Customer Support||Availability will vary from office to office||Available via app, chat, email and phone. Smile Direct says their team is available 24/7|
There’s really no getting around it; in-office treatments like Invisalign deliver more hands-on treatment oversight. However, these treatments also put a certain demand on your schedule. If your schedule is already stuffed to the gills, it’s not easy to pack in a dozen or so in-person appointments.
This is where remote treatments really stand out. With simple photo check-ins through the Smile Direct app, you can keep the dental team informed about your treatment progress without bending over backwards to attend regular appointments.
It really comes down to personal preferences. If you prefer treatment to be a little more hands-on, then you can’t beat the oversight and you get with an in-office treatment option. That being said, if you’re a busy person with a lot on your plate, eliminating frequent appointments may be exactly the sort of treatment that you’re looking for.
Why the discrepancy in treatment lengths? It’s partly due to the fact that Invisalign handles tougher cases (which naturally take longer). Smile Direct Club only handles mild to moderate cases, which take less time. That said, Smile Direct Club has two treatment methods: nighttime and daytime.
Since the nighttime option requires you to wear aligners for 10 hours per night (as opposed to the standard 22+ hours), your treatment will take slightly longer. Either way, Smile Direct Club is faster than Invisalign.
If you need something outside of a normal appointment or photo check-ins, you’ll need to contact customer support.
You can contact Invisalign directly, but this isn’t the best option in most cases. Instead, just speak with your doctor. They know your case well and can offer a customized response. Smile Direct Club’s team is available by phone, email, and webchat. Their representatives are available via phone 24/7, but email replies usually take about a day.
If you’ve looked at Smile Direct Club’s reviews, you probably picked up on some negative ones complaining about poor customer support. Most of these are from 2017, when Smile Direct Club experienced significant growth and struggled to keep up with it. Since then, things have greatly improved.
In general, the one-on-one care you get from your Invisalign provider leads to better oversight. That said, we think Smile Direct Club has been making some good improvements to their customer support model.
Bang For Your Buck
A beautiful smile is worth a lot, but it shouldn’t have a million-dollar price tag. Even with more affordable options, you want to be certain you are getting a good value. Let’s break down the costs of Invisalign and Smile Direct Club.
|Invisalign||Smile Direct Club|
|Startup Costs||Varies||$59 impression kit or free scan|
|Aligner Kit||No set sticker price, average cost between $3,500-$8,000||$2,050|
|Add-Ons||Varies||Whitening: After your free whitening runs out, you have many whitening options to choose from. Prices range from $17-$75|
|Financing||Varies depending on your doctor, may require a credit check||$250 downpayment, then 26 monthly payments of $89|
|Insurance||Varies, but generally more insurance companies offer coverage for in-office treatments like Invisalign||Partners with many insurance companies, you can see if you have coverage on their online insurance page|
|Post-Treatment||Price determined by your provider; can be between $100-$300 per retainer set||$99 per retainer set|
With Invisalign, treatment starts with an initial consultation and diagnostic images. The price for these will depend on your doctor. In some cases, they might even be free.
Conveniently, Smile Direct Club established 300+ physical SmileShops nationwide where you can get your teeth scanned for free. Customers really love the experience they have at the Shops, so if you live near one, it’s well worth it.
Invisalign isn’t a flat-rate service, and each provider is free to charge their own prices. Your doctor should give you an accurate quote before starting treatment.
Once you agree to treatment, Smile Direct Club will send you your full aligner kit, from Step 1 to your last aligner. They also throw in free whitening. Compared to other home aligner companies, Smile Direct Club’s price is just average, but compared to Invisalign, it’s much less expensive.
Some companies provide one set of post-treatment retainers for free, but with Smile Direct Club, you’ll need to purchase them separately for $99. These retainers don’t last forever, so whenever you need a replacement (we recommend every six months), you’ll need to pick up another set. The price for Invisalign retainers varies from doctor to doctor.
Invisalign treatment isn’t an all-out price gouge, but it’s at the higher end of the clear aligner price spectrum (and in many cases, it’s the most expensive option, but that varies from one treatment provider to another). Smile Direct Club costs roughly $2,200 from start to finish, making it a great option for penny-pinchers and smart shoppers alike.
Office Visits—Are They Worth The Extra Cost?
Regular office visits are the biggest difference between in-office treatments like Invisalign and at-home ones like Smile Direct Club. This allows for more nuanced treatment. It also greatly adds to the cost. Your doctor must charge for their time, equipment, resources, and training. These visits also demand more of you: your time, patience, and scheduling.
So the question is: is it worth it? In truth, it depends. If you are looking to make complex shifts or appreciate the in-person supervision and feedback, then office visits are likely worth the cost for you. However, if you want an option that demands little of your time and makes cosmetic changes, they probably aren’t.
Savvy shoppers keep their eyes open for a good deal on a quality product, but it’s also important to consider how these providers treat their customers. Here we’ll explore what you can expect from the customer experience when you choose Invisalign and Smile Direct Club for clear aligner treatment.
As an online shopper, you know how important it is to read the reviews before you buy. While you can dig through all the online reviews for both these systems, we want to make it easy for you. Here are the things people love and dislike about both Invisalign and Smile Direct Club.
|Top Loves||Works for all ages; comfortable to wear; allows for eating any food you like||Friendly customer support; very affordable; convenient to treat at home|
|Top Complaints||Allergic reactions to aligners (rare); edges can come loose; SmartForce attachments can come loose; expensive when compared to alternatives||Billing mix-ups; sometimes aligners break; requesting re-evaluations is tedious|
Invisalign is pretty well-loved by its customers, and Smile Direct Club has a fair reputation, too. If you look closely, a lot of Smile Direct Club’s negative reviews are from the year 2017. Like we mentioned earlier, Smile Direct Club rapidly expanded that year, but their customer service department has since caught up and now offers a better experience.
No one wants a purchase to go wrong, and when it comes to your teeth, your satisfaction is critical.
Most patients are thrilled with their Invisalign results since their doctor can make changes as they go, tweaking their results. However, this isn’t the same as a guarantee. Be sure to ask them about their terms before starting treatment.
With Smile Direct Club, 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.
Sometimes teeth can be a little more stubborn than expected. In some cases, you may need more aligners than your treatment plan originally anticipated. These extra aligners are called refinements; and some providers charge for these, while others include them for free.
Like all things Invisalign, this policy will change from provider to provider. That being said, the nature of Invisalign’s treatment includes constant tweaking and adjustments; so it’s unlikely you’d have any surprises at the end of your treatment.
Smile Direct handles their refinements policy through their Club Warranty. Smile Direct Club promises its club members (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, follow your aligner plan to a T, and submit any request for re-evaluation within 30 days of finishing treatment. Failing to meet any of those criteria voids the warranty.
It’s nice that Smile Direct includes refinements for free, but their reviews feature a fair amount of customers who describe their refinements process as being complicated and drawn out. To be fair, it seems like most providers could improve their refinements process. That said, Smile Direct gets this feedback frequently enough that it feels worth noting. It’s one thing to have a generous policy, it’s another to implement it.
Best Alternatives to Invisalign and Smile Direct Club
Invisalign and Smile Direct Club offer proven-effective treatment that delivers strong results, so if you go with either one, you’ll likely love your new smile. However, Invisalign and Smile Direct Club aren’t the only options for straightening your teeth.
If you are open to other possibilities, check out Byte. We rank them as our number-one at-home clear aligner company. They fall in the middle of the price range for online aligners, but they offer a lot of value, including the HyperByte and one set of free retainers. However, their standout feature is their short treatment lengths: their daytime system can reach final results in as little as 4 months, while their nighttime option takes about 5 months.Visit Website
If you’re looking for the convenience of an at-home clear aligner experience, but want the treatment oversight you’d receive in an in-office setting, look no further than Candid. Candid is our #2 pick behind Byte. Candid offers incredible treatment oversight due to their CandidMonitoring program, which helps you to send in regular photo updates to the Candid team so they can closely monitor your progress.Visit Website
Which Is the Best Clear Aligner for You?
Let’s be clear: Invisalign and Smile Direct Club are both good options. However, what works for one person may not be what’s best for you. Here are some general guidelines for who should choose Invisalign and who should opt for Smile Direct Club:
Choose Smile Direct Club If:
You want the smaller price tag of at-home treatment, and you want to work with the most well-established brand in the industry. They’re also one of the few companies to offer nighttime treatment, so give them a look if you want to skip the 22-hour wear schedule of daytime treatment.
Choose Invisalign If:
You need more extensive adjustments, bite corrections, or you just want the security of having a professional handle your treatment in person.
Invisalign is a great option if you discover your condition is too severe for home aligner treatment, or if you simply feel more comfortable with in-person care. But overall, we have to give the nod to Smile Direct Club.
They’re easily more affordable and convenient, especially considering their SmileShops and Nighttime Aligners. We think SmileDirectClub is a fair option for any adult seeking home aligner treatment.
Even though SmileDirectClub provides highly convenient treatment, there are other effective and affordable options. Do your due diligence by comparing all the top-rated providers before you roll with one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either company offer discounts?
Invisalign itself doesn’t have discounts, but sometimes dentists and orthodontists will offer their own. You also might be able to enjoy other perks, such as special drawings and customer loyalty programs. SmileDirectClub, on the other hand, will occasionally run discounts for as much as $150 off their aligners. They also provide year-round discounts for students, teachers, and military members.
Which option is more customer-focused?
We’d give that one to Invisalign, just because you are seen in person by a dentist multiple times during treatment. While SmileDirectClub offers maximum flexibility and freedom, nothing remote will truly match the customer-centric approach of traditional treatment.
How exactly does at-home teeth alignment work?
It mostly works the same as in-office alignment. You get diagnostics taken (either in an office or through a DIY kit) and then these are used to create a treatment plan. Each step in this plan becomes an aligner. These aligners are manufactured according to your unique needs and then given to you. Their shape directs the pressure, steadily moving your teeth into place.
Is there an age requirement for using either Invisalign or SmileDirectClub?
Invisalign is unique because they have a variety of treatment methods, one of which is called Invisalign First. This treatment is designed specifically for patients as young as 6 years old to help correct dental issues before they become too severe. More traditional treatment is reserved for teens and up.
With SmileDirectClub, patients must be at least 12 years old. With either service, minors must have parental consent to receive treatment. And in general, it’s wise to account for your wisdom teeth before purchasing; if you need to have them removed, get that out of the way first.
Can I use Invisalign or SmileDirectClub if I live outside the USA?
If you live in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or Australia, then you can use SmileDirectClub. Similarly, Invisalign is available in over 90 countries thanks to their provider network of more than 100,000 dentists and orthodontists.
How do I know whether at-home or in-office treatment is right for me?
Unless your case is very severe, you’re probably a good candidate for at-home aligner treatment through SmileDirectClub. You can also take a preliminary assessment on SmileDirectClub’s website. If you purchase an impression kit and it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, SmileDirectClub will refund you the cost of the impression kit.
Will either of these clear aligners make me talk funny?
Because they change the way the tongue touches the teeth, some people will have a slight lisp when they first start treatment. However, this tends to go away quickly.
If I lose my aligners during or after treatment, do I have to pay for new ones?
That depends. If you’re using SmileDirectClub, you may not need a replacement; in some cases, you can simply wear the next aligner instead. But you’ll have to contact customer service to know for sure. If your treatment supervisor decides that you should get a replacement aligner, your first set will be free. Any subsequent replacements will cost $99.
With Invisalign, speak to your dentist or orthodontist. You’ll probably need to pay for a replacement, but the cost depends on your provider’s policies.
Can I drink coffee when using Invisalign or SmileDirectClub?
There’s a difference between can and should. Nothing will physically stop you from drinking coffee with your aligners in, but it will lead to stains. Pop your aligners out when eating or drinking anything other than clear water.
Are there any hidden costs?
Not really. While there are costs you might not realize come with treatment, they are standard. The most notable is for the post-treatment retainers. You’ll need to purchase your first set with both Invisalign and SmileDirectClub, but the costs vary.
Are at-home aligners as effective as in-office treatment?
Overall, yes. This is because they use the same technology and in most cases, people are making mild to moderate cosmetic adjustments. However, if you need to make bigger shifts or impact the position of the jaw, at-home aligners won’t offer the same level of effectiveness.
Which is easier: at-home or in-office aligner treatment?
It depends on which stage of treatment you are in. At-home aligners are most difficult at the start, assuming you choose impression kits over in-person digital scans. However, once you have your aligners, they are easier since there are no office visits to work into your schedule.
Can I still use Invisalign if I’m not a candidate for SmileDirectClub?
In most cases, yes. SmileDirectClub cannot treat some conditions remotely because they require extensive orthodontic oversight. So if SmileDirectClub’s orthodontists determine that they cannot correct your issue — for example, you need an added appliance to help shift your jaw — then you’ll be declined. Since Invisalign requires dentist or orthodontist oversight, it’s usually a good option for people with tougher cases.
Why is Invisalign so much more expensive than SmileDirectClub?
On the surface, the two companies seem pretty similar. After all, both help you straighten your teeth and get the smile of your dreams. But on average, Invisalign costs $2,500+ more than SmileDirectClub. That cost discrepancy stems from various factors. SmileDirectClub has a one-size-fits-all pricing model. Mild to moderate cases pay the same amount. With Invisalign, it’s the opposite. The more severe your case, the more you’ll spend.
In addition, Invisalign is administered in person by a dental provider. With that comes a host of overhead costs, from the orthodontist’s salary and their support staff’s pay to the electricity and rental fees for the office itself. The price tag you pay on your Invisalign treatment contributes to those overhead costs. Since SmileDirectClub doesn’t have those costs, it’s considerably cheaper.