20 years ago, clear aligners became the superhero of modern orthodontics.
They rescued adults everywhere from the unsightly wires & brackets of traditional braces, replacing them with smooth, clear, plastic aligners.
Early on, Invisalign had a monopoly on the market, but soon after, competitors began to throw their hats in the ring. Six Month Smiles was one such competitor.
At first, they offered clear braces, but they’ve recently added clear aligners to their treatment regimen. There are also at-home clear aligners, like those offered by Smile Direct Club. These brands offer a faster and more affordable treatment alternative for busy adults on a budget.
But how do these competitors—Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct Club—compare? That’s the question we’re here to answer.
In this comparison review, we’ll put Smile Direct Club and Six Month Smiles side by side to see how they stack up in terms of cost, treatment oversight, the customer experience, and more. By the time we’re finished, you’ll have a much clearer sense of which company better lines up with your needs!
Spoiler | Smile Direct Club Wins
4 Things They Have in Common
Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct are two very different companies, but they do have similar products. It comes as no surprise, then, that they have a few things in common:
1) Discreet: Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct are both far less noticeable than braces. Trade wires and brackets for clear aligners (or make those wires clear, as Six Month Smiles does) and that’s bound to happen. Some people find that they ‘lisp’ a little bit when they first start wearing the aligners, but most people adjust pretty quickly. Most users find that other people rarely (if ever) spot their aligners.
2) Safe: We’re talking about the future of your smile here. But rest assured, both Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct are safe ways to straighten your teeth. Both companies use similar technologies, and although Six Month Smiles has a few capabilities that Smile Direct doesn’t, the basic principle is the same. Both companies use safe, BPA-free plastic for your aligners or braces, and state-licensed dental professionals design your treatment.
3) Convenient: If you ever talk to a friend who had braces back in the day, you’ll probably hear horror stories about avoiding popcorn or gum, the pains of dislodging food from the wires, and other hassles. Clear aligners take these hassles down several notches. You’ll have to remove your aligners every time you eat or drink (excluding water), but you’ll get to eat all of your favorite foods. And cleaning your teeth is just as simple as ever, too. Just pop out your aligners to brush and floss, then reinsert them. The only exception is if you wear the clear braces from Six Month Smiles; you’ll have to be a bit more careful about what you eat since you can’t remove the braces on your own.
4) Insurance Coverage: Both Smile Direct Club and Six Month Smiles may be covered by your insurance. If your plan includes orthodontic benefits, there’s a good chance you can receive partial coverage. Some general dental policies may cover your treatment, too. However, many insurance providers are more likely to cover in-office treatments like Six Month Smiles than at-home ones like Smile Direct.
5 Ways They Differ
This wouldn’t be a comparison review if these two companies didn’t have a few differences, now, would it? Here are a few key differences between Smile Direct and Six Month Smiles:
1) Who can get treatment: One of the biggest differences between Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct is who can receive treatment. Smile Direct can only treat mild to moderate cases of crowding and spacing. More extensive cases—like those caused by an overbite, underbite, or misshapen jaw—must be monitored in-person by an orthodontist. Six Month Smiles, however, can handle a slightly wider range of cases because they offer both aligners and clear braces.
2) Cost: There is no one-size-fits-all price tag for Six Month Smiles. That’s because your price depends on your orthodontist’s personal fees and the complexity of your case. The more severe your condition, the more it will cost. On average, most people spend between $3,500 and $5,000. With Smile Direct, though, there are very few overhead costs, so your treatment will be much more affordable: $2,050, which is close to the average cost of at-home aligner companies.
3) Treatment Time: Six Month Smiles’ treatment times range between 4 to 9 months. But considering their name, they aren’t shy that their typical treatment lasts 6 months. Smile Direct’s daytime treatment option usually lasts about 6 months, too, but their nighttime option takes around 10. 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 is that you don’t actually meet in-person with an orthodontist, which can make it tough to individualize your treatment. But with Six Month Smiles, you’ll have direct, in-person care from your orthodontist when you visit the office every few weeks.
5) Financing: Both Smile Direct and Six Month Smiles offer financing. Smile Direct approves every customer, regardless of credit score, for a down payment of $250 and then $89 per month (for 26 months). Six Month Smiles’ financing is a bit different, as your orthodontist’s office will arrange the details of your payment plan.
The Rundown: How Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct Club Stack Up
Six Month Smiles might not have been the first company to offer clear aligners (that honor goes to Invisalign), but they did make themselves stand out when they started in the mid-2000s. Their founder, Dr. Ryan Swain, had a few patients who wanted less-visible teeth straightening options but weren’t sold on Invisalign. His solution: clear braces. Instead of using metal appliances and wires, Dr. Swain offered tooth-colored brackets and clear wires. The result was a treatment that was nearly as versatile as regular braces but much less visible.
Later on, Six Month Smiles added clear aligners to their treatment options. These aligners aren’t quite as powerful as their braces, but they are nearly invisible. Most competitors don’t have that kind of variety.
Smile Direct Club was the first company to deliver clear aligners directly to the customer, providing near-invisible treatment completely from home. For a while, Smile Direct’s aligners were provided by Invisalign. That’s not true anymore, but thanks to this previous partnership, Smile Direct was able to grow rapidly and establish themselves as the top at-home aligner company in the industry.
Since their inception in 2014, Smile Direct 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 can offer some options that many of their competitors can’t, including nighttime treatment and physical retail locations.
|Six Month Smiles||Smile Direct Club|
|Customers served||No published number||1.5+ million|
|Claim to fame||Offering variety of treatments; both clear aligners and clear braces||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?||Between $3,500-$5,000||$2,050|
|Financing Available?||Varies from office to office||$250 down, then $89 for 26 months|
|Treatment Length?||Average 6 months; but full range is 4-9 months.||6 months for all-day treatment, 10 months for nighttime only treatment|
|Start-Up Process?||In-person appointment with a Six Month Smiles provider||Impression kit or 3D scan at a Smile Shop|
Like what you’re seeing so far? We’re just getting started! Let’s take a deep dive into the details of treatment with Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct Club.
At first glance it might seem like all clear aligners are identical. Which makes sense; since they’re all made of safe, BPA free plastic that gradually moves your smile into alignment. There’s plenty of core similarities, but there are some differences worth noting, too.
Typically, the tops of aligners are cut in one of two ways: straight across, or scalloped to match the gumline. There’s pros and cons to each of these approaches. The straight cut overlaps with the gumline, so it can use the gums as an anchor to exert more force. Scalloped cut aligners don’t overlap with the gums, so they’re less noticeable; but not as forceful.
Some providers opt to make their aligners from ultra clear, shiny plastic. Others make their aligners from plastic with a slightly frosted appearance. This probably sounds counter intuitive, but frosted aligners actually look more discreet than highly transparent ones. This is because the surface of our teeth is porous, so a matte finish better mimics our natural smiles.
Let’s dig in to see the choices each of these providers are making with their aligners.
|Six Month Smiles||Smile Direct Club|
|Materials||BPA free Zendura FLX plastic clear aligners, or braces with translucent brackets and tooth colored wires||BPA free, Comfort Sense plastic; which uses plastics of varied firmness to provide a better aligner fit|
|Aligner Cut||Scalloped to match gumline||Straight cut|
|Aligner Transparency||Clear, shiny plastic||Slightly frosted plastic|
Clear braces are usually more noticeable than clear aligners, but still more discreet than traditional metal braces. Regardless of which treatment you choose, Six Month Smiles is likely to be a little more noticeable, due to the shiny plastic they use for their aligners.
Keep in mind; appearance is subjective, some people like having an extra gleam in their grins. All you need to worry about is choosing the aligner that works for you.
If you’re looking for the treatment with the most low profile; Smile Direct’s nighttime only aligners may be worth a look. What could be more discreet than a treatment you only wear while you’re sleeping?
With both Smile Direct Club and Six Month Smiles, you’ll get access to a top-notch dental treatment team, and you’ll achieve the smile of your dreams before you know it. But exactly how you reach that dream smile will vary depending on which treatment you use. Let’s take a look at the ways each of these providers oversee your treatment.
|Six Month Smiles||Smile Direct Club|
|Frequency of check-ins||Every 4-8 weeks||Every 90 days|
|Check-ins via||In-person appointments||Photos sent via Smile Direct app|
|Treatment Length||Most people wrap up in 6 months, but the full range is 4-9 months||6 months for all-day treatment, 10 months for nighttime only treatment|
|Customer Support||The hours of availability will vary based on the office overseeing your treatment||Available via app, chat, email and phone. Smile Direct says their team is available 24/7|
With Six Month Smiles, you’ll go to your orthodontist’s office for regular appointments—from step one to your post-treatment retainers. If needed, your orthodontist will add on any attachments. Or, if you choose clear braces instead of aligners, the orthodontist will tighten your wires as needed. And if anything seems off, your treatment provider will adjust your plan on the fly. It’s the best way to get individualized, prompt care. However, it can be difficult for busy adults to attend so many in-person appointments.
Smile Direct Club works a bit differently. You won’t have any in-person appointments with your orthodontist. You’ll take impressions on your own and send them back to Smile Direct so they can build your treatment plan. The only exception is if you choose to visit a SmileShop and have digital scans taken of your teeth. With simple photo check-ins every 90 days of treatment, Smile Direct can easily fit into a busy schedule.
Outside of your regular appointments and check-ins, if you need help with anything you’ll need to contact customer support.
Technically speaking, you can contact Six Month Smiles directly on their website, by phone, or through email. But the better approach is to get in touch with the orthodontist or dentist who’s overseeing your treatment. They’ll know the ins and outs of your case, so if you need a repair, a replacement, or a modification to your treatment, your local provider is the best way to get it.
With Smile Direct, you can reach out to their customer support team any time you have a question or concern. You can reach them by phone, email, or webchat. They say that representatives are available via phone 24/7, but email queries can take closer to 24 hours to get a reply.
Back in 2017, Smile Direct had some issues with their customer support. They grew too fast, and their support team couldn’t keep up. Since then, they’ve made big efforts to improve, and we think they’re paying off.
In general, the one-on-one care you get from your Six Month Smiles provider leads to more personalized customer support. That said, we think Smile Direct has been making some good improvements to make their customer service model responsive and helpful.
Bang For Your Buck
A million-dollar smile is exciting, but it shouldn’t cost you a million bucks. The overall price tag of each service matters, and it’s also important to consider what your money gets you. Every treatment option includes a few basic costs: the cost of starting your treatment, the cost of treatment itself, and the cost for post-treatment retainers. We’ll cover those here.
|Six Month Smiles||Smile Direct Club|
|Startup Costs||Varies||$59 impression kit or free scan|
|Aligner Kit||Average cost between $3,500-$5,000||$2,050|
|Adds-Ons||Varies||After your free whitening runs out, you have many whitening options to choose from. Prices range from $17-$75|
|Financing||Will vary from office to office, may require a credit check||$250 downpayment, then 26 monthly payments of $89|
|Insurance||Likely to find coverage, check with your Six Month Smiles provider and your insurance company for details||Partners with many insurance companies, you can see if you have coverage on their online insurance page|
|Post-Treatment||Varies from doctor to doctor||$99 per retainer set|
To kick off your Six Month Smiles treatment, you’ll need to have an initial consultation with your dentist or orthodontist of choice. The cost of this consultation largely depends on your individual provider. Some orthodontists may offer it for free, and others will charge a nominal fee. It’s up to them.
Smile Direct offers two ways to start your treatment. You can buy an impression kit for $59 to make molds of your teeth at home. Or, you can visit one of Smile Direct’s 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.
The actual cost of Six Month Smiles largely depends on your dentist’s or orthodontist’s fees and length of your treatment. Your orthodontist or dentist will give you a full quote before you begin.
Once you agree to treatment, Smile Direct will send you your full aligner series, from Step 1 to your last aligner. They also throw in free whitening. Compared to other home aligner companies, Smile Direct’s price is slightly above average, but compared to Six Month Smiles, it’s much less expensive.
Like everything else with Six Month Smiles, your cost for post-treatment retainers depends on what your orthodontist or dentist charges. If this cost is a big concern, talk with your provider about their prices so you can plan ahead.
Some companies provide one set of post-treatment retainers for free, but with Smile Direct, 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. If you pay for treatment with SmilePay (Smile Direct’s in-house financing option), you’ll receive one set of aftercare retainers for free.
Six Month Smiles treatment isn’t an all-out price gouge, and they’re definitely more affordable than most traditional braces. However, they aren’t the most budget-friendly option. Smile Direct costs roughly $2,200 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 Six Month Smiles and at-home ones like Smile Direct Club. As part of your Six Month Smiles treatment, you’ll need to visit your dentist or orthodontist every few weeks so they can evaluate your progress, add attachments, and make timeline adjustments if necessary.
And while this helps ensure effective, safe treatment, it also makes Six Month Smiles less affordable and convenient. Office visits are the primary reason in-office treatments are more expensive. Your dentist’s time, equipment and resources aren’t free, after all. Plus, fitting regular appointments into your busy schedule (and potentially taking time off work) isn’t ideal. The fully-remote service you’ll get from at-home treatments is much more convenient, and without office visit costs, much cheaper too.
We all know to look for low prices and quality products; but it’s also important to look for a provider that takes good care of you all the way through your treatment. Let’s take a look at what you can expect from the customer experience when you choose Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct.
In the age of Amazon and other Internet retailers, online shopping is pretty common. But savvy shoppers are careful to read online reviews before clicking “Buy.” This is especially important for Smile Direct, which you can only purchase online. Your orthodontist can give a professional opinion on Six Month Smiles, but it is still nice to hear the opinions of others who’ve used the system.
Here’s a quick glimpse into the online reviews for Smile Direct:
- Top loves: SmileShops are convenient and the staff is friendly; convenient reminders to switch out aligners; affordable
- Top complaints: Delayed shipments; received wrong aligners; requesting re-evaluations is tedious and difficult
Customers generally report positive experiences with Smile Direct’s treatment, results, and customer service. We tallied up Smile Direct’s total average score for a total of 4/5 stars.
It’s a bit harder to tally up a score for Six Month Smiles. There are precious few customer reviews online because treatment is provided through independent dental offices (there are a few reviews available on their website, but since they’re “featured” reviews, we don’t put a whole lot of stock in them). It’s easiest to get a full review (beyond what we’ve included here) directly from your dentist or orthodontist. That said, their long-term reputation speaks pretty well to their quality and service.
Smile Direct had a rough spot back in 2017 (a lot of their negative reviews are from that year). The company experienced a rapid explosion of growth that they couldn’t quite keep up with, but in recent years, they’ve shown significant improvement.
No one wants a purchase to go wrong, and when it comes to your teeth, your satisfaction is critical.
That said, the exact guarantees you’ll get with Six Month Smiles will depend on your individual provider. Some will repair a broken bracket, wire, or aligner for free; some will charge you for new aligners if you lose one; and others don’t have any sort of warranty policy. You’ll have to ask your orthodontist or dentist to know for sure.
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.
Teeth are generally pretty obedient, but sometimes they can be a little stubborn; which can result in you needing a few extra aligners than expected. These extra aligners are called refinements.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need refinements with Six Month Smiles, since your treatment will be tweaked regularly at your in-person appointments. That said, there’s not an overarching refinements policy through Six Month Smiles, so if you’re curious about your provider’s exact policies be sure to ask them during your consultation.
If you’re not totally satisfied with your Smile Direct 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.
Let’s be clear, teeth alignment is never going to be a totally pain free experience; it comes with the territory—even traditional braces and Invisalign have their fair share of aches and pains.
The soreness is typically after you switch to a new set of aligners (or after your wires are tightened, if you have clear braces), since the aligners are a snugger fit than the previous set.
Six Month Smiles’ clear braces option will have a bit more discomfort than their aligner option, since the brackets rub against your lips and cheeks.
Since they’ve shifted to making their own aligners, Smile Direct Club has introduced their Comfort Sense technology, which uses various firmness throughout the aligner tray for a better wear experience. This is a relatively new development, but it could make wearing Smile Direct’s aligners more comfortable.
Best Alternatives to Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct
Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct are both great companies, so if you go with either one, you’ll get excellent service. However, these two aren’t the only good options.
If you’re curious about other companies, we’d recommend checking out Byte. They’re our top-ranked home aligner company. They leverage an excellent value with an equally good product and they’re slightly more affordable than Smile Direct. If you’re in a rush to see your perfect smile, you can’t beat Byte. Thanks to their proprietary HyperByte device, some treatments wrap up in just 4 months. If wearing aligners for 22+ hours per day isn’t a good fit for your lifestyle, Byte’s nighttime-only treatment is a convenient alternative.
Alternatively, if you’re interested in the convenience of at-home aligners, but want the frequent treatment oversight you’d receive with an in-person option, look no further than Candid. They’re our #2 ranked at-home provider, and for good reason. They offer quality, effective treatment with robust oversight all at a reasonable price.
Which is the Best Clear Aligner for You?
Let’s be clear: Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct are both good options. However, what works for someone else may not be what’s best for you. Here are some general guidelines for who should choose Six Month Smiles and who should opt for Smile Direct:
Choose Smile Direct 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 standard 22-hour wear schedule.
Choose Six Month Smiles If: You need the added power of braces to correct your more extensive case, but you don’t want conspicuous brackets or wires. They’re also a good option for those who want orthodontist oversight throughout treatment.
If you discover that your condition is too severe for home aligner treatment, or if you’re simply more comfortable with in-person care, Six Month Smiles is a great option. That said, Smile Direct Club is more affordable, convenient, and in our opinion, offers better value overall.
Smile Direct Club Wins! We think Smile Direct Club’s convenience and lower price point make them a better option than Six Month Smiles for most young adults.
That said, Smile Direct Club isn’t the only home teeth straightening service available. If you’re interested in remote orthodontic care, be sure to compare all the top-rated providers before making a decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either company offer discounts?
Six Month Smiles doesn’t really offer discounts in the traditional sense. However, your individual provider may give you benefits or perks as part of your treatment. Smile Direct, 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.
How exactly does at-home teeth alignment work?
At-home aligner companies like Smile Direct borrow the technology Invisalign pioneered and perfected. When you send in your impressions (or visit a SmileShop for scans), Smile Direct uses those molds and advanced software to create your treatment plan. That technology can predict exactly how your teeth will move when you switch to the next aligner in your kit. Using each new aligner as a step in the process, Smile Direct gradually moves your teeth from their initial positions to their final destination.
Is there an age requirement for using either Six Month Smiles or Smile Direct?
Six Month Smiles is ideal for people ages 16 and up. With Smile Direct, patients must be at least 12 years old. Both services require minors to get parental consent before receiving treatment.
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 Smile Direct. You can also take a preliminary assessment on Smile Direct’s website. If you purchase an impression kit and it turns out that you’re not a good candidate for treatment, Smile Direct will refund you the cost of the kit.
Will either of these clear aligners make me talk funny?
Most clear aligner users find that they’re practically imperceptible to others, including during conversation. That said, some people find that they may speak with a slight lisp when they’re first adjusting to their aligners. After a couple of days, this feeling usually goes away.
If I lose my aligners during or after treatment, do I have to pay for new ones?
For $50, Smile Direct will send you a new set of aligners. But they take a few weeks to ship, so they recommend wearing your previous aligner to keep your teeth from shifting too far back.
If you choose Six Month Smiles, your dentist or orthodontist should be your go-to if an aligner goes missing. You’ll likely need to pay for a new one, but the amount depends on your provider’s policies.
Can I drink coffee when using Six Month Smiles or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from Smile Direct and Six Month Smiles are fairly resilient, but coffee is a stain-happy beverage. Drinking coffee with your aligners in—or any beverage besides water, for that matter—puts you at the risk of staining them. The same goes for clear braces from Six Month Smiles, as they’re susceptible to stains, too.
Are there any hidden costs?
Neither company has a whole lot of hidden costs. There will be costs if you lose an aligner, but that’s an added expense that you can prevent. One cost you might not be expecting is post-treatment retainers. You’ll need to purchase your first set with both Six Month Smiles and Smile Direct, but the costs vary.
Are at-home aligners as effective as in-office treatment?
In most mild and moderate cases, yes. Thanks to the tested technologies used by remote treatment companies like Smile Direct, your aligners will fit your teeth as snugly as they would with Six Month Smiles. That said, there are exceptions. Some people’s teeth may not shift as quickly as predicted. Other people might not follow the prescribed treatment perfectly. These cases tend not to be as effective.
If you do choose an at-home aligner company, make sure you follow your treatment plan extra carefully. And on the off chance that something seems “off,” you should contact customer support right away. The sooner you correct a minor issue, the more effective your whole treatment will be.
Which is easier: at-home or in-office aligner treatment?
Once you get past the impression kit, we think it’s a little easier to use at-home aligner treatments. That’s simply because you never have to schedule, remember, or go to an appointment; instead, you’ll get an email or text notification that it’s time to move on to your next aligner. For many busy adults, it’s easier to complete all of the steps at home.
Why is Six Month Smiles so much more expensive than Smile Direct?
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, Six Month Smiles costs $1,500+ more than Smile Direct. That cost discrepancy stems from various factors. Smile Direct has a one-size-fits-all pricing model. Mild to moderate cases pay the same amount. With Six Month Smiles, it’s the opposite. The more severe your case, the more you’ll spend.
In addition, Six Month Smiles 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 on your Six Month Smiles treatment helps pay for those overhead costs. Since Smile Direct doesn’t have those costs, it’s considerably cheaper.