No one likes to go to the dentist. Frankly, it’s a hassle: you have to set up an appointment and endure the annoyance of the dentist’s office.
Then they give you a referral to the orthodontist, making you repeat the process. All. Over. Again. Is a straight smile worth all the trouble?
Luckily, there’s an alternative: you can get a million-dollar smile from the comfort of your own home with home clear aligners. Using a home alignment system, you can ditch the dentist and straighten your teeth on your own. Home aligners aren’t just convenient, either. For many people, they’re also faster and cheaper than braces or Invisalign.
There are a lot of different options for home teeth alignment systems, but Smile Direct Club is the most well-known. But is Smile Direct right for you? In this review, we’ll give you the full scoop on Smile Direct and their home clear aligner system.
How Does Smile Direct Club Work?
Smile Direct is relatively simple: to start, they need 3D images of your teeth (more on this in a moment). Smile Direct’s specialists analyze these images and create a personalized treatment plan. They’ll send you a digital preview of how your teeth will move every step of the way.
If you like it, then it’s time to start treatment! Smile Direct will ship you the aligners included in your treatment all in one box. For most people, treatment lasts 6 months. Here’s a fly-by of what to expect when using Smile Direct:
- Step 1: You send Smile Direct a 3D image of your teeth. You can get that image in two ways. First, you can visit your nearest SmileShop and get images taken in person. If you don’t live near a SmileShop, you can order an impression kit from their website. Using their kit, you’ll create molds of your teeth, then send them back. Shipping is easy thanks to a prepaid shipping label.
- Step 2: Smile Direct’s dental team analyzes your molds or scans you’ve created to create a treatment plan that’s unique to you.
- Step 3: Pay for your treatment all in one go, or sign up for SmilePay and pay as you go.
- Step 4: You wear the custom aligners sent to you by Smile Direct and gradually make your way to a straighter smile.
All in all, Smile Direct has a pretty straightforward process from start to finish.
What Sets Smile Direct Club Apart
Smile Direct does a fair amount of advertising, so there’s a good chance you’re more familiar with them than some of their competitors. Smile Direct is, in short, the oldest, most established home clear aligner system on the market.
Smile Direct was the first to make treatment both accessible and widespread. Since its founding in 2014, Smile Direct has treated over 1.5 Million patients.
Smile Direct offers two types of treatment options: all-day wear and night-time only treatment. Using all-day aligners finishes your treatment faster, but many people find it’s more convenient to wear aligners exclusively at night. And another thing to love: Smile Direct charges the same price for both treatment types. Other brands charge extra for nighttime treatment.
Smile Direct is quite convenient, but one disadvantage of home clear aligners is that they aren’t right for everyone. Some extreme cases are best served by an orthodontist. With Smile Direct, there’s no risk, though. You can try out an impression kit at home. If it turns out that you’re not a candidate, they’ll refund you—no worries, no commitments.
At-home clear aligners use the technology Invisalign created, they’ve just adapted it into a remote treatment option. Clear aligners apply pressure to your teeth to gradually move them into a straighter smile. But what are these aligners made of? Let’s take a closer look.
Smile Direct used to be top of the class in terms of quality since their aligners were made by Align Technology (the company that makes Invisalign’s aligners). But Align Technology no longer produces Smile Direct’s aligners, so they’re now manufacturing their aligners in-house. As a result, we can’t truly speak to the quality of their plastic aligners. Hopefully that quality won’t drop without this partnership, but we don’t know for sure.
That said, Smile Direct’s aligners are still made of safe, BPA-free plastic. Their in-house manufacturing has brought along their “Comfort Sense” program, which uses soft, medium, or firm aligner plastics across your aligners for a better, more comfortable fit.
Oftentimes adults are drawn to clear aligners because of their low profile. All clear aligners are more discreet looking than metal braces, but some clear aligners are more discreet than others.
Generally, there are two ways to cut the tops of clear aligners: straight across, or scalloped to match your gumline. It’s a bit of a trade-off, because the straight across cut can exert more force, but the scalloped cut is less noticeable since it doesn’t overlap with your gums. Smile Direct opts for the straight cut; to maximize the effectiveness of your aligners.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the clearest clear aligners aren’t necessarily the lowest profile. Smile Direct makes their aligners with slightly frosted, matte looking plastic. This tends to have a more natural appearance since the surface of your teeth is naturally porous.
That said, some people prefer having a little gleam in their smile, and would rather go with the most transparent clear aligners they can find! Appearance is subjective—all you need to worry about is finding the aligner that’s best for you.
You might be wondering: if your treatment takes place remotely, how does your provider keep an eye on your progress? With Smile Direct, your treatment oversight happens via Smile Check-ins. Every 90 days, you’ll submit photos through the Smile Direct app for their dental team to review. This way they can make sure your treatment is progressing as it should.
By using the aptly named “cheek retractor” included in your treatment bundle, you’ll pull your cheeks out of the way to capture clear photos of your teeth to send to Smile Direct’s team.
It’s nice that you have a streamlined way to keep Smile Direct in the loop on your treatment, but we should note that this oversight is much less robust than their competitors. For example, AlignerCo and Candid require photo check-ins every 14 days. Smile Direct’s oversight also lacks in comparison to in-office options, which require appointments every 4-8 weeks.
Frequency isn’t everything when it comes to treatment oversight, but it certainly counts for something.
If you need to contact customer support during your treatment, all of that can be handled through Smile Direct’s app. There you can chat, text, email, call, or schedule a video call. Smile Direct says their customer service team is available 24/7.
On the upside, Smile Direct includes a lot of online resources, from FAQs to impression guides and more. Odds are, you can find an answer to your question on their website. But if you have a very specific, personalized question, then you may need to wait for your answer. The best contact method is by phone; you’ll get a quicker response, and you’ll get to talk to a human. You can also email them, but this method is more prone to delay.
Bang For Your Buck
One of the main draws to at-home clear aligner treatment is its sheer affordability. These treatments offer considerable savings compared to in-office options, but exactly how much savings are we talking about? Let’s take a look at the nitty gritty details of how much you’ll pay with Smile Direct Club.
You can kick off your Smile Direct Club treatment in one of two ways: either an at-home impression kit, or an in-person scan. The in-person scans are free, so if there’s a location near you, why not! There are more than 300 locations across the U.S; that’s more than any of their competitors.
We should mention that to book this appointment you’ll need to place a credit card on file with Smile Direct, and you’ll be charged if you miss your appointment.
Smile Direct Club charges $59 for their impression kit, but the cost is refundable if they determine you’re not a candidate for treatment. The impression kit includes a customized treatment plan that shows you where your smile could be when you finish up treatment.
The total cost of your Smile Direct Club treatment is $2,050. This includes all the aligners you’ll need to straighten your teeth without stepping foot in the orthodontist’s office. They even throw in a whitening kit for free!
Uniquely, Smile Direct Club doesn’t charge extra for their nighttime-only aligners. Most other providers that offer this flexible treatment option charge a few hundred dollars more, so we appreciate that both treatments cost the same.
Smile Direct Club’s online store is packed full of extras, though none are required for your treatment. Smile Direct Club includes whitening in your aligner package, but if you run out their online store has many different options to choose from. Between whitening toothpaste, gel, and LED systems, your whitening wish is Smile Direct’s command.
They also sell a variety of devices to help you stay on top of your oral hygiene. There’s water flossers and electric toothbrushes and even a handy device to deep clean your aligners.
Smile Direct also sells “movemints,” which are minty chewables that can help seat your aligners into position.
Smile Direct offers two payment options: you can pay the $2,050 all in one go, or you can enroll in SmilePay. There is no credit approval needed, so anyone with a less-than-stellar credit score can still get a straight smile. SmilePay requires a $250 down payment, and then it’s $89/month for 26 months—a total of $2,564. You’d save some money buying your aligners outright, but it’s nice knowing you have this option if you’d like to spread your payments out a bit.
Smile Direct Club works directly with UnitedHealthCare and Aetna. If you don’t have one of those insurers, you may still be covered, but you’ll have to check if your provider includes orthodontic benefits. We recommend that you inquire with your insurance company before ordering any products from Smile Direct just to be safe.
The best way to keep your new smile intact is with post-treatment retainers. Some providers include your first set of retainers for free, but Smile Direct charges $99 per set. These retainers are durable, but they aren’t indestructible—you’ll need to replace them about every 6 months; so be sure to factor that into your overall budgeting when you prepare for treatment.
Which treatment plan is right for me?
Aligners are way more convenient than traditional treatment options, but they still require some maintenance. You’ll need to remove them at mealtimes, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before wearing them again. If your days are already stuffed to the gills, even minor upkeep like this could be difficult to squeeze in.
With nighttime only treatments, you won’t need to think about your treatment at all during the day. Just carry on with your day as usual, then pop in your aligners a few hours before you go to sleep (unless you manage to get 10 hours of sleep a night, in which case; congrats!).
Once Smile Direct reviews your impressions or scans, they’ll be able to let you know which treatment options are available to you. Though clear aligners can treat mild to moderate cases, nighttime-only options are best suited for conditions on the milder side. So if you’ve got a packed schedule and some minor crowding/spacing, then nighttime only treatment may be a great fit for you!
The cost and quality of your clear aligner treatment are important, but so is how you’re treated throughout the process. Let’s see what you can expect when you choose Smile Direct for your clear aligner treatment.
How are customers treated during their Smile Direct treatment? Let’s go straight to the source! We’ve combed through hundreds of Smile Direct’s third party reviews—here are some of the main trends we noticed.
It’s important to account for both the good and the bad. So, here are a few of the things customers like about Smile Direct:
- Friendly, prompt customer service
- SmileShops are convenient and helpful
- Additional impression kits sent at no cost if the first one doesn’t work
But there are a few drawbacks, too:
- Mixed quality of treatment and customer service, especially concerning refinements to the original treatment plan
- Sometimes customers receive the wrong aligners
- Delayed payment cancellation when withdrawing from Smile Direct Club
Smile Direct had a rough patch of customer reviews in 2017 due to rapid growth; they had to play catch-up for a while. That trouble seems to be past, but it’s worth noting.
We’ll be honest; the negatives are a bit concerning. After all, you want your smile to be perfect, and someone else’s aligners aren’t going to help you get there. However, the positive reviews far outweigh the negatives. For example, the Better Business Bureau has nearly 2,000 reviews for Smile Direct and their overall score is 4 out of 5 stars.
A lot of Smile Direct’s positive reviews expressed very high satisfaction with their in-person visits. Basically, if you chat with someone in person, then your experience will be great.
Online support? Not so much. They’re a little slower to respond than most competitors. We suspect that’s because Smile Direct’s customer base has grown more rapidly than their own customer service department. You may have to wait a bit or endure some back-and-forth with their support team.
Let’s be clear; moving teeth from one place to another is never going to be a completely pain-free experience. That comes with the territory—even braces and Invisalign cause discomfort.
Typically the soreness is the strongest when you switch to a new aligner, since it will have a snugger fit than the previous one. This should only last a day or two, and if you want some extra help an over the counter pain reliever usually does the trick.
We recommend changing your aligners in the evening, so that you sleep through as much of the soreness as possible.
Everyone’s mouth is different, and for some people the edges of their aligners cause a bit of discomfort as well. In your aligner bundle Smile Direct includes an emery board that you can use to file down any sharp areas that cause you trouble. It’s a quick and easy way to make your aligners better suited for you.
Like we mentioned earlier, Smile Direct has been working on their “Comfort Sense” technology. Though still a new feature, it’s possible this will improve the wear experiences of their customers.
Smile Direct offers a lifetime guarantee on your smile. As long as you stay up on wearing and replacing your Smile Direct retainers you’ll be eligible for touch-ups for life after your treatment.
Additionally, Smile Direct has a pretty unheard of refund policy. If you have a change of heart about your treatment within the first 30 days, you are qualified for a full refund. No other clear aligner provider that we review offers something like this, so if you’re prone to cold feet—this could be a valuable option for you.
What if I break an aligner during treatment?
If you break an aligner, let Smile Direct know as soon as possible. If you’re close to moving on to your next aligner, Smile Direct may suggest you just move on a few days early. However, if you’ve only just started with that aligner, Smile Direct will replace it. The first replacement is free, and any additional replacements will cost $99.
Sometimes teeth can be a little more stubborn than expected. Smile Direct knows this, which is why they have a flexible touch-up policy. If after a smile check-in Smile Direct determines that your teeth aren’t quite responding as they should, you could qualify for free touch-ups (additional aligners).
Similarly, if you reach the end of your treatment and your teeth haven’t quite moved as much as your smile preview predicted, you’ll likely qualify for free additional aligners. Competitors charge up to $200 for refinements, so it’s nice to know Smile Direct provides these for free.
However, their reviews are filled with customers whose touch-up experiences haven’t been great. It’s one thing to have a generous policy, but it’s another thing to consistently deliver those promised results. Many customers had long delays with this process, so it’s possible this could extend your treatment.
The Best Smile Direct Club Alternatives
Is Smile Direct the best home teeth aligner for you? After all, treating your smile is a big decision. You keep it for life! So, you may want to consider some alternatives to Smile Direct. Here are 3 other options to keep in mind:
Byte offers the shortest treatment lengths in the industry. Thanks to their HyperByte technology, Byte can correct some smiles within four months of treatment. They offer both nighttime and full-day wear schedules, plus a lifetime guarantee, too.
Candid began as a fully remote clear aligner provider, but has recently pivoted to “CanidPro,” a hybrid at-home/in-office treatment option. If you’re interested in the convenience of home aligners, but want the robust oversight of in-office care, look no further than Candid. Their sophisticated CandidMonitoring system allows you to complete the majority of your treatment from home—without compromising on oversight.
If you need to keep costs low, then you’re not alone. And thankfully, you’re in luck with AlignerCo. With a sticker price of just $1,145, AlignerCo is the most budget-friendly service on the market.
Should You Use Smile Direct?
Smile Direct has a lot of positives, but that doesn’t mean that they’re right for everyone. Let’s talk about when you should use Smile Direct and when you should steer clear.
✔ When to use Smile Direct:
Smile Direct can treat most mild and moderate cases of crowding and spacing, even if you’ve had braces before. If you live near a Smile Direct location, then you’re in luck. The SmileShop is the easiest way to get your treatment rolling. Also, if you want to use a nighttime-only treatment, then Smile Direct is a great choice.
✖ When NOT to use Smile Direct:
If you have a bite issue like underbite or a severe case of crowding or spacing, then you’re probably not a good candidate for any home alignment system—Smile Direct or otherwise. With Smile Direct specifically, we recommend that anyone with pre-existing dental issues proceed with caution.
Pre-existing issues like implants, wisdom teeth, and cavities complicate your treatment. If you have “textbook” teeth that just need a small adjustment, however, you’re probably okay.
All told, Smile Direct is a well-established name in the industry. They have an easy startup process and flexible treatment schedules; you might even argue they’re the most convenient home aligner company. Depending on your priorities, they might be a great choice. That said, we have other companies we prefer over Smile Direct, such as Byte and Candid.
- ✔ Best Overall Value
- ✔ Excellent Customer Support
- ✔ Thousands of Positive Reviews
- – Many Locations
- – Good Customer Support
- – Thousands of Positive Reviews
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Smile Direct ever offer discounts?
Smile Direct is already an affordable way to straighten your teeth, but they also occasionally offer discounts and special promotions.
For example, they have a referral program. If you refer a friend to Smile Direct, they get $100 off their treatment, and you get a $100 gift card. They also offer year-round discounts for teachers, students, and current/former military members. On top of all that, Smile Direct runs other promotions from time to time.
What if I’m not happy with the outcome?
Smile Direct promises a Club Warranty. Essentially, if you follow all of your prescribed treatment but you aren’t satisfied with your results, then Smile Direct will give you a free re-evaluation of your case and do their best to make it right. Smile Direct also offers a full refund (minus shipping costs) for your treatment if you decide to cancel within 30 days.
Does Smile Direct offer nighttime-only treatment?
Yes! Smile Direct is one of the few companies to offer nighttime-only treatment. If you opt to use nighttime-only treatment, the average total treatment time jumps from 6 months to 10. That said, you’ll only need to wear the aligners for 10 hours per day (as opposed to the traditional 22 hours).
Do I need an X-ray before Smile Direct treatment?
No X-rays needed with Smile Direct! The impression kit or in-office scans are all you need to get started. These images measure the spaces and orientation of your teeth, not your bone structure. That’s assuming you have a relatively normal bone structure, though. If you suspect that your jaw is a slightly different shape or that you have a bad overbite or underbite, then you may want to get an X-ray (and consult with your dentist) to be sure that your jaw won’t hinder your treatment.
How does Smile Direct compare to Candid, AlignerCo and Byte?
Smile Direct is the most well-established name in the entire industry. So if you’re looking for a company with a proven track record, then Smile Direct is the best choice. That said, other companies have perks of their own. Byte offers the shortest treatment lengths, with some customers wrapping up treatment in just 4 months. Candid is able to offer a higher level of treatment oversight than Smile Direct, but Candid’s price tag is much higher. AlignerCo is significantly cheaper than Smile Direct, with a total price of $1,145.
Is Smile Direct better than braces and Invisalign?
Honestly, it all depends on what you mean by “better.” Braces, Invisalign, and Smile Direct will all get the job done and leave you with an impressive grin. The real questions are how fast does treatment go, and how much are you willing to spend? Of these three options, Smile Direct is the cheapest and quickest way to get treatment.
Is Smile Direct cheaper than braces or Invisalign?
Yes! Smile Direct is cheaper than both traditional braces and Invisalign. Before insurance, Smile Direct costs $2,050 ($2,564 with financing). Invisalign can cost several thousand dollars before insurance. The same goes for braces. Ultimately, Smile Direct can cost thousands less.
Does Smile Direct treatment last forever?
Occasionally, teeth will shift post treatment. As you age (or during a pregnancy), your teeth have a tendency to move. To prevent that, Smile Direct provides post-treatment retainers for $99. By wearing these retainers, you can reduce the risk that your teeth will shift back to their original position.
Does Smile Direct offer teeth whitening services?
Yes! Smile Direct includes free whitening treatments, called Bright On, with each aligner kit purchased. If you run out, you can purchase a new 12-month kit for $79.
I’m in a rush—is Smile Direct the fastest at-home treatment option available?
Smile Direct is pretty average; most people can expect their treatment to last for six months. If speed is your top priority, then Byte is the fastest option. Most treatments last just 4 months with Byte.
Does Smile Direct have a refund policy?
Smile Direct has a refund policy that’s a bit more flexible than some of their competitors. There are two key refunds with Smile Direct. For one, you’ll get a refund on the impression kit if you are not a candidate for treatment.
In addition, Smile Direct has a 30-day refund policy. If, at any point during the first 30 days or your treatment, you change your mind, Smile Direct will give you a full refund. After 30 days, you cannot get any refunds. But if you are not satisfied once your treatment ends, you can request a reevaluation to make it right.
What happens if I mess up my impressions?
If you choose to use the impression system and take your own images at home, you’re not alone. It’s a very convenient option, especially if you don’t live near a SmileShop. But it’s possible to mess them up. If you do, don’t panic. Contact customer support, and they’ll get a new kit sent your way.
Does Smile Direct have upsells?
Smile Direct doesn’t have any hard upsells during their order process. They do have a soft one by including a free set of their whitening treatment, but that’s it. And since there’s no commitment to buy the whitening treatments after you run out, it’s not really a true upsell.
Is there an age requirement for using Smile Direct?
Smile Direct treats anyone ages 12 and up. However, they do need written parental consent to treat anyone younger than 18. A related note: it’s a good idea to think about your wisdom teeth before getting alignment treatment. If you suspect you’ll need them removed, it’s in your best interest to take care of that first. Then your treatment will be the most effective.
Will Smile Direct make me talk funny?
With any home aligner system, you have a foreign object in your mouth. That’s unavoidable. So, your mouth might feel a bit funny, and you could have the slightest hint of a lisp. For most people, though, the aligners are minimally invasive and practically imperceptible to others.
How many hours a day should I wear my Smile Direct aligners?
That depends. If you subscribe to nighttime-only treatment, then you need to wear your aligners for 10 hours each night. So, if you sleep less than ten hours (i.e., if you’re like most of us), you should put them on a little before bed. If you use traditional treatment, you need to wear them for 22 hours each day. In general, plan on wearing them all day unless you’re eating or drinking.
Can I drink coffee while using Smile Direct?
With any aligners, you should not eat or drink anything (except water) with your aligners in. That said, you can remove them during meals and snacks, drink, replace them, and repeat as needed.
What happens if I lose my aligners (or retainers)?
If you lose an aligner, contact Smile Direct’s support right away to order a replacement. A replacement tray costs $50. While you’re waiting for it to ship, Smile Direct recommends that you wear the tray from your previous set. That will prevent your teeth from shifting back too far.
Is Smile Direct covered by insurance?
Ultimately, it depends on your insurance. Smile Direct accepts HSA, FSA, and CareCredit. They also work directly with UnitedHealthCare and Aetna. If you don’t have one of those insurers, you may still be covered, but you’ll have to check if your provider includes orthodontic benefits. We recommend that you inquire with your insurance company before ordering any products from Smile Direct just to be safe.
How can I contact Smile Direct’s customer support?
You can contact Smile Direct most easily by email or phone. Their email is [email protected] Directclub.com. If you need a quicker response, it’s best to call them at 1.800. 848.7566.