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 (Hint: Invisalign doesn’t have a clear aligner monopoly!). For example, Smile Direct is one company that’s joined the home alignment scene. 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.
Is Smile Direct Legit?
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.
But what about Invisalign, you ask? Aren’t they older? Technically, yes. But Invisalign isn’t a true “home aligner” system. They specialize in clear aligners. But with Invisalign, you still need to make office visits. In contrast, Smile Direct gives you the appeal of clear aligners with the flexibility of home treatment, no office visits required. Smile Direct was the first to make treatment both accessible and wide-spread. Since their founding in 2014, Smile Direct has treated over 750,000 patients.
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.
How Does Smile Direct 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.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Smile Direct
Smile Direct and other home clear aligner systems are all pretty convenient, but there are other perks, too. Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of using Smile Direct to straighten your teeth:
Smile Direct Advantages
✔ Smile Direct is a well-established home aligner system. They’ve served far more than half a million customers, and that number continues to grow.
✔ Smile Direct’s SmileShops are convenient. There are more than 300 locations across the U.S; that’s more than any of their competitors. Visiting the shop takes away the hassle of taking impressions yourself.
✔ 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 Disadvantages
✖ Smile Direct aligners used to be manufactured by Align Technology, the company that makes Invisalign’s aligners. However, Invisalign no longer produces aligners for Smile Direct, which might affect their aligner quality.
✖ 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.
✖ Smile Direct charges $99 for post-treatment retainers. Many competitors, such as Candid and Byte, include these retainers in the cost of treatment.
Still curious about Smile Direct? Check out our in-depth review below.
Smile Direct: Treatment Efficiency
Everyone will have a slightly different experience with Smile Direct because everyone’s smile is different. The total timing of your treatment depends on a couple of factors:
- The severity of your crowding or spacing condition
- How long you wear your retainer each day (or night)
Smile Direct used to be top of the class in terms of efficiency, thanks to aligners from Align Technology. But like we briefly mentioned earlier, Align Technology no longer produces aligners for Smile Direct. That’s concerning, since Smile Direct is now manufacturing their aligners in-house. As a result, we can’t truly speak to the quality of their plastic aligners.
Pair that with the mixed team of orthodontists and dentists, and it’s hard to say for sure how effective your personalized treatment plan will be. Granted, Smile Direct still has an incredible track record of satisfied customers. Hopefully that quality won’t drop with their new partnership, but we don’t know for sure.
Smile Direct Customer Reviews
Buying anything on the internet is convenient, but sometimes it’s hard to trust. In the “old days,” you could just ask your family and neighbors for their recommendations. Now, word of mouth often gets replaced with online customer reviews. What are other customers saying about Smile Direct?
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
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.
On the positive side, review after review noted that Smile Direct’s staff members are courteous, friendly, and helpful. Many customers even mentioned their representative by name.
Smile Direct Prices and Features
Smile Direct is more affordable than braces, but there is still cost involved. Here’s the impact Smile Direct will have on your wallet:
- Impression kit, $59: The impression kit gets the ball rolling, but the cost is non-refundable unless you’re not a candidate for treatment. That said, the impression kit includes an orthodontist or dentist review and a customized treatment plan at no extra cost.
- Total cost of treatment, $1,950: The system includes all you’ll need to straighten your teeth without stepping foot in the orthodontist’s office. You’ll get all the aligners in your treatment all in one box. They also throw in whitening treatment for free.
- Post-treatment retainers, $99: After you finish your treatment, you’ll need to wear post-treatment retainers to keep your smile in place. Smile Direct charges $99 per set (some other companies include a set for free).
Smile Direct offers two payment options: you can pay the $1,950 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 24 months – a total of $2,386.
Smile Direct Customer Support
Smile Direct’s customer support is a mixed bag. Of the reviews we alluded to earlier, a lot of the 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.
The 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.
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 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.
The Best Smile Direct 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 2 other options to keep in mind:
Byte is the absolute fastest treatment system on the market. Thanks to their HyperByte technology, Byte promises to correct most smiles within three months of treatment. They offer both nighttime and full-day wear schedules, plus a lifetime guarantee, too.
If you need to keep costs low, then you’re not alone. And thankfully, you’re in luck with AlignerCo. They might not have an orthodontist-only network, but with a sticker price of just $1,145, AlignerCo is the most budget-friendly service on the market.
Candid strikes a nice balance between the convenience of at-home treatment and the orthodontist oversight you’d get with an in-office method thanks to their Remote Monitoring program. Candid also maintains physical locations, so there’s less wait for shipping.
SnapCorrect: SnapCorrect is a more affordable option, and they include free lifetime whitening service to all of their clients. That’s unlike anything else in the industry.
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.
Since Smile Direct uses a mixed team of dentists and orthodontists, there is the risk that your case is handled by a slightly-less-qualified professional. 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 AlignerCo.
- ✔ 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, SnapCorrect, 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. AlignerCo is significantly cheaper than Smile Direct, with a total price of $1,145. Byte is the fastest treatment, an average of 3 months compared to the industry-average 6.
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 $1,950 ($2,386 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 for women, during 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 three to four 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.