Google “Nighttime Clear Aligners,” and one of the first results you’ll see are Smile Direct Club’s Nighttime Clear Aligners®️. And that’s not surprising; Smile Direct Club was the first at-home clear aligner company to offer night-only treatment options.
But does “first” also mean “best?” Or is there a better option for your smile? Truth is, night-only aligners (and Smile Direct) aren’t right for everyone. Yes, it’s really convenient to wear your aligners at night only, skipping the hassle of cleaning your teeth and your aligners every time you eat. But convenience isn’t the only criteria to consider.
In this review, we’ll dig into all the specifics of Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners: the price, quality, speed, customer service, and more. By the time we finish, you’ll know for sure whether it’s the right choice for you.
How Do Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners Work?
For the most part, the treatment with nighttime aligners from Smile Direct looks similar to traditional aligners. You take an impression of your teeth, Smile Direct creates a treatment plan for you, and you wear your aligners for the prescribed amount of time.
That’s the process in a nutshell. Here’s a more thorough idea of what to expect with Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners:
- Step 1: Have the professionals at a SmileShop take an image of your teeth, or DIY by completing an impression kit and mailing it back to Smile Direct.
- Step 2: Approve your treatment plan once you receive it from Smile Direct. This treatment plan will show you a prediction of what your smile will look like once you’ve completed treatment.
- Step 3: Wear the aligners Smile Direct ships to you. Unlike daytime aligners, you’ll wear each aligner for ten continuous hours at night. As a general rule, you should brush your teeth after your last meal, drink, or snack of the day and then pop in your aligners for the night.
What Sets Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners Apart?
Founded in 2014, Smile Direct is one of the oldest and most well-known home aligner companies. Since their founding, they’ve served over 1.5 million customers. Technically, Invisalign is older and more experienced, but Invisalign is an in-office aligner system, not an at-home one (plus Invisalign doesn’t offer nighttime treatments).
Until 2019, Smile Direct had a manufacturing partnership with Align Technology, the company behind Invisalign. As a result, they were able to combine the next-level products of Invisalign with the convenience of home treatment. Although that partnership has ended, Smile Direct can still leverage its experience over its competitors.
Smile Direct is also one of the few companies to offer a nighttime-only treatment option. Most home aligner companies require you to wear their aligners for 22 hours per day. That can be a hassle; but with Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners, you can straighten your teeth while you sleep.
Smile Direct uses the technology Invisalign created, but they’ve adapted it into a more flexible wear schedule. Let’s take a closer look at what these aligners are actually made of.
Smile Direct used to be top of the class in terms of quality, thanks to aligners from Align Technology, the company behind Invisalign’s aligners. But that partnership ended, and Smile Direct is 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 Align Technology, 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 comfortable fit.
We should note that whether you choose standard or nighttime treatment, the aligners themselves are identical. The only difference between the two treatments is the wear schedule. Standard treatment dictates that you wear each aligner set for one week, but on the nighttime-only schedule, you’ll wear each set for two weeks.
Nighttime clear aligners have an unbelievably low profile since they’ll only be on you while you sleep. But who knows, maybe you want to dazzle whomever you’re around at bedtime—in that case, let’s dig into the appearance of your clear aligners.
There are two main 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 uses the straight cut method for their aligners; so you can be sure your treatment is as effective as possible.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the most transparent clear aligners aren’t necessarily the most discreet. 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 porous.
Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners strike a great balance between effective and discreet.
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. They’ll make sure that your teeth are progressing as predicted, and potentially make adjustments to your treatment plan if necessary.
Your aligner bundle comes with a ‘cheek retractor,’ which pulls your cheeks aside so that you can capture clear photos to keep Smile Direct’s team in the loop.
Smile Direct’s oversight is much less robust than their competitors. For example, AlignerCo’s nighttime only treatment requires photo check-ins every 14 days. Smile Direct’s oversight also lacks in comparison to in-office options, which require in-person appointments every 4-8 weeks.
Smile Direct’s nighttime-only treatment is a touch slower than their traditional treatment. And that’s only natural; after all, you’re wearing each aligner for less than half the time of traditional treatment. That’s why the predicted treatment time jumps from 6 months for traditional schedules to 10 months for nighttime aligners. However, the ten hours of continuous wear is much more conducive to a busy lifestyle.
If 10 months sounds like a while to wait for your new smile, keep in mind that traditional options like Invisalign and braces can take between 18-24 months to complete. With Smile Direct you can avoid those dozen or so in-office appointments, and instead complete your whole treatment from the comfort of your home.
If you need to contact customer support during your Smile Direct 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.
Smile Direct also has 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 your question is specific to you and your treatment, 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
Affordability is one of the main perks of at-home clear aligner treatment. 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 the cost of nighttime clear aligner treatment with Smile Direct Club.
You can get started with Smile Direct Club in two ways: an at-home impression kit, or an in-person scan. There are more than 300 locations across the U.S; that’s far more than any of their competitors. These in-person scans are free, so if there’s a location near you, why not!
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. Both the impression kit and scan includes a customized treatment plan that shows how your smile could look when you finish up treatment.
The total cost of your Smile Direct Club nighttime-only 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 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 plenty of 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 are water flossers and electric toothbrushes and even a handy device to deep clean your aligners.
Smile Direct also sells “movements,” which are minty chewables that can help seat your aligners into position.
If the total sticker price of $2,050 is more than your wallet can handle, don’t worry. Smile Direct offers a pay-as-you-go plan called SmilePay. There’s no credit check for this financing, so every customer qualifies. You simply make a downpayment of $250 then $89 per month for 26 months. That results in a slightly higher total price of $2,564, so it’s cheapest to pay all at once if you can swing it.
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.
To help keep your smile perfect, Smile Direct recommends that you use post-treatment retainers. Some providers include your first set for free, but with Smile Direct you’ll need to buy them outright for $99. If you ever lose or damage one, you can purchase a new set. Replacing them every 6 months keeps them (and your smile) fresh.
Of course the cost and quality of your clear aligners are important, but so is how you’re treated throughout the treatment process. Let’s see what you can expect from Smile Direct Club’s nighttime-only aligner treatment.
Smile Direct has thousands of reviews to sift through. To make your life a little easier, we’ve summarized what most customers had to say below.
Just a note before we dive into the details: most of these comments are from people who went with traditional, 22-hour wear. But since nighttime treatment and daytime treatment use the same aligners (just different schedules), they still apply:
Without further ado, here’s what customers loved about Smile Direct:
- Friendly, prompt customer service
- SmileShops are convenient and helpful
- Additional impression kits sent at no cost if the first impressions don’t work
And here’s what they didn’t like so much:
- Mixed quality of treatment and customer service, especially when getting refinements to the original treatment plan
- Sometimes customers received 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. Compared to some competitors, Smile Direct Club has mixed reviews.
For us, it’s rather concerning that many customers have had issues with treatment corrections. Competitors occasionally have similar issues, but not in the same volume as Smile Direct. That said, there are thousands of customers that haven’t had issues, so it’s a mixed bag.
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; shifting teeth from one place to another is never going to be a completely pain-free experience. That comes with the territory—even traditional options like 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. In some cases, nighttime aligners cause a bit more soreness, since your teeth have more daily hours to shift out of position.
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 the 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, based on your smile check-ins, Smile Direct determines that your teeth aren’t responding how they’d like, you could qualify for free touch-ups (additional aligners).
So 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, Smile Direct’s reviews are filled with customers whose touch-up experiences haven’t been smooth sailing. 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 their touch-ups, so it’s likely that this could extend your treatment. Just something to keep in mind if you’re looking to wrap up treatment in time for a specific event.
Smile Direct Nighttime Aligner Alternatives
Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners are a very convenient method that can straighten your teeth while you sleep. However, they’re not the only option to consider.
If nighttime treatment is a priority for you, you should also check out Byte. Their nighttime treatment, named Byte At-Night, uses thicker aligners than daytime treatment, which allows them to leverage more force. For both All-Day and At-Night treatment, Byte offers the shortest treatment lengths on the market. For some people, Byte At-Night treatment can wrap up in just 5 months. That’s almost twice as fast as Smile Direct’s Nighttime Clear Aligners.
Another nighttime treatment option is AlignerCo’s NightOnly. If you’re looking for the convenience of nighttime treatment and affordability, they’re your best bet. They charge just $1,345 for nighttime treatment. On average, their overnight treatment takes between 8-12 months. So in most cases, you’ll find that they’re a touch slower than SmileDirect. But it’s not a massive difference.
Should You Use Smile Direct’s Nighttime-Only Aligners?
Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners are great, but they aren’t right for everyone. Let’s talk about when you should use their nighttime aligners and when you should steer clear.
✔ When to Use Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners
Let’s say you drink lots of coffee, all day long (hey, no judgments here). Taking out your aligners and brushing your teeth after every single cup would be a pain. Thankfully, nighttime aligners eliminate that hassle. And with Smile Direct, you can combine the convenience of nighttime aligners with the ease of a SmileShop near you. Honestly, if you want the added guidance for your impressions, we’d recommend choosing Smile Direct for their SmileShops.
✖ When NOT to Use Smile Direct’s Nighttime Aligners
If you’re in an absolute rush, then nighttime treatment is probably not the best option for you. You’d be better off using Smile Direct’s daytime treatment plan. This requires nearly constant wear, but it does speed your treatment time up to 6 months on average. Or if speed is all you’re looking for, Byte’s daytime treatment may be worth a look, since in some cases it can wrap up in just 4 months.
If you want the convenience of nighttime treatment paired with the name recognition of an established brand, then Smile Direct Club is an option worth considering. At present, though, they’re not our favorite option. Some hiccups in their treatment system—namely their breakup with Align Technology—have temporarily derailed their quality. We hope that, once they work through this transition, we’ll be able to give them a glowing recommendation again.
- ✔ 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 occasionally offer discounts and special promotions that make their nighttime aligners even more affordable. 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.
Additionally, they maintain year-round discounts for teachers, students, and current/former military members. Smile Direct also runs other promotions from time to time, so keep an eye on their website.
What if I’m not happy with the outcome?
Smile Direct promises a Club Warranty that offers a reevaluation of your case if you’ve followed the prescribed treatment but don’t see your desired results. If you’re dissatisfied with your progress, they’ll 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. This isn’t as helpful for the nighttime aligners, though, since it will take longer for you to see any tangible results (or lack thereof).
Do I need an X-ray before Smile Direct treatment?
No X-rays are necessary 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 misshapen 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 Byte, Candid and AlignerCo?
Byte is the fastest treatment on the market, but they don’t maintain any physical locations like Smile Direct. Candid has some physical locations but no nighttime treatments. AlignerCo is the most affordable nighttime treatment thanks to frequent discounts and special offers.
Is Smile Direct better than braces and Invisalign?
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.
Even better: Smile Direct is the only one that gives you the flexibility to wear your aligners solely at night. Braces are affixed to your teeth all day and night, while Invisalign requires 22+ hours of wear per day.
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. Invisalign can cost several thousand dollars before insurance, and the same goes for braces. Ultimately, Smile Direct can cost thousands less.
Does Smile Direct treatment last forever?
Occasionally, teeth will shift after you finish treatment. As you age (or during a pregnancy), teeth tend to move. To help prevent that, Smile Direct offers sets of post-treatment retainers for $99. Start wearing them for 22 hours a day for the first two weeks after treatment and at night only starting on week three. These retainers will keep your teeth from shifting back to their original positions.
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’s nighttime aligners are not the fastest at-home treatment option. Honestly, if speed is what you’re after, then you’re better off going with an all-day wear schedule. Of these options, Byte is the fastest. For some people, Byte’s treatment can wrap up in as little as 4 months. That’s lightspeed compared to the 10 months for Smile Direct’s nighttime aligners.
Does Smile Direct have a refund policy?
Smile Direct’s refund policy is a bit more flexible than some of its competitors. They have two distinct refunds. For one, you’ll get a refund on the impression kit if you are not a candidate for treatment.
Second, 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. There’s no additional cost if you purchase aligners.
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 require 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 aligner 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.
But since you’re wearing these aligners at night, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue, right? If you’re a sleeptalker, that’s another story.
How many hours a day should I wear my Smile Direct nighttime only aligners?
Smile Direct recommends that you wear your nighttime only aligners for 10 hours each day. For the most part, you’ll wear them while you sleep. But unless you’re the rare person who actually gets ten hours of z’s each day, then you should put them in a few hours before bedtime to get the full required continuous wear.
Can I drink coffee while using Smile Direct’s nighttime only aligners?
We generally don’t recommend that you drink coffee while sleeping. The two don’t go together.
In all seriousness, though, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything except water when wearing your nighttime aligners from Smile Direct. If you do decide to grab a late-night snack or drink, then you should take out your aligners and brush your teeth before replacing them. This helps avoid stains and keeps your aligners fresh and clean.
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 tray for $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.
Just a note, though: even though you wear your aligners at night, you won’t be able to get support at night.