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.
The most well-known option is Invisalign, but they don’t have a monopoly on the market. One of their earliest competitors was ClearCorrect, and in recent years, at-home treatments have become equally attractive options.
At-home clear aligner brands like Smile Direct Club offer a faster and more affordable treatment alternative for busy adults on a budget.
But how do these competitors—ClearCorrect and Smile Direct—compare? That’s the question we’re here to answer.
In this comparison review, we’ll put Smile Direct Club and ClearCorrect side by side to see how they stack up in terms of cost, treatment speed, customer friendliness, and more. By the time we’re finished, you’ll have a much clearer image of which company better lines up with your needs!
Spoiler | Smile Direct Club Wins
4 Things They Have in Common
ClearCorrect 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: Both ClearCorrect and Smile Direct are far less noticeable than braces. Trade wires and brackets for clear aligners 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, so safety is crucial. But rest assured, both ClearCorrect and Smile Direct are safe ways to straighten your teeth. Both companies use similar technologies and although ClearCorrect has a few add-ons that Smile Direct doesn’t, the basic principle of both is the same. Both companies use safe, BPA-free plastic in their aligners and dental professionals to 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.
4) Insurance Coverage: Both ClearCorrect and Smile Direct 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, insurance providers are more likely to cover in-office treatments like ClearCorrect than at-home ones like Smile Direct Club.
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 Candid:
1) Who can get treatment: One of the biggest differences between ClearCorrect and Smile Direct is who can receive treatment. Smile Direct can treat only mild to moderate cases of crowding and spacing. More extensive cases—like those caused by an overbite, underbite, or misshapen jaw—need to be monitored in-person by an orthodontist. ClearCorrect, however, can handle the full gamut of cases, from mild to severe.
2) Cost: There is no one-size-fits-all price tag for ClearCorrect. That’s because your price depends on your orthodontist’s personal fees and the severity of your case. The more severe your case, the more it will cost. They also have an option called Flex for mild cosmetic cases that is often significantly cheaper. On average, most people will spend between $2,500 and $5,000. With Smile Direct, though, there are very few overhead costs, so your treatment will be much more affordable: $1,950.
3) Treatment Time: The average treatment time with ClearCorrect ranges between 12 to 18 months, although Flex may take as little as a few months. Smile Direct is a bit faster, with their quickest times clocking in at roughly 6 months for daytime treatment and 10 months for nighttime. Smile Direct isn’t the fastest at-home treatment, but they hold their own, and they’re much faster than in-office options.
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. That can make it tough to individualize your treatment. But with ClearCorrect, you’ll have direct, in-person care from your orthodontist each time you visit the office.
5) Financing: Both Smile Direct and ClearCorrect offer financing. Every Smile Direct customer is eligible for a payment plan (regardless of credit score). After a down payment of $250, you’ll pay $89/month for 24 months. ClearCorrect’s financing is a bit different. You may be able to get a customized plan directly from your dental provider. There’s also beWell, ClearCorrect’s financing partner, although this option may require a credit check.
Company Track Records
Invisalign was the first clear aligner option, but ClearCorrect followed closely on their heels. In 2006, founder Dr. William Pumphrey realized that over 400 patients needed clear aligners, but there wasn’t a good manufacturer in line to fill that need. So Dr. Pumphrey made a critical decision: he was going to produce his own. The rest is pretty much history. Now ClearCorrect is the second-largest clear aligner producer in the industry.
What really stands out about ClearCorrect is the wide variety of conditions they can correct. That’s largely due to the attachments that your dentist or orthodontist can use. These ‘extras’ are attached to your teeth and work in conjunction with your clear aligners to create powerful, nuanced movements. Your dentist or orthodontist can also add any spacers, elastics, or other attachments you may need. That flexibility and technology allow ClearCorrect to treat more extreme cases.
Smile Direct Club was the first company to bring clear aligners directly to the customer, and they maintained an impressive level of treatment quality in doing so. By being the first to the at-home market, Smile Direct was able to establish themselves as the top at-home option 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 and experience, look no further. And 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.
With both Smile Direct and ClearCorrect, 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.
With ClearCorrect, 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. If anything seems off during one of your appointments, your treatment provider will adjust your plan on the fly. It’s the best way to get individualized, prompt care.
Smile Direct works a bit differently. You won’t have any in-person appointments with your orthodontist. In fact, the entirety of your treatment occurs remotely. You’ll take impressions on your own and send them back to Smile Direct.
After your impressions are done, Smile Direct designs a treatment plan for you. If you approve it, they manufacture your aligners and ship them to you. Then the ball’s in your court. It’s up to you to wear your aligners as prescribed. You won’t have any regular check-ins with an orthodontist.
With either ClearCorrect or Smile Direct, you’ll get top-notch treatment. But if you’re hoping for more orthodontist involvement, you should opt for ClearCorrect.
No two smiles are created equal, so no two smiles get treated equally. That means that your treatment prognosis will be quite different from someone else’s. How long you’ll wear your aligners will largely depend on your condition’s severity and complexity. Then, of course, there’s your own wear schedule to think about; if you follow your treatment to a ‘T,’ you’ll finish faster than if you were to wear your aligners inconsistently.
That said, each company has its own speed factor. Here are the average treatment times for ClearCorrect and Smile Direct:
- ClearCorrect: 12 to 18 months for traditional treatment, but can be shorter with Flex
- Smile Direct: 6 or 10 months, depending on whether you use nighttime or daytime treatment
Why the discrepancy in treatment times? It’s partly due to the fact that ClearCorrect usually handles tougher cases (which naturally take longer). That said, with Flex (a ClearCorrect option for mild cosmetic cases), treatment lasts a few months.
Smile Direct only handles mild to moderate cases, which take less time. That said, Smile Direct has two treatment methods: nighttime and daytime. Since with the nighttime option you only wear your aligners for 10 hours per night, the overall timeline is a little longer. Even so, Smile Direct is almost always faster than ClearCorrect.
Pricing & Features
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 comes with a few basic costs: the cost of treatment itself, and the cost for post-treatment retainers. We’ll cover those here.
- ClearCorrect, price varies: To kick off your ClearCorrect 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 do it for free, and others will charge a nominal fee. It’s up to them.
- Smile Direct, FREE or $59: With Smile Direct, you have two methods to start off your treatment. Option 1: you can buy an impression kit for $59 to make molds of your teeth at home. Some people find the impression process a bit tricky, though. Option 2 is much easier. You can visit a SmileShop for free, where they’ll take images of your teeth for you. Customers really love the experience they have at these Shops, so if you live near one, it’s well worth it.
- ClearCorrect, $2,500-$5,000 (average): The actual cost of ClearCorrect largely depends on your dentist’s or orthodontist’s fees and how much treatment you need to perfect your smile. Your orthodontist or dentist will give you a full quote before you start treatment. But if you use Flex, you’ll pay per aligner, which means your treatment could cost significantly less.
- Smile Direct, $1,950: Once you agree to treatment, Smile Direct will send you your full aligner kit, from Step 1 to your last aligner. They also throw in free whitening. This makes their price point pretty average when compared to other at-home aligner companies.
- ClearCorrect, price varies: Like everything else with ClearCorrect, your cost for post-treatment retainers will largely depend on what your orthodontist or dentist charges. Ask before you begin treatment so you can plan for any future expenses.
- Smile Direct, $99: Unlike some at-home aligner companies (who include one set in their sticker price), you’ll need to pay $99 for your first set of post-treatment retainers. These retainers don’t last forever, so whenever you need a replacement (we recommend every six months), you should pick up another set.
ClearCorrect treatment isn’t an all-out price gouge, but it isn’t the most budget-friendly option. Smile Direct costs roughly $2,000 start to finish, making it a great option for penny-pinchers and smart shoppers alike.
No one wants to have issues with their treatment. But sometimes, life happens. An aligner could break or get lost, payment information could change – you get the idea. When life happens, you’ll need to get in contact with customer support.
There isn’t an overarching “customer support” method for ClearCorrect. Instead, you’ll contact your chosen dentist or orthodontist whenever you have questions about your treatment, payment, lost aligners, and so on. They’ll know the ins and outs of your case, so if you need to get a repair, replacement, or treatment modification, your local provider is the best way to get it.
Smile Direct, on the other hand, is completely remote. You’ll have to contact 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 24/7 by phone, but email queries can take closer to 24 hours for a reply.
Back in 2017, Smile Direct had some issues with their customer support. They grew too fast, their support team couldn’t keep up, and they received some poor reviews as a result. Since then, they’ve made big efforts to improve, and we think they’re paying off.
Even though you can’t contact ClearCorrect’s customer support directly, we think that the one-on-one care you’d get from your personal dentist or orthodontist provides better support than remote treatment. That said, we think Smile Direct has been making some good improvements to their customer service model.
Office Visits – Are They Worth The Extra Cost?
Regular office visits are the biggest difference between in-office treatments like ClearCorrect and at-home ones like Smile Direct. As part of your ClearCorrect 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 ClearCorrect 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.
Ease of Getting Started
As we’ve mentioned, there are different ways to kick off your ClearCorrect or Smile Direct Club treatment.
With ClearCorrect, the ‘trickiest’ part of starting your treatment is finding your nearest ClearCorrect provider and booking a consultation. There’s a good chance your local dentist provides it (or, at the very least, they can refer you). After that, the provider will handle all the technical aspects of taking scans, x-rays, and molds of your teeth at your appointment. You just have to show up, answer questions, and, of course, keep your mouth open when asked.
Smile Direct’s start-up process can be a tad more complicated if you take the impression kit route. Some customers find the kit to be a bit complicated. But once it arrives, you’ll use the included trays and putty to make molds of your teeth. Then you’ll take a few photos so your orthodontist can get a good look at your teeth from different angles. Using a prepaid shipping box, you’ll send your impressions back and Smile Direct will create your treatment plan.
But Smile Direct also offers SmileShops, physical retail locations you can visit to have scans taken for free. These locations make it as simple as possible to get started, and a lot of customers love the service they receive. Smile Direct even has pop-up Smile Buses to make their retail locations even more accessible.
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 ClearCorrect, 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
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 ClearCorrect. There are precious few customer reviews online because treatment is provided through independent dental offices. 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 now they seem to be improving.
Refund Policies & Satisfaction Guarantees
No one wants a purchase to go wrong, and when it comes to your teeth, your satisfaction is critical.
With ClearCorrect, your orthodontist or dentist will be able to make small adjustments throughout your treatment. If there are any issues, your dentist will spot them before they become major problems, keeping your treatment on track and ensuring your satisfaction.
That said, the exact warranty you’ll get will depend on your individual provider. You’ll have to ask your orthodontist or dentist to know for sure.
Smile Direct’s “Club Warranty”
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.
Then there’s the Club Warranty. Smile Direct promises its club members that if they’re not totally satisfied with the results at the end of the treatment, they can request a re-evaluation and get new aligners to finish the job. To be eligible for this warranty, you must check in with your assigned doctor every 90 days, follow your prescribed treatment to a T, and submit any request for re-evaluation within 30 days of finishing treatment.
Best Alternatives to ClearCorrect and Smile Direct
ClearCorrect and Smile Direct are both great companies, so if you’re drawn to either one, you’ll get excellent service. However, ClearCorrect and Smile Direct aren’t the only good options.
If you’re still curious about other companies, we’d recommend checking out Byte, our top-ranked at-home aligner company. They leverage excellent value with an equally good product, and they’re roughly the same price as Smile Direct. In a rush to see your perfect smile? Byte is the only choice. Their average treatment time clocks in at a speedy 3 months. Like Smile Direct, they also offer nighttime-only treatment, so if you’re unsure about wearing aligners for 22+ hours per day, you have an alternative.
Our #2 choice is Candid, but we love them for different reasons. They offer top-notch treatments at a reasonable price, with more robust treatment oversight than Byte or Smile Direct due to their CandidMonitoring system.
Which is the Best Clear Aligner for You?
Let’s be clear: ClearCorrect 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 ClearCorrect 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 22-hour daytime wear schedule.
Choose ClearCorrect If: You need more extensive adjustments, bite corrections, or you just want the security of having a professional handle your treatment in person.
ClearCorrect is a great option if you discover your condition is too severe for home aligner treatment, or if you simply feel more comfortable with in-person care. But overall, we have to give the nod to Smile Direct.
Smile Direct Club Wins! They’re easily more affordable and convenient, especially considering their SmileShops and Nighttime Aligners, and we think Smile Direct is a great option for any adult seeking home aligner treatment.
Even though Smile Direct provides highly convenient treatment, there are other effective and affordable options. Do your due diligence by comparing all the top-rated providers before you roll with one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does either provider offer discounts?
ClearCorrect 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 promotional discounts for as much as $150 off their aligners. On top of that, they provide year-round discounts to students, teachers, and military members.
Which clear aligner is more customer-focused?
Technically speaking, ClearCorrect is more customer-focused. After all, you’ll work directly with an orthodontist or dentist, getting individualized attention along the way. Smile Direct’s model works, but if you’re craving individualized attention, ClearCorrect is the better choice.
How exactly does at-home teeth alignment work?
At-home aligner kits like the one from Smile Direct borrow the technology Invisalign pioneered. When you send in your impressions (or visit a SmileShop for scans), Smile Direct uses those molds and advanced software to create an individualized 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 ClearCorrect or Smile Direct?
ClearCorrect does not post an explicit age requirement for their treatment; your dentist or orthodontist will consider age on a case-by-case basis. Smile Direct requires all patients to be at least 12 years old. With either service, minors must have parental consent to receive 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 their aligners are 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, 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.
ClearCorrect, however, depends on your individual provider. Your dentist or orthodontist should be your go-to if you lose an aligner. You’ll likely need to pay for a new one, but how much depends on your provider’s policies.
Can I drink coffee when using ClearCorrect or Smile Direct?
You can, but you shouldn’t. Aligners from Smile Direct and ClearCorrect are fairly resilient, but coffee is good at creating stains. Drinking coffee with your aligners in—or any beverage besides water, for that matter—puts you at the risk of staining them.
Are there any hidden costs?
Neither Smile Direct nor ClearCorrect 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. Both ClearCorrect and Smile Direct require you to purchase them separately, but the costs vary.
Are at-home aligners as effective as in-office treatment?
In most 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 ClearCorrect. 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 process will be.
Which is easier: at-home or in-office aligner treatment?
Once you get past the impression kits, we think it’s a little easier to use at-home aligner treatments. That’s simply because you never have to schedule, remember, or travel to appointments; you’ll get an email or text notification that it’s time to move on to your next aligner instead. For many busy adults, it’s easier to complete all of the steps at home.
Why is ClearCorrect 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, ClearCorrect costs $2,000-2,500+ more than Smile Direct. That cost discrepancy comes from a variety of factors. Smile Direct has a one-size-fits-all pricing model. Mild to moderate cases pay the same amount.
With ClearCorrect, it’s the opposite. The more severe your case, the more you’ll spend. The only exception is their Flex line, which lets you pay for each aligner separately. Flex is dedicated to minor cases, so it’s not as expensive.
In addition, ClearCorrect is administered in-person by a dental provider. With that comes a host of overhead costs, from the orthodontist’s salary and their support staff’s pay to the electricity and rental fees for the office itself. The price tag you pay on your ClearCorrect treatment contributes to those overhead costs. Since Smile Direct doesn’t have those costs, it’s considerably cheaper.