Home clear aligners are incredibly convenient, so it’s no surprise they’ve garnered a lot of popularity in recent years. After all, who doesn’t want to straighten their smile with easy-to-use aligners that don’t require regular doctor’s visits?
If you’ve done any research into the UK’s clear aligner scene, you’ve probably seen Smile Direct Club. And maybe you’ve wondered if these are the clear aligners best suited for you. With all the aligners on the market, it can be hard to sift through all the choices.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything there is to know about Smile Direct Club, including how their treatment works, how long treatment takes, how customers review them, and more. By the end, you’ll know for sure whether or not Smile Direct Club is the aligner for you.
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 what you see, then it’s time to start treatment! Smile Direct will ship all of your aligners to your doorstep. For most people, treatment lasts about 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 the molds or scans you’ve created to customize a treatment plan just for you.
- Step 3: Pay for your treatment all in one go, or sign up for SmilePay and pay in monthly installments.
- Step 4: You wear the custom aligners sent to you by Smile Direct and gradually make your way to a straighter smile.
That’s pretty much all there is to it! Smile Direct has a pretty straightforward process, from start to finish.
What Sets Smile Direct Apart?
At-home clear aligner treatment (or “teledentistry”) is a fairly new industry. In fact, Smile Direct Club was the first company to offer clear aligner treatments, and they got their start in the US in 2014. In short, Smile Direct is the “oldest,” most established home clear aligner system in the industry. They’ve served over 1.5 million patients, and they’re growing all the time.
Smile Direct offers two different treatment options: all-day wear, and nighttime only treatment. With all-day wear, you’ll need to wear your aligners for 22 hours a day. Basically, you’ll only remove your aligners at mealtimes, and for brushing and flossing. Whereas nighttime only treatment requires just 10 hours of daily wear. All-day wear will deliver your results more quickly, but nighttime only treatment offers more flexibility and convenience.
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.
- ✔ Most Experience
- ✔ Over 1.5 million Customers Served
- ✔ 20+ SmileShops Across the UK
- – Compare Your Options
- – Find the Best for You
- – Get Special Discounts
They’re not attached to your teeth like braces are, but you’ll still be spending quite a bit of time wearing your clear aligners. It only makes sense that you’d care about what they’re actually made of! Let’s take a 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, and they’ve switched to manufacturing their aligners in-house. Because of this change, 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. Since switching to in-house manufacturing, Smile Direct has developed a “Comfort Sense” program, which uses soft, medium, or firm aligner plastics across your aligners for a better, more comfortable fit.
There’s two particular ways that clear aligner companies cut their aligners: straight across the top, or scalloped to match the gumline. It’s a bit of a tradeoff: the straight cut can exert more force due to the overlap with the gums, but that overlap makes the aligners a bit more noticeable. Smile Direct opts for maximum effectiveness with their clear aligners, so they go for the straight cut.
This might sound a little counterintuitive, but highly transparent clear aligners aren’t necessarily the least noticeable. That’s because super clear plastic tends to be shiny. Smile Direct Club makes their aligners out of slightly frosted plastic, which better matches the matte surface of your teeth.
That said, appearance is subjective; all that’s important is that you like your clear aligners!
You might be wondering how remote providers keep an eye on your treatment if you never have to attend an in-person appointment. With Smile Direct, this oversight happens via Smile Check-ins. You’ll submit progress photos every 90 days for the Smile Direct team to review so they can ensure your progress is on track. This isn’t the more robust treatment oversight out there, but it isn’t the most hands-off, either.
Smile Direct Club’s daytime treatment usually lasts between 4 to 6 months, while nighttime only treatment lasts an average of 10 months. In stark contrast, traditional treatments like braces and Invisalign can take anywhere from 18-24 months to complete. Not only that, these treatments also require in-person appointments every 4-8 weeks of your treatment. If you’ve got a packed schedule, adding a dozen or so appointments to your todo list is no small task.
Comparatively, Smile Direct’s 4-6 months treatment lengths and simple remote check-ins make this treatment option a much easier time commitment.
Outside of your photo check-ins, if you want to get in touch with Smile Direct then you’ll need to talk to customer support. Smile Direct Club is an international company with a very broad customer base, which means two things. First, and luckily, they have established a fantastic database of support resources, including FAQs and how-to videos that make it easy to get the answers to your questions without ever reaching out. You can easily find answers to all of the common questions.
Second, a large customer base means that Smile Direct’s customer support team has a lot of work to do; and lots of questions to answer. So there’s a chance that they might take a little while to get to your question. Usually, the wait isn’t too bad; we’ve just found that their support team isn’t quite as quick as some competitors. But they do get the job done, and they have all the traditional support means: phone, email, and social media chat.
Smile Direct has improved its customer support a lot since 2016, and we’d like to see them continue to improve so they can compete a bit better in this category. That said, you won’t be left hanging; their team might be a little slow to respond, but they always provide helpful professional answers.
Bang For Your Buck
One of the main draws of at-home clear aligner treatments is their sheer affordability. Here, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how much your Smile Direct Club treatment will cost you from start to finish.
There’s two ways to kickstart your Smile Direct treatment: either with an at-home impression kit, or an in-person scan at Smile Direct’s retail locations. The in-person scans are free, so if there’s a location near you, then why not! There are over a dozen locations across the UK, so they may be one convenient to you.
If you aren’t close to a SmileShop (or you just have a DIY spirit), then Smile Direct’s £39 impression kit is a great alternative to the in-person scan. Regardless of which option you choose, Smile Direct will give you a customized treatment plan that shows how your smile could look when your treatment finishes up.
Your aligner package from Smile Direct costs £1539. This covers all the aligners you need to get the smile of your dreams!
One thing we appreciate about Smile Direct is that they charge the same amount for their all-day treatment as they do their nighttime aligners. Most of their competitors charge a few hundreds pounds more for this service, so it’s nice to know you’ll pay the same no matter which treatment option you choose.
Plenty of people want to whiten their teeth during their aligner treatment, so when the whole process is over they can debut a completely new smile. Smile Direct doesn’t sell whitening treatment outright, but they sometimes run a promotion where you’ll get a whitening kit for free if you get your teeth scanned at a SmileShop.
Don’t have the cash on hand to pay everything up front? That’s fine! Smile Direct Club offers SmilePay, a financing plan that doesn’t require a credit check. All you need is a £70.10 downpayment; after that you’ll make 23 monthly payments of £70.09. So technically, it’s more affordable to pay everything up front, but if you can’t, SmilePay won’t cost you too much extra. Using SmilePay can land you some compelling perks, too—like two free sets of aftercare retainers.
The best way to preserve your newfound smile after treatment is by wearing aftercare retainers. When your treatment first ends, you’ll want to wear your retainers full time. After a few weeks of full time wear, Smile Direct will give you the go ahead to switch to overnight wear; which you’ll continue indefinitely. If you opted to pay for your treatment with SmilePay, then your first two sets of aftercare retainers will be free. If not, you’ll need to buy them outright for £80/set.
These retainers are strong, but they don’t last forever. You’ll need to replace them every 6 months or so.
Which treatment plan is right for me?
There’s no denying that at-home clear aligners are way more convenient than traditional treatment options, but they do still require some maintenance. You’ll need to remove them at mealtimes, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before replacing them. If your days are already stuffed to the gills, even minor upkeep like this could be difficult to accommodate.
With nighttime only treatments, you won’t need to think about your treatment until the evening. Just carry on with your day as usual, then pop in your aligners a few hours before you go to sleep, and dream your way to a new smile.
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 price and quality of your provider are important, but so is how you’re treated throughout the process. Let’s see what you can expect when you choose Smile Direct Club for your clear aligner treatment.
Online shopping is really convenient, but the savvy online shopper checks reviews before hitting that “Order Now” button. But Smile Direct Club has thousands upon thousands of reviews, especially when you factor in their international customer base (in fact, many of the customer comments we’ve included here are from customers abroad). Odds are, you don’t want to read through all those reviews.
We’ve done the hard work for you, sifting through online reviews so you can get a better picture of what real people like and dislike about Smile Direct Club. We prefer to look at third party review sites to get an unedited picture. Doing that, you’ll find a largely positive score for Smile Direct Club, but there are some negative ones, especially from 2016-2017. They’ve been a mixed bag in previous years. But they’ve also made big strides to improve on that front, and we’re reassured by their progress.
Here are some of the things customers like about Smile Direct Club:
- Friendly, prompt customer service
- SmileShops are convenient and helpful
- Additional impression kits are sent at no cost if the first one doesn’t work
- Same price for both daytime and nighttime treatment
And now, for the top dislikes:
- Refinements are very tricky to get
- Sometimes customers receive the wrong aligners
- Delayed payment cancellations or slow refunds
All told, Smile Direct Club has a decent reputation, but if you want a company that truly shines in the customer review category, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
One major plus to clear aligners is that you won’t have to feel all the uncomfortable abrasion that comes from braces brackets and wires. But let’s be clear; teeth alignment is always going to feature a little discomfort—it comes with the territory; even traditional options like braces and Invisalign come with their fair share of aches and pains.
Usually the soreness is most pronounced when you switch to a new set of aligners, since they’ll have a snugger fit than the previous set. This should only last a day or two, and if you need some extra help, an over-the-counter pain reliever usually does the trick.
Like we mentioned earlier, Smile Direct has been working on their “Comfort Sense” technology. Though this is still a new feature, it’s possible this could improve the wear experience for 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 a yearly aligner touch-up after treatment.
Additionally, Smile Direct has a pretty unheard of refund policy. If you change your mind about treatment within the first 30 days of receiving your aligners, you are qualified for a full refund. So if you’re prone to cold feet; this could be a valuable option for you.
What if I break an aligner during treatment?
Accidents happen! If you lose or break an aligner, reach out to Smile Direct right away. Depending on where you’re at in your treatment plan, Smile Direct may advise to move on to the next set of aligners. In other cases, they may replace the aligner. The first replacement is complimentary, but any replacements after that cost £70.
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 refinements (additional aligners). Some competitors charge £150 for refinements, so it’s nice to know Smile Direct has your back in this department.
However, their reviews feature many 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. Several customers had long delays with this process, so it’s possible this could extend your treatment.
The Best Smile Direct Club Alternatives
Smile Direct is a solid option for at-home clear aligners; after all, they were the first ones offering this treatment! Being the first is worth something, but we don’t think it’s everything. Let’s take a look at the best alternatives to Smile Direct.
Straight Teeth Direct
Straight Teeth Direct is our #1 ranked clear aligner service in the UK. They got their start as a more traditional orthodontic practice in 2009, and even though they pivoted to remote treatment in 2016; their boutique beginnings are clear in the way they approach treatment. They have an affordable price point, comprehensive guarantees, and excellent customer service. They’re our favorite provider for a reason!
Straight My Teeth
If affordability is the biggest factor you’re considering with clear aligner treatment, then Straight My Teeth may be worth a look. Sure, they boast the lowest prices in the industry—but they don’t sacrifice quality to do it. With frequent treatment oversight, excellent customer service, and industry’s lowest pricing, Straight My Teeth is well worth considering for your clear aligner treatment. They’re our #2 ranked provider in the UK, and for good reason!
PlusDent organizes their treatment into tiers based on the severity of your condition: light, medium, or complex. Each tier offers a wide array of financing options, so you’re sure to find an option that works well for your budget. PlusDent doesn’t offer an impression kit; you can only begin treatment by visiting their clinics for a scan. These appointments are convenient and quick, but this does limit who can choose PlusDent for treatment; due to location.
Should You Use Smile Direct?
Smile Direct has a lot going for them, but are they the right fit for you?
✔ When to use Smile Direct:
If you have a mild or moderate of misalignment, then you’re likely a perfect candidate for Smile Direct Club. They may not be our favorite clear aligner (we rank them at #5 in the UK), but they are a solid treatment option. If you’re looking to get treatment from the most experienced provider out there, look no further than Smile Direct.
✖ When NOT to use Smile Direct:
If your condition is on the severe side, then you’re probably not a good candidate for home alignment—Smile Direct Club or otherwise. That said, if you’re not sold on Smile Direct Club, then we recommend looking into our #1 pick, Straight Teeth Direct. Between their streamlined app, fantastic satisfaction guarantees, and an affordable Maintainer Plan that makes it easy to protect your results long-term, we love Straight Teeth Direct.
All things considered, Smile Direct is a perfectly respectable choice for clear aligner treatment. It’s hard to argue with the sheer brand power of Smile Direct Club; in the clear aligner industry, no one but Invisalign has treated more smiles than SDC. So if brand recognition is important to you, then you can’t go wrong with Smile Direct Club.
Although they might not be the fastest or the cheapest on the market, they do perform admirably in all categories. Ultimately, though, you need to make the decision that’s right for your smile. For more information on the best options in the UK, check out our guide to the 5 Best Online Clear Aligners below.
- ✔ Most Experience
- ✔ Over 1.5 million Customers Served
- ✔ 20+ SmileShops Across the UK
- – Compare Your Options
- – Find the Best for You
- – Get Special Discounts
Frequently Asked Questions
Does clear aligner treatment even work?
Clear aligner treatment works, no question. But it only works when you wear your aligners as prescribed. If you fail to wear them like you should, your teeth won’t shift into straighter positions; they might even become more crooked than they were in the beginning. Likewise, your treatment results will only last provided you wear your retainers as prescribed.
Is clear aligner treatment safe?
You bet! Clear aligners are a perfectly safe way to straighten your teeth as long as you adhere to your prescribed treatment. It’s when people don’t wear their aligners like they should that they run into trouble; if you wear them for too short a time each day, your teeth don’t get the chance to heal enough between aligner switches, which hurts your teeth in the long-term. Similarly, if you don’t clean the aligners faithfully, remove them when you eat, and brush your teeth before reinserting them, you run the risk of tooth decay (or at the very least, some questionable bad breath).
How is Smile Direct Club different from Invisalign?
On the surface, Smile Direct Club and Invisalign seem identical to each other. After all, their aligners look very similar: clear tooth-shaped trays. And both treatment regimens will get you the smile of your dreams.
Invisalign, however, is different from Smile Direct Club because of one key distinction: Invisalign is an in-office treatment, and Smile Direct Club is administered remotely. Invisalign requires direct, in-person oversight to be successful, and in return, that lets Invisalign treat the full array of cases, from mild to extremely severe. Smile Direct Club can only treat mild to moderate cases because severe cases require in-person oversight.
Does Smile Direct Club offer any discounts?
Smile Direct may not be the most affordable aligner on the market, but they are one of the most discount-friendly. All year, they offer a £80 discount year-round for students, teachers, and military members. They also have a referral program. You can supply friends with a £100 discount code, and if they purchase aligners you will receive a £150 visa gift card and get entered to win a £500 raffle! They also frequently offer rebates for their impression kits, so you can score deals from start to finish if you’re patient.
Is Smile Direct Club the fastest home aligner?
Honestly, on the UK market, there aren’t a ton of truly “fast” home aligners; the fastest brand we know of isn’t currently available in the UK. That said, compared to other UK aligners, Smile Direct Club is one of the faster ones. Well, their daytime aligners are. But if you’re in an absolute rush to see your perfect smile, you won’t use nighttime aligners.
Is Smile Direct Club the cheapest home aligner provider?
Smile Direct Club has a fair price point, but it’s pretty average. If you’re looking to get the cheapest clear aligner (without compromising treatment quality), then you should look into Straight My Teeth. Their sticker price is just £999.
What about nighttime treatment?
Some customers find that it’s more convenient to do nighttime treatment, or aligners that you only wear for about 10 hours per day. Nighttime aligners are available with some clear aligner companies, and Smile Direct Club is one of them. They were actually one of the first to offer them. And we love that they don’t charge extra for nighttime treatment.
How do I know when to switch aligners?
Some companies leave you to remember when to switch aligners on your own. And if you integrate it into part of your routine, like always switching aligners every other Monday night, it’s pretty easy to remember. But hey, we’re all human, and you might forget.
With Smile Direct Club, you can easily keep track of which aligner you’re on by inputting your start date into your customer account. Using that date, the software will let you know which dates you should switch aligners. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a helpful tool.
Can I drink coffee while using Smile Direct Club?
Technically you can, but you shouldn’t. For starters, hot drinks can warp your aligners, making them ineffective. Plus, dark foods and beverages can permanently stain your aligners. You should remove your aligners every time you eat or drink anything besides cool water.
Can I smoke while using Smile Direct Club?
It’s physically possible, but you shouldn’t. Any dentist will tell you that smoking will stain your teeth and can deteriorate your overall oral health. But when it comes to wearing your aligners, smoking with aligners on can stain them.
Is there an age requirement for Smile Direct Club?
Smile Direct Club will treat patients as young as 12 years old, provided they have all their adult teeth (with the exception of wisdom teeth). Any patients under the age of 16 will need to provide written consent for treatment.
Does Smile Direct Club offer whitening?
Smile Direct Club offers free whitening if you visit a SmileShop for your start-up process. At that scan appointment, your dental technician or assistant will show you how to properly use the whitening kit. This is the only way to get whitening; if you opt for an impression kit instead of an in-person scan, you won’t be able to get whitening.
What’s up with retainers?
When you finish your treatment, Smile Direct Club will send you your first set of retainers for £80. Those aligners look a lot like your treatment aligners, but there’s one key difference: they’re more durable. And their purpose is to hold your teeth in their newly-perfected positions.
After treatment, your teeth have a natural tendency to relapse, or shift back to their original positions. Even years afterwards, teeth still shift; it’s a natural part of aging. Wearing retainers—usually full-time for a few weeks and then only at night indefinitely—prevents that from happening, preserving your investment.
How often should I replace my retainers?
Retainers are designed to be more durable than aligners, but they still don’t last forever. Smile Direct Club recommends that you replace your retainers every six months. Thankfully, a replacement costs just £80.