Smile Direct Club is an oral care brand that transforms smiles by straightening teeth using a series of custom-made, clear aligners and we’re putting them to the test in this Smile Direct Club review.
The aligners, which fit snugly over teeth, gently apply pressure that gradually moves teeth into new, straightened positions in accordance with an orthodontic treatment plan.
Smile Direct Club estimates that 85 percent of people globally have misaligned teeth (which orthodontists and dentists call malocclusions), but that only about 1 percent of the global population gets treated each year.
The cost of treatment and access to qualified dentists and orthodontists are the main barriers in this regard. Smile Direct Club aims to democratize medical health by providing easier access to orthodontic treatment through the use of technology and innovation – thereby bringing orthodontics to people no matter where they may live.
Furthermore, they aim to offer affordable and personalized teeth straightening solutions and an alternative to traditional braces and other more expensive treatment options.
Initially a teledentistry, medhealth provider – Smile Direct Club has recently pivoted and expanded its operations to include in-person consultations with a large (and increasing) network of dentists and orthodontists. This now provides customers with the option of both virtual and face-to-face communication with a dentist or orthodontist.
Smile Direct Club was founded in 2014 and has grown significantly in size since then. It has an impressive number of SmileShops (several hundred) and over 1,000 dental offices across the U.S.A. are part of its Smile Direct Club Partner Network. It also has hundreds of certified doctors who can guide patients through their treatment plans from beginning to end and thousands of staff members (including customer service consultants) around the world.
Furthermore, it has also expanded outside of the U.S.A. to offer its products and services in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Hong Kong, Singapore and Spain and they recently announced entry into The Netherlands. Smile Direct Club proudly boasts over one million customers who have transformed their teeth and smiles using their products.
The company’s clear aligner treatment is an alternative to traditional braces and other clear aligner brands like Invisalign. Its aligners are proudly made in the USA and are 3D-printed at an FDA-approved facility. Using technology and innovation to pioneer advances in teledentistry and orthodontic treatment, the company has created various tools and products that are patented and unique – designed to enhance the customer experience, treatment results and access to affordable oral care.
Getting Started with Clear Aligners
Smile Direct Club offers a comprehensive amount of informative content on their website to provide customers with enough information about their products and services and what to expect from the treatment process with their invisible aligners – thereby facilitating informed decision-making.
If you’re considering invisible aligners, it can be a little overwhelming to sift through all the content available online and decide which aligner system is best suited to your needs. Our candid review summarises all the pertinent information and aims to give you a quick but detailed overview of the steps involved in getting the Smile Direct Club aligners – from the initial consultation all the way through the treatment process, to what to expect once you’ve completed the aligner therapy.
First we review the process of establishing whether you’d be eligible for aligners. It’s worth noting that only mild to moderate cases of teeth correction (like gaps, rotated teeth, crowded teeth and some bite correction issues) can be addressed with Smile Direct Club’s aligners. For more severe and complex issues like having an overbite, underbite, cross bite, or a jaw disorder – you may need traditional braces or a different aligner system like Invisalign.
Are you a Smile Direct Club candidate?
If you would like to get straighter teeth, you have three options to get started with Smile Direct Club. You can either visit a SmileShop for a free 30-minute consultation where a SmileGuide will take a 3D image of your teeth and then show you a visual overview of what your new smile could look like after using treatment.
Alternatively, you can order a home impression kit which allows you to make molds of your own teeth using a simple process. Or you can go to see a SmileDirectClub Partner Network dentist or orthodontist for a consultation.
Your consultation at the SmileShop or Partner Network office will provide a quick answer to whether or not you are an eligible candidate for the aligner system. You can also use the rapid 30-second online assessment to get an indication of whether you’ll likely be eligible or not – this may be particularly relevant if you’re planning to make your impressions at home and you want to ensure that you don’t waste your money on the kit.
Choosing between a 3D scan or the home impression kit
Whether to choose to have a 3D scan done at a SmileShop or to make a home impression of your teeth yourself, will depend to a large extent on your personal preference for virtual or in-person communication – as well as where you live and how close you are to a SmileShop or a Partner Network dentist.
Some people may be a bit nervous about doing their own impressions, but there’s actually lots of support available to guide you through the process. For example, the company often hosts SmileParties which involve their lead dentist demonstrating exactly how to use the impression kit. They also have customer service staff who can provide you with support.
In terms of price, the home impression kit is $59 (which you can buy online) and the SmileShop consultation visit is free (which includes having your 3D scan done). It’s worth mentioning that if you buy the impression kit and a SmileDirectClub dentist then finds that your teeth are not suitable for aligners, then you’ll get a refund.
In terms of visiting a SmileShop, there are hundreds of locations across America and customers can easily book a scan online, which makes scheduling an appointment quite easy.
Appointments at a SmileShop generally last 30-minutes. During your consultation, a SmileGuide will use a 3D optical camera to create a digital map of your mouth and teeth which helps with the eligibility assessment and it is also used to create a personalised treatment plan. Expect to be asked questions about your medical and dental history to ensure the safety of the treatment. You’ll also have the opportunity to chat with the SmileGuide about any questions or concerns you may have about straightening your teeth, treatment plans and how to use your new aligners. It’s always a good idea to be prepared with some questions that you would like to have answered.
What are the aligners made from?
Smile Direct Club’s clear aligners are made from transparent plastic and are designed to fit snugly over teeth to apply pressure in the right positions to move the teeth into their new, straighter positions. Smile Direct Club 3D prints their aligners in a FDA-approved and ISO-certified facility. The clear aligners are BPA-free and are laser cut in line with your scan and treatment plan to be a perfect fit.
Smile Direct Club incorporates innovative design into its aligners – with its Smart Sculpt to aid precision movements and its Comfort Sense to slowly and safely move the teeth. Its aligners are also made to ease your mouth into wearing them, by creating a range of progression from soft, to medium and then firm plastic.
What does treatment involve?
After your treatment plan has been created and approved, your dentist or orthodontist will be there to prescribe the plan, manage it and guide you through the process. It’s reassuring to know that all Smile Direct Club dentists have at least 5 years or more of experience with clear aligner therapy.
First you will be sent all the new aligners that you will need for the duration of your treatment. You start wearing the first set of aligners and then your dentist will advise you when it’s time to move to the next set of aligners. You will also be able to log into an online dashboard that shows you when you will need to change to the new set of aligners and it tracks your progress. Treatment is also flexible so that if changes happen, you can reset the dashboard to accommodate them and get back on track.
You will be expected to wear your aligners daily for 22 hours a day – or if you’ve selected the nighttime plan, then you only need to wear them for 10 hours each night.
You will have regular virtual Smile Check-ins with your dental care team that are available every day and hour of the year for those who opt for the teledentistry treatment. These take place via text message, video chats, email or phone. SmileDirectClub have also created their own app which lets you track and manage your whole smile journey.
What do I do once treatment ends?
Smile Direct Club recommends that patients start wearing retainers after they stop the aligner treatment, to make sure that their teeth don’t shift back out of alignment. Retainers cost $99 for a set and are also custom-made to fit your teeth and mouth.
For the first 2 weeks you will need to wear the retainers all day and night and after that you will just wear them while you sleep at night. It’s recommended that retainers be replaced every six months, so that is a cost you will need to factor into your budget.
Oral Care & Aligner Accessories
Smile Direct Club has an online shop where they sell a range of innovative products, designed to make your aligner therapy experience more pleasant, healthy and clean. These include a smile spa to help you disinfect and clean your aligners and retainers, teeth whitening gel that comes with an optional LED light to enhance the effects, a chargeable water flossing device, lip balm, an electric toothbrush and even a trackable, bluetooth-enabled aligner storage case. We’ll review a couple of these popular oral health care items below.
Easy Cleaning with Smile Spa
Getting straighter teeth shouldn’t have to involve too much admin. Many people considering aligner treatment wonder how aligners need to be cleaned. Smile Direct Club obviously realised this popular concern and innovated a new cleaning product called the smile spa, which makes it easy to clean your aligners or retainers. The smile spa is a cleaning machine that uses ultrasonic and UV technology to kill 99% of the bacteria that are known to cause bad breath and which can be found on your aligners, retainers, and toothbrush after use. These bacteria include S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, S. mutans, P. loesheii, and F. nucleatum.
The machine has a small stainless steel container which you add water to and then put your aligner, retainer, toothbrush head or even water flosser tips into. You will need to run it for two 5-minute cycles to ensure everything has been thoroughly cleaned. For the price of $38, this little machine can offer peace of mind that your dental care equipment will be safe and healthy to use.
Bright on teeth whitening gel with LED accelerator light
Bright on is Smile Direct Club’s brand of teeth whitening gel which is prescribed by their dentists, and that aims to really brighten and whiten teeth.
It is used every morning and evening for one week and the teeth whitening effect generally lasts for about 90 days, at which point the process can be repeated again. You can enhance the effects of bright on, by using a LED accelerator light that activates bright on’s Bright Boost formula using a cool blue LED light.
Bright on is included in your aligner box at the start of treatment. You can buy a six month or a one year supply teeth whitening pens for $40 or $45 respectively; the teeth whitening gel plus LED light kit is $40 for a six month supply or $67 for a one year supply. There’s also a bright on pro teeth whitening system that sells for $55, which optimizes teeth brightening results using a pro-activate accelerator paste and a prolong extender gel.
Water flossing device
Smile Direct Club have created a nifty rechargeable water flosser machine that is able to remove 99% of the plaque that gets stuck between your teeth or hidden below your gums and they claim it’s much more effective than regular string floss for improving gum health. It’s actually quite a good idea for people who have traditional braces because it can reach places that are tricky to get to with regular floss when metal braces get in the way. The water flosser sells for $35 and comes with two tips included. Replacement tips are just $5.
Blurple and graphite electric toothbrush
SmileDirectClub also sells their own brand of electric toothbrushes that come in either blurple (yes it’s a color, not a typo) or graphite. The company claims that it can clean teeth 50 percent better than traditional manual toothbrushes to ensure better oral health, hygiene and care. It comes with a case that can be used as a counter stand and has a magnetic mirror mount and travel cover which are handy for taking on holidays or business trips.
Like many electric toothbrushes, it also has a timer so you know when you’ve reached the ideal brushing time. The heads are replaceable and should be switched every 3 months. The toothbrush is $25 – or if you buy it together with an aligner-cleaning brush head then it’s $29.
Smile Direct Club Alternatives
Here we review SmileDirectClub in comparison with two other popular clear aligner brands, namely Invisalign and Byte to give you an overview of some of the advantages and disadvantages. While their treatment methods are similar in many respects, there are some significant differences with regards to price, treatment time, the range of teeth issues they can treat, the use of innovative technology, and the size of the doctor network.
Invisalign vs SmileDirectClub
Compared with Invisalign, SmileDirectClub offers a definitive price of $1950 for its aligner treatment, whereas Invisalign doesn’t offer set prices and their doctors are responsible for giving you an individualized quote. In general, Invisalign ranges in price from between $3,00 to $5,000 but can also be over $8,000 depending on your exact case and issues.
When comparing pricing, you should also remember to look at what other extras are included and what things you may need to purchase after treatment and what they’ll cost. Both companies will generally require you to wear retainers post-treatment. SmileDirectClub charges $99 for a retainer pair and recommends getting new retainers every 6 months; the Invisalign Vivera retainers can range from around $500 to $1100 for 4 sets of retainers which are designed to be very durable and should therefore last a good couple of years.
SmileDirectClub also offers a free 3D scan at a SmileShop or the option of creating your own impressions at home using a kit that costs $59. By contrast, Invisalign doctors often give free initial consultations and 3D scans, although this may vary – but they don’t have the home impression kit option as they are not a teledentistry business.
When comparing the treatment times, SmileDirectClub averages from between four to six months, whereas Invisalign treatment is usually from between 12 to 18 months. However, for minor and moderate alignment issues, the Invisalign Express treatment is much faster and more affordable at around three to six months which is then comparable with Smile Direct Club at least in terms of duration and possibly even in terms of price.
A significant difference is that Invisalign can treat far more challenging and complex alignment and bite cases including overbites, cross bites, underbites and open bites. If your dental issues are complex and you are ineligible for the Smile Direct Club, then you may need to consider traditional braces, Invisalign or other alternatives.
Another important difference is the fact that Invisalign doesn’t offer remote teledentistry services, whereas SmileDirectClub does. If you are however someone who wants a face-to-face consultation with your dentist, then SmileDirectClub also recently launched this as an option and has a wide network of doctors across the country and abroad. Likewise Invisalign has an impressive number of doctors, spanning almost 100,000 globally.
Both SmileDirectClub and Invisalign have pioneered innovative technologies to provide extra precision in their treatment, to reduce treatment time and to make wearing aligners a more comfortable experience.
Byte vs SmileDirectClub
Byte is similar to SmileDirectClub in that it also treats a range of mild to moderate alignment and bite issues and offers access to virtual teledentistry. Both companies are set up for remote monitoring and check ups so that patients don’t need to have any face-to-face consultations at all if they so choose. They also both allow patients to purchase impression kits online so that there’s no need to go in for a 3D scan.
One big difference though, is that SmileDirectClub recently expanded its operations to now also offer, in addition to virtual teledensity, the option of face-to-face dentist and orthodontist managed treatment. Byte on the other hand doesn’t offer this.
While Byte sells a home impression kit so you can create your own teeth molds, Smile Direct Club has a few hundred SmileShops to choose from where you can get your free 3D scan and over 1,000 dental offices across the U.S.A. that are part of its SmileDirectClub Partner Network.
Byte has around 200 dentists and orthodontists who form part of its network, whereas Smile Direct Club has a far greater number of doctors with hundreds of certified dentists and orthodontists in addition to its large Partner Network of doctors. SmileDirectClub has also expanded its global presence with numerous international locations now offering treatment with their products.
Byte is known for it’s very efficient treatment times that range from 3 to 6 months and its innovative HyperByte device that uses High Frequency Vibrations (HFVs) and which comes free with aligner treatment. The HyperByte is designed to speed up treatment with just 5 minutes of use a day.
The final point of comparison is price – here both companies are quite comparable with Byte being priced slightly less at $1,895 (or $2,295 for the All-Night aligners) although their impression kit is slightly more than SmileDirectClub at $95. Both companies offer monthly payment plan options and both include a different assortment of freebies with the aligners. Byte includes their HyperByte device, a teeth whitening foam, and an aligner case – and they give you your first set of retainers for free; conversely SmileDirectClub includes a protective aligner case, their premium teeth whitening gel, a lip balm, a smile stretcher and various aligner tools but you’ll have to purchase your retainers at $99 a pair.
Pricing and payment plans
One of the main deciding factors when purchasing something that’s a long-term investment is price. It’s good to be aware of the cost of aligner treatment including the costs for scans or impressions, as well as post-treatment maintenance in the form of retainers. This will give you a better idea of overall costs and will let you more easily compare the price with that of other aligner companies, or even braces.
One positive aspect about their pricing, apart from it being quite price competitive, is the fact that the aligner treatment price is fixed – unlike brands like Invisalign which can vary quite dramatically from between $3,000 and $5,000 or even more.
It’s also good to consider whether there are any payment options like a downpayment with monthly payment plan instalments or whether any discounts are offered. Furthermore, consider whether your insurance will cover any of the costs of aligners.
The aligner treatment is $1950 and if you opt for the home impression kit (as opposed to the free SmileShop 3D scan), that will be an initial $59 (which is refundable if you’re found to be ineligible for their aligners). There’s a SmilePay payment plan option for treatment, whereby you pay an initial $250 down payment and then it’s $89 a month over 24 months. You will also need to buy a retainer for $99 once your treatment has ended and these should ideally be replaced every 6 months.
Some people who have health insurance also have a dental plan, and these may cover some of the costs. Smile Direct Club usually liaises with the insurance companies about payment and then invoice you for the remaining balance. However, some insurance companies will need you to pay upfront and then request a reimbursement.
SmileDirect Foundation: Sharing Smiles
It’s always a good sign when a company invests some of its profits in giving back to communities in need or worthy causes that help create a better world.
Smile Direct Club has chosen to create a nonprofit foundation to support and empower people who are vulnerable and at risk by giving them the confidence to shine and to create new educational and career pathways. The SmileDirect Foundation acts by forming partnerships with other nonprofits from around the world. Two examples of these are Hire Heroes USA and Year Up.
Hire Heroes USA aims to empower US military veterans, staff and their families through skills development and guidance to help them successfully find employment after service. Year Up helps vulnerable young adults to get the skills, knowledge and experience to enable them to have financial security and fruitful careers.
What is the club warranty?
Once you complete your treatment, having abided by all the guidelines – if you are unhappy with the results and feel that your smile and teeth are not any straighter, then you can contact your dentist or orthodontist and have your case re-evaluated. You may at this stage be eligible for some extra aligners. To claim on this warranty, you need to notify the company within 30 days of completing treatment, otherwise it will be invalid. To be eligible for a warranty claim, you will also need to have worn your aligners as instructed and to have registered them on the online patient portal – and you need to have responded to all the virtual check-ins by email and by sending photos as requested.
What’s inside the purple box?
When you join Smile Direct Club and start your smile journey, you’ll receive a big purple box with all the things inside that you’ll need for your teeth straightening. This includes all your aligners for the duration of your treatment, a protective aligner case that you can use to store your aligner in when you take it out to eat, drink or brush your teeth, bright on premium teeth whitening gel, a small tub of moisturizing vanilla lip balm, a smile stretcher (you’ll use this to help take photos that you send to your dentist so they can track your progress and monitor your treatment), as well as various aligner tools. The team at SmileDirectClub have also created some inspiring quote cards which come in the box too.
If you’re the type of person who frequently misplaces things, or maybe you’re buying aligners for your active teen and you want to protect your investment – then you can also buy a trackable storage case for the aligners or retainers that’s powered by Tile at an extra cost of $35. The case is bluetooth-enabled and contains a location-tracking chip so by using the Tile app you can find your aligner or retainer if you happen to lose them. The case itself is also a great way to store your aligner or retainer and there’s even a little hidden mirror which can open up so you can check out your cool new smile.
How long is the treatment?
When you compare treatment with other aligner companies, you will notice quite a range of treatment times. This can be anything from 3 months to 18 months, or more in the case of braces. Factors that affect treatment time include the severity or complexity of your dental issue, whether you stuck to the treatment plan and managed to wear your aligners every day for 22 hours a day (or whether you opted for the nighttime only option which slows down results). In general, most SmileDirectClub plans range from four to six months which is quite short when compared with other aligner companies.
What age can I use aligners from?
Many teens and tweens are interested in having their teeth straightened, but SmileDirectClub only accepts people from age 12 upwards – only if all their permanent teeth are present and all their baby teeth have fallen out. For people under 18, they will need a parent to consent to treatment on their behalf.
How does SMILECHECK work?
SMILECHECK is the technology system connecting patients to their dentist or orthodontist. It helps to manage the treatment plan and dental records using a secure portal that’s accessible to both you and your dentist. Your photos and dental impressions will be stored here and any orthodontic plan prescriptions will also appear on the system.
Do you have any before and after photos for me to look at?
Yes. The SmileDirectClub’s website has a whole host of before and after photos that should impress you. The results speak for themselves. The website features many inspirational blogs about people who have transformed their smiles and lives through using clear aligners to straighten their teeth, and it’s heartwarming to read through some of these personal accounts if you have the time. The social media pages are also filled with images that will get you thinking about your perfect smile.