SmileDirectClub are one of the biggest names in the aligners industry right now. With an international presence and an established product, they’ve helped over a million customers with their smile aspirations.
So how do SmileDirectClub compare to their competitors? And are they the right choice for you? We take a detailed look at everything you need to know.
SmileDirectClub offer two main products – one is regular clear aligners, and the other is their nighttime only aligners. Although there’s no difference in price, the latter are a needed for quite a while longer.
Like any company, there are some upsides and downsides to choosing SmileDirectClub:
Competitively priced, resulting in a lower cost than many other aligner brands.
Insight from both dentists and orthodontists, with cases reviewed by qualified professionals.
Two treatment options, giving you the choice of aligners that best suits your needs.
Retainers for the end of your treatment aren’t free, unlike other competitors.
You’ll have to purchase replacement mold kits if you make a mistake.
Who is behind SmileDirectClub?
Entrepreneurs Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman founded SmileDirectClub in Nashville in 2014. They secured funding from Camelot Venture Group, and have grown to hold a huge market share. By their own estimates, 95% of doctor-directed at-home clear aligners are provided by them.
Since 2014, the company has grown from strength to strength. They now have over 391 SmileShop locations, and they employ more than 6,300 people. Their service is often seen as a cheaper alternative to traditional forms of dental treatment.
Who can use SmileDirectClub aligners?
According to their website, SmileDirectClub aligners are only for those patients with minor to moderate alignment issues. This means that, if you have slight spaces between your teeth or some minor overlapping, you might be eligible for their treatment.
More serious malocclusions are not treated by SmileDirectClub. So, if you have a significant overbite or underbite, or have large gaps or overlaps, you’re not eligible for treatment.
You can use the SmileDirectClub smile assessment to see whether you might be a suitable candidate. It’s free and takes around 30 seconds to complete. It asks you about your goals, your dental health, and your location.
If you pay for an at-home test kit and your results show that you can’t be treated by SmileDirectClub aligners, you’ll receive a refund for the initial amount paid. Additionally, if you have any planned or recently completed dental work (such as cavities filled or wisdom teeth removed), you’re unlikely to be accepted for treatment.
How are the dental aligners made?
SmileDirectClub make their aligners from a BPA-free plastic that has a smooth and comfortable finish. They use this material as it’s easy to produce and customize, and it doesn’t irritate gums and cheeks like metal braces can.
There are two main ways that you can have your aligners made:
Like many similar companies, SmileDirectClub have at-home impression kits you an order. These cost $45 and are mailed directly to your home address. The kits contain putty that you can bite down on, leaving an impression of your top and bottom teeth. You also have to take a photo of your teeth using a special tool.
Many customers report that it can take several attempts to get an accurate reading, which can be frustrating. This involves some back-and-forth during the consultation period. However, if it turns out your teeth aren’t suitable for treatment, they’ll refund you the cost of the impression kit.
There are also hundreds of stores owned by SmileDirectClub across the US. With multiple locations across 48 states, you can book a free appointment and go in for a consultation. Here, you can get a 3D scan of your mouth over a 30-minute appointment.
If you’re eligible, they’ll send the 3D scan directly to a dental professional so they can start analyzing whether you’re eligible for treatment.
What treatment options are available?
Unlike many brands in this space, SmileDirectClub actually have a choice of treatments available. It’s one of the selling points that really make them stand out. The two choices on offer are:
Regular all-day aligners
These are the standard treatment option, and the ones that most customers will opt for. Like many clear aligners, these ones are work for around 22 hours each day. The only time you take them out is to eat and to brush your teeth.
This option is ideal for those who are looking for the fastest possible results. Due to their clear design, they’re basically invisible, which is my many people choose them.
For those who don’t want to wear aligners for such a long portion of the day, the nighttime option is worth considering. Instead of 22 hours per day, you’ll only need them in for 10 hours through the night.
Of course, the downside of this treatment is that it takes significantly longer. However, if you find the full-day option too uncomfortable, it’s a good compromise.
How long does SmileDirectClub treatment take?
The exact amount of time needed for treatment varies depending on a few different variables. The main variable is the type of treatment you opt for:
Clear aligners. The average time for treatment is given as 4-6 months.
Nighttime aligners. The average is longer, at 10 months.
Of course, your teeth also play a big part in determining how long treatment lasts. If you only need minor corrections, it won’t take too long. It also depends on how strict you are with wearing your aligners.
Are there any other steps to take?
Throughout your treatment, you’ll periodically have to send updates of your teeth. There’s a smartphone app provided for this purpose, and you’ll have to do so every 90 days.
When you send your teeth pictures via the app, a registered professional will view them. They’ll ensure that your treatment is progressing as it should, and make any adjustments necessary.
How much does SmileDirectClub treatment cost?
The total cost of your treatment depends somewhat on the options you choose. On the whole, SmileDirectClub is competitively priced, and much cheaper than traditional braces. Total costs are $1895 as a one-off payment, or $85 per month for 24 months.
If you make an appointment and go to one of the SmileShops located around the country, your scan is free. All it takes is a 30-minute appointment to determine whether your teeth are suitable for aligner treatment.
At-home impression kits cost $49, although at the time of writing were on offer for $29 with free delivery. However, if you make a mistake or the impression is incorrect, you’ll have to order a new test kit. This amount is refunded once you get a successful impression, or if you’re not eligible for treatment.
Both the Clear Aligners and Nighttime Aligners cost $1895 as a one-off payment. If you choose to pay in installments, you’ll have to pay a deposit of $250 and then $85 per month for 24 months. This latter option works out at $2290 in total, which is a significant difference.
One positive about the pay monthly option is that you don’t have to undergo a credit check, and there are no forms to fill out. This isn’t the case for all competitors.
If you need a replacement aligner, you’ll have to order a new one. It costs $50 per tray, and takes 3-5 weeks to ship. Of course, this means that you’ll need to wear you previous aligner while you get your new one.
At the end of your treatment, you’ll have to wear a retainer during the night to maintain the changes. Unlike with many other aligner brands, you don’t get a free set with SmileDirectClub. It costs $99 per set of retainers, and they recommend that you replace them every six months.
Are payment options available?
There are two payment options available. You can either pay a lump sum upfront ($1895) or monthly over 24 months ($250 deposit and then $85 per month). The latter works out to be $395 more expensive.
Is a warranty or guarantee available?
Although there’s no money-back guarantee or warranty, SmileDirectClub are committed to ensuring their patients are happy with the results. As such, if you’re not happy with the results after treatment, you may be eligible for additional aligners.
Provided you have followed the instructions for your aligners and regularly updated your progress, you can contact SmileDirectClub within 30 days of finishing your treatment to get a resolution.
How old do you have to be?
Patients receiving treatment from SmileDirectClub have to be at least 12 years old. Additionally, they must have all of their adult teeth through. Those who are under 18 must have written consent from a parent or guardian.
Where is SmileDirectClub treatment available?
The company’s SmileShops are available across the US. They currently have stores in 48 states, and they ship their impression kits across the country. For international patients, they also have services in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
What about customer service?
Customer service generally tends to be pretty positive with SmileDirectClub. This is helped in a large part by the fact they have both physical stores as well as a dedicated phone line. Getting in touch with them is pretty easy – their website contact page has their phone number, a contact form, and a map showing your nearest store.
Customer feedback generally tends to be quite positive, and the company has developed a good reputation in multiple countries.
SmileDirectClub: The Verdict
So, what are our final thoughts on SmileDirectClub’s service? Overall, we’re pretty impressed. As one of the founding companies in this industry, they’ve helped to innovate the space and deliver a high-quality product.
It’s really easy to get started with SmileDirectClub. The in-store scan is by far the easiest method, as it only takes around 30 minutes. The at-home kits are useful for those who can’t get into a store, but the process can be a little more frustrating and time-consuming.
As for the length of time it takes to get your aligners, it generally takes 4-5 weeks after your consultation. Of course, this will be longer if you have to send multiple impressions through the mail.
Overall, SmileDirectClub sit in the middle of the pack. Companies like Aligner Co are quite a bit cheaper, whereas Candid is quite a bit more expensive.
It’s definitely cheaper than braces, even if you opt to pay monthly. However, it’s unfortunate that you have to pay for replacement aligners, as well as your end-of-treatment retainers. Many companies offer the first of these for free, while SmileDirectClub charge $50 for replacements and $99 for retainers.
The at-home test kits are quite competitively priced. Additionally, although you may have to order multiple, they’ll refund any extra ones. Similarly, if you’re not viable, they’ll refund the initial cost.
Ease of use
Overall, the process is pretty straight forward. Once you get your aligners delivered, you have everything you need to get started. Each new set of aligners is clearly marked, and the app reminds you when you need to move to your next set.
The app itself is fairly intuitive, and it’s easy to submit your photos. It’s useful not having to constantly have to go in to see the dentist. However, the downside is that you don’t get regular x-rays of your teeth.
The only potentially frustrating part of the process is the initial impressions using the at home kit. It’s hard to get them right on your first try.
The option of the standard aligners and the nighttime ones is a useful one. For those who are happy taking a longer course of treatment, the ones you only have to wear at night are an appealing prospect. It’s a choice that many competitors don’t have.
Aside from the aligners themselves, the only other choice you have is with the payment options, which are fairly straightforward.
There is a 30-day return policy on your aligners, provided that a qualified dentist states that they won’t benefit from them. Aside from that, the only guarantee you have is that you’ll get additional aligners if the treatment isn’t successful. This depends on you having followed the treatment process correctly.
Smile Direct Club FAQs
Can anyone use SmileDirectClub?
SmileDirectClub is open to most customers. If you’re too young, your teeth may not have fully come through and so it may be that you’re asked to wait until your mouth is fully formed before you start treatment. Conversely, if you’re too old you may not be suitable for treatment as your gums may not be strong enough to accept your teeth moving.
Not only that, but you need to be in generally good dental health. So, if you haven’t been to a dentist within the past 12 months for a check-up and a clean, you won’t be accepted as suitable for treatment. Finally, anyone with severe misalignment or large gaps may find that SmileDirectClub aligners aren’t sufficient. Your dentist will be able to give you advice on whether clear aligners are suited to you.
How long does it take to get SmileDirectClub aligners?
Once you’ve either had your scan at a SmileShop or sent off your home impression kit to be analyzed by the SmileDirectClub team, you can expect to receive your dental aligners within around 4-5 weeks. They’ll be shipped straight to your home, and you’ll receive all of your aligners at once for the full length of your treatment.
You’ll just need to make sure you use the correct aligners at the right time, in the right order, for the treatment to work. Keep your old aligners safe once you’ve finished using them too – you may need them if you accidentally break or lose the set you’re meant to be using currently.
How do you clean SmileDirectClub aligners?
The best way to clean SmileDirectClub aligners without any special equipment is to use liquid soap and warm water. Warm water works better than cold as it’s better for creating a cleaning solution. However hot water can soften your aligners which can cause them to mis-shape. Add liquid soap to a glass of warm water, create suds and let the aligners sit in the solution for 20 minutes before you rinse them and re-insert them.
Some aligner manufacturers recommend using toothpaste to brush and clean your aligners but SmileDirectClub actively recommend you do not do this, as toothpaste can be abrasive to their aligners and damage them.
How long should I wear my retainer with SmileDirectClub?
Once you finish your aligner treatment with SmileDirectClub, you’ll need to wear a retainer for 24 hours a day for around two weeks, to ensure they stay in position. After the first two weeks, you can then shift to wearing your retainer only at night while you sleep.
You’ll need to do this long-term, ideally permanently, but SmileDirectClub recommends you get a new retainer every six months to ensure it keeps working properly. You can keep it in good condition simply by rinsing it with warm (never hot) water and storing it carefully in its container when not in use.
Who owns SmileDirectClub?
SmileDirectClub is a public company, but it was founded by Jordan Katzman and Alex Fenkell in 2014. It’s based in Nashville Tennessee but serves customers across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Germany and the UK.
Can I wear my SmileDirectClub aligners only at night?
If you don’t want to wear SmileDirectClub aligners for the full 22 hours a day that’s required, there is another option. Choose Nighttime Clear Aligner Therapy with SmileDirectClub and you’ll get aligners that you only need to wear for 10 hours per night.
The average treatment time is longer, but if your career or lifestyle prevents you from wearing aligners throughout the day (remember that you shouldn’t wear them while eating or drinking) then the night-only option may be much more suitable.
Is SmileDirectClub permanent?
As long as you follow the instructions as part of your treatment plan, which includes wearing a retainer long-term following the end of your normal course of aligners, then yes your SmileDirectClub treatment should be permanent and you can enjoy your new smile for the rest of your life.
Of course, with old age your gums may get weaker and you may seem movement of your teeth but you can minimize this with continued use of your retainer and good dental hygiene. For the most part your new smile will be with you always.
Does SmileDirectClub take insurance?
SmileDirectClub cannot accept payments directly from insurance companies. However, many dental plans will include orthodontic allowances, so you may be able to claim back the cost of your aligners once you’ve paid for them yourself.
Check with your provider to see how much of a reimbursement you could expect from your insurance. HSA, FSA and CareCredit are also accepted and could bring your cost down further.
Is SmileDirectClub the only company to offer night-time only aligners?
SmileDirectClub is not the only provider to offer night-time only dental aligners, but they claim to be the first. What’s key is that they do offer night-time only aligners for no additional cost. Other providers charge more due to the way they change the aligners to shorten the longer treatment time of night-time aligners.
If treatment time isn’t a problem for you and you don’t mind waiting longer for results, SmileDirectClub may be the best option for you since you won’t pay a premium for aligners you only need to use at night.
What’s the Club Warranty?
Club Warranty is the guarantee offered by SmileDirectClub that you’ll get the results you want. Put simply, if you aren’t happy with the results after you’ve completed your treatment, you could be eligible for more sets of aligners to continue your treatment until your smile is just right.
You’ll need to contact SmileDirectClub within 30 days of your smile plan ending so that they can re-evaluate your results. You’ll also need to make sure you’ve been wearing your aligners for the required 22 hours a day, except when eating, drinking or brushing your teeth. You have to make sure you registered your aligners online and you’ll need to have provided photos every 90 days to the SmileDirectClub doctors to document your progress, otherwise you won’t be eligible.