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Review of the SmileDirectClub Aligners: Do They Work?

Updated on November 9, 2021
Written by
Ada Sandoval
10 sources cited
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SmileDirectClub Aligners — How Do They Compare to New Aligners?

SmileDirectClub (SDC) is the first brand to offer at-home clear aligners. It was established in 2014 when there was a demand for safer alternatives to DIY braces.

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Smile Direct Club - Most Number of Studios for In-Person Consultations

Clear or invisible aligners can straighten mild  moderate cases of misaligned teeth. Unlike braces and in-office aligners such as Invisalign, they provide a more convenient way to straighten teeth.

Review of the SmileDirectClub Aligners: Do They Work? 7

SDC aligners are also cheaper than traditional braces. They cost $1,950, which is 75% less than Invisalign treatment which can cost up to $8,000.

Over the years, more companies have started providing similar solutions.

SmileDirectClub is one of few companies with both in-person dental scans and at-home impression kits. By providing doctor-guided treatments, it offers a middle ground between orthodontist installations and do-it-yourself braces.

Here, we will review SmileDirectClub aligners and how they compare with today’s newer aligners such as Candid, ALIGNERCO, Byte, NewSmile, and Invisalign.

Review of the SmileDirectClub Aligners: Do They Work? 8
Our Review Kit

What is SmileDirectClub?

SmileDirectClub offers aligners that straighten teeth in small increments. These include daytime and nighttime clear aligners, which are custom-fit to your teeth.

SDC aligners are prescribed by a state-licensed dentist or orthodontist. You get a custom treatment plan, and your progress will be monitored virtually with a teledentistry platform.

Smile Direct Club also offers other products such as:

  • Teeth whitening kits (e.g., LED light, whitening pen)
  • Oral hygiene (e.g., toothbrush, toothpaste, floss)
  • Aligner accessories (e.g., cleaners)

In addition to oral care products and personalized aligner trays, the company offers custom retainers that keep your teeth straight after aligner treatment.

Who is SmileDirectClub for?

SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners are designed for people who want straighter teeth. Aligners can treat mild to moderate cases of teeth misalignment such as:

  • Spacing issues (e.g., gapped teeth)
  • Dental crowding (e.g., crooked teeth)

The company claims its aligners can help with minor bite problems. These include overbite, underbite, and crossbite. While aligners are effective, they also have a limited capability to move teeth to the desired position.

More intensive solutions such as braces and Invisalign treatment may be needed in such cases. Rather than do the guesswork yourself, we recommend consulting a licensed dentist.

How Does SmileDirectClub Work?

Follow these steps so you can start straightening teeth with your SmileDirectClub aligners.

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Smile Direct Club - Most Number of Studios for In-Person Consultations

Step 1: Take the online assessment

To find out if you’re qualified for aligner treatment, you can take the 30-second Smile Assessment on their website.

Review of the SmileDirectClub Aligners: Do They Work? 9

The short survey involves simple questions about your dental concerns and past use of braces or invisible aligners. You also have to choose from images that match your dental issues.

Smile Direct Club will use your answers to determine whether aligner treatment is right for you. Keep in mind that only people who need mild to moderate teeth correction can qualify. 

This should only take a few seconds.

Step 2: Buy an at-home impression kit (or get a scan)

If you qualify for the assessment, SmileDirectClub will give you two options: you can order an impression kit online, or you can go to a nearby SmileShop.

Review of the SmileDirectClub Aligners: Do They Work? 10
SmileDirectClub Impression Kit

You can immediately get started and order an at-home impression kit. The package includes impression trays and a “Smile Stretcher” that pulls back your lips and teeth so you can take clear photos of your top and bottom teeth. It costs $59 upfront.

SmileDirectClub will send the home impression kit to your address at no extra cost. Make sure to follow the steps that come with the box.

Visit a Smile Shop Near You

Another option is to schedule a 30-minute visit to the nearest Smile Shop. If you book your visit in the next 3 days after taking the assessment, you will get a free Bright On™ light and teeth whitening pen valued at $49.

SmileDirectClub has over 50 locations in the United States. During your appointment, a technician will take an in-person scan of your teeth.

Step 3: Get your custom treatment plan

A licensed doctor, dentist, or orthodontist will review your in-person scan or impressions. They will check your teeth to see they can correct it with invisible aligners.

If they approve, SmileDirectClub will create a 3D image of your custom treatment plan. It will show you what your teeth may look like following treatment.

A Smile Guide will present your treatment plan during your free 30-minute visit at a SmileShop. But if you opt for the impression kit, they will email it to you instead.

You can request for changes and ask questions during this step. From here, you can decide whether or not you will proceed with your clear aligner treatment.

Step 4: Start yourSmileDirectClub treatment

SmileDirectClub will start creating your prescribed aligners as soon as you process payment. When they’re ready, they will be sent to you all at once.

Your package will include aligners for the entire treatment. Each tray is pre-designed to slowly shift your teeth in the desired position. 

Wear and switch your aligner trays as prescribed in your treatment plan.

Step 5: Track your progress with the SmileDirectClub app

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Next, download the SmileDirectClub app so you can manage your aligner treatment. Some of its features include:

  • Get notifications when it’s time to switch aligners
  • Track your treatment and estimated completion
  • Receive reminders for your virtual check-in
  • Easy access to support and frequently asked questions

[Download for iOS] [Download for Android]

When you receive your clear aligners, make sure that you register them on the app. Don’t forget to upload photos of your teeth during Smile Check-Ins so you can monitor your progress. Keep doing this until you complete your program. 

The average treatment period for daytime aligners that are worn for 22 hours/day is 4 to 6 months. However, treatment can last up to 10 months or more with nighttime aligners.1

Step 6: Switch to a retainer

Once you complete treatment, you can stop wearing aligners and switch to retainers. This will keep teeth straightened and prevent them from shifting back into place. The company offers a retainer subscription program that delivers new SmileDirectClub retainers every 6 months.

How Much Does SmileDirectClub Cost?

SmileDirectClub daytime and nighttime clear aligners each cost a one-time payment of $1,950. This covers up to 10 months worth of nighttime aligners or 6 months worth of daytime aligners.

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You can also opt for the monthly payment plan called SmilePay. SmilePay lets you purchase SmileDirectClub aligners for a $250 down payment plus monthly payments of $89 or less for the next 24 months. 

Pro tip: With SmilePay, your treatment will cost a total of $2,386. A one-time payment of $1,950 may not be flexible but it saves you more money.

SmileDirectClub retainers cost $99 per set. Each set of retainers lasts 6 months.

Is SmileDirectClub Effective?

SmileDirectClub has garnered a mix of positive and negative reviews on its invisible aligners.

As of this writing, SDC has over 3,000 customer complaints documented on Better Business Bureau (BBB). Most of these complaints involve their products and services, such as:2

  • Damaged aligners
  • Refund requests
  • Payment issues
  • Customer service issues

Some of these reviews reflect poorly on the company and what they claim to offer.

The Bad — SmileDirectClub Reviews

SmileDirectClub says their aligners are laser-cut to ensure a good fit. Their propriety Comfort Sense™ technology is supposed to safely and comfortably shift your teeth into position by progressing you into wearing soft, medium, and firm plastic aligners.3

Despite these claims, one customer complained of ill-fitting aligners. He said that because of this, his gums now bleed and overlap with his upper front teeth.2 

Another user complained that the aligners not only failed to give him straight teeth. He now has crooked teeth at the bottom, which he previously did not have.2

In 2020, NBC News published a story that features customers who had negative experiences with Smile Direct Club:4

  • One woman says she was diagnosed with crossbite after using SmileDirectClub aligners and that she developed migraines as a result. 
  • A 40-year old man from Nevada consulted his own dentist when he felt severe pain while undergoing aligner treatment. According to his dentist, SmileDirectClub aligners moved his teeth too fast. This caused some of them to detach from the bone.

In both instances, the customers tried to reach for professional dental support — something which SmileDirectClub claims to provide. However, they failed to get in touch with the dentist or orthodontist assigned to them.4

The Good — SmileDirectClub Reviews

Some customers did leave positive reviews on SmileDirectClub.

A woman from Alabama says that while her top aligners and retainers did not fit perfectly, they still straightened her teeth.5

A 50-year old woman from Massachusetts who wore metal braces in her late 20’s was prescribed Invisalign treatment by her dentist. She opted for SDC aligners instead and is happy with the results.5

Safety Concerns on SmileDirectClub Aligners

Invisible aligners are designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as Class II medical devices. Products that are classified as such should only be available on a prescription basis.

In 2019, the American Dental Association (ADA) warned that SmileDirectClub places the public at risk by providing aligners without a prescription. They also cited other safety issues under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act.6

In the statement issued by ADA, SmileDirectClub does not provide teledentistry, contrary to its claims. The company also has conflicting claims on the effectiveness of its aligners.

According to ADA, the company solicits customers by claiming their aligners treat extreme misalignment. These include overbite, underbite, and crossbite.

Once they complain, the company retracts their initial claim and says they only work for mild to moderate teeth correction.

It’s worth noting that the American Dental Association (ADA) released this statement in 2019. As of this writing, we did not see any such claims on the SDC website. 

Customer reviews on SmileDirectClub are also mixed. Some say they received dental support through the teledentistry platform, while others did not.

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Smile Direct Club - Most Number of Studios for In-Person Consultations

Are SmileDirectClub Aligners Better Than Traditional Braces?

SmileDirectClub gives you a practical way to straighten teeth. Everything can be done from your home from buying the impression kit, to receiving your clear aligners, and keeping track of your treatment process.

Unlike traditional braces, you can remove them anytime when you’re eating or brushing your teeth. SmileDirectClub daytime aligners can also move teeth in as little as 90 days, but at a fraction of the cost.1

According to the company, their aligners can straighten teeth within 4 to 6 months.1 It’s comparably shorter than orthodontic treatments, which usually last an average of 24.6 months.7

Overall, teeth aligners or “invisible braces” as many would call them, provide a cheaper, more convenient, and faster way to straighten teeth. However, this does not mean are better or more effective than traditional braces or Invisalign treatment.

SmileDirectClub vs. New Aligners

Smile Direct Club has been selling at-home clear aligners since 2014. In this section, we will compare them with newer aligners from competitors.

SmileDirectClub vs. ALIGNERCO

Both offer teeth aligners for daytime and nighttime use. However, ALIGNERCO has more affordable pricing.

You can purchase ALIGNERCO aligners for a one-time payment of $1,345 or less. The total cost of their flexible payment options is also cheaper than SmileDirectClub.

ALIGNERCO treatment usually lasts 8 to 12 months, while the average treatment period for SmileDirectClub is half of that. Keep in mind that “faster” does not mean it’s more effective.

Unfortunately, ALIGNERCO has limited Smile Studios throughout the United States. Smile Direct Club has over 50 Smile Shops across the country that offer free in-person scans and teeth whitening.

Another advantage of Smile Direct Club is that they offer refunds within the first 30 days of starting aligner treatment. ALIGNERCO only provides refunds for customers who purchased an impression kit and didn’t qualify for treatment.

SmileDirectClub vs. Byte Aligners

Byte aligners are available with one-time and flexible payment, just like Smile Direct Club. Both also offer daytime and nighttime aligners.

The treatment period of these aligners lasts up to 6 months. But SmileDirectClub aligners cost about $300 less, which makes them more affordable.

SmileDirectClub vs. NewSmile

Like most competitors, NewSmile and Smile Direct Club sell daytime and nighttime aligners under flexible payment options. Another thing they have in common is a short treatment period of 4 to 6 months.

However, SDC has been at this longer. So if you prefer a trusted brand, you might as well buy aligners from Smile Direct Club.

SmileDirectClub vs. Candid

Smile Direct Club and Candid both have studios which you can visit for an in-person scan. If there isn’t any nearby, or if you simply prefer staying at home, you can buy an impression kit online.

For faster and less expensive treatments, opt for SmileDirectClub. Treatment usually lasts 4 to 6 months, which is about half the time it takes to complete a Candid treatment.

But if you want comprehensive remote monitoring and good customer support, Candid is the better choice between the two.

SmileDirectClub vs. Invisalign Treatment

Unlike ALIGNERCO, Byte, and NewSmile which offer at-home aligners, Invisalign provides in-office aligner treatment. It is a recognized orthodontic treatment that requires frequent visits to dental professionals.

In-office aligners are generally better than at-home aligners such as SmileDirectClub. A licensed dentist or licensed orthodontist will oversee your entire treatment, which helps ensure your safety.

Invisalign treatment is also proven to be an effective teeth straightening method.7 Its only drawback is that it costs significantly more, with prices ranging from $5,000 to $8,000.

SmileDirectClub Review — Pros and Cons

Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of SmileDirectClub aligners.

ProsCons
✓ Gives you two options: Buy the impression kit online or visit a Smile Shop near✗ Short treatment of 4 to 6 months can move your teeth too fast and cause dental problems
✓ SDC Smile Shops offer free 3D scans and teeth whitening treatment✗ At-home impression kit increases the risk for errors and
✓ SmileDirectClub app helps you stay on track and monitors progress✗ Poor customer service (as shown in some negative reviews)
✓ More affordable than traditional braces, Invisalign, and most at-home aligners✗ Some users complain of ill-fitting aligners and retainers
✓ Offers monthly payment options without credit checks✗ Does not provide comprehensive dental support
✓ Accepts payment via health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA)
✓ If you’re not satisfied, you can get a full refund for the total cost within the first 30 days of starting aligner treatment8

Resources

SHOW
HIDE

(1) “SmileDirectClub Marketing Claims.” Smile Direct Club.

(2) “Smile Direct Club Complaints.” Better Business Bureau.

(3) “Why SmileDirectClub.” Smile Direct Club.

(4) “‘Things didn't feel right’: Some SmileDirectClub customers report problems.” NBC News.

(5) “SmileDirectClub Reviews.” Consumer Affairs.

(6) “ADA sets record straight on status of petition to FDA regarding SmileDirectClub.” American Dental Association.

(7) “Orthodontic treatment time: can it be shortened?” National Center for Biotechnology Information. 

(8) “A systematic review of the accuracy and efficiency of dental movements with Invisalign®.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. 

(9) “SmileDirectClub Guarantee.” Smile Direct Club.

(10) Candid vs SmileDirectClub, NewMouth

Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
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