If you’re insecure about your smile, you’re not alone. According to the American Dental Association, nearly one-quarter of adults feel embarrassed about the condition of their teeth and even avoid smiling as a result.
Why are these numbers so high? The soaring costs of orthodontic care combined with limited insurance options are largely to blame. Most orthodontic work requires paying out of pocket, and the prices are on par with purchasing a used car.
In recent years teledentistry has stepped into the spotlight, offering basic dental alignments with remote support and far lower costs than traditional braces. But do these remote services offer a safe and effective option? We’ve investigated the top-selling direct-to-consumer dental aligners made by Smile Direct Club. Below we break down the pros, cons, and details of this innovative company to help you determine if its aligners are right for you.
- Cost is significantly lower than traditional braces
- No office visits required
- Faster results than traditional braces
- SmilePay offers monthly payments as low as $89
- Accepts HSA, FSA, and some insurance plans
- Offers a 30-day money-back promise as part of its Lifetime Smile Guarantee
- Not appropriate for treating severe misalignments
- Not recommended by the American Dental Association
- It is essential to read all the fine print
If you’re looking for affordable orthodontic treatment for minor to moderate teeth correction, we highly recommend Smile Direct Club. We found the setup easy, the process convenient, and the results rewarding. Not to mention, it costs far less than traditional orthodontic care. While our testers’ journeys to a straighter smile involved minor adjustments, the product delivered in just four months, and the customer service was exceptional. Smile Direct Club is the top seller in the market for direct-to-consumer orthodontics, and there’s no question why.
Smile Direct Club is an affordable and convenient way to enhance your smile from the comfort of home. 30-day money-back guarantee!
With Smile Direct Club, you can fix your dental alignment while skipping the waiting rooms and saving money with their easy, straight-forward process. With daytime and nighttime clear aligner options, you are sure to be smiling brighter in no time.
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test each health service we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health services, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate the service based on our adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, this review of Smile Direct Club, like all health-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
Smile Direct Club is a direct-to-consumer telehealth company specializing in clear orthodontic aligners (often called invisible aligners or invisible braces) that can reinvent your smile in a fraction of the time of traditional braces. Founded in 2014 with a mission of bringing affordable and convenient oral care to the public, the company quickly ascended in popularity and now boasts over one million customers.
Unlike traditional braces, which require many trips to the orthodontist for adjustments, Smile Direct Club’s invisible aligners are created for use temporarily and then discarded as you move onto the next set. They progressively move your teeth into position over 4-6 months for most minor to moderate alignment issues. The aligners and retainers themselves are made of BPA-free plastic and are precision cut and manufactured in an ISO-certified and FDA-registered 3D printing facility in the U.S.
The main selling point of Smile Direct Club aligners is the cost. Up to 60% cheaper than traditional braces, they also shave off a fair bit of time for realignment and don’t require frequent orthodontist visits and adjustments. Smile Direct Club provides 24/7 access to its dental care teams by phone, email, video chat, or social media for any questions or concerns.
There are two ways to get started with Smile Direct Club. If you are located near one of the company’s hundreds of SmileShops or 1,000+ Smile Direct Club Partner Network dental office locations, you can start there. If not, you can order an at-home impression kit that you’ll administer yourself.
What to do in advance
While the ordering process from Smile Direct Club doesn’t require proof of having seen a dentist, your contract with them will state this in the fine print. You should see a dentist within six months before ordering aligners to ensure your dental health. If you choose not to do so, you will have no recourse if something should go wrong in your alignment process after signing the contract.
Impressions -- in-office or using the at-home kit
If you go to a SmileShop or affiliated dental professional, they will take impressions of your teeth and photograph your mouth using advanced imaging technology. They’ll then present you with a plan that shows through digital 3D rendering what your teeth look like now and how they will change with Smile Direct Club aligners. If you’re happy with the plan, you’ll set up payment, and Smile Direct Club will deliver your aligners directly to your door with instructions for use.
If you opt for the at-home impression kit, you’ll send in your impressions and the requested photos to be analyzed by a licensed dentist or orthodontist at Smile Direct Club. Once the analysis is complete, you’ll receive your plan via email. Should you decide that the program works for you, you’ll proceed to order aligners.
Using the invisible braces
You will receive several sets of aligners in one package along with a free whitening kit and all tools needed for fitting. Each set is to be worn for a prescribed amount of time before moving to the next pair. During your first month, you’ll wear three sets of aligners. Smile Direct Club recommends you wear the aligners for at least 22 hours each day (unless you choose the Nighttime Aligners, which you wear 10 hours daily). The dentist or orthodontist assigned to your treatment will meet with you virtually for regular check-ins.
Within as little as four months for minor alignments, your treatment plan will be complete, and your next step will be following up with retainers to maintain the alignment. The Smile Direct Club clear retainers cost $99 each and should be replaced approximately every six months. After treatment, if you wear and replace your retainers as directed, you’ll be eligible for an annual aligner touch-up.
Both the remote impression kit and the 3D imaging at any SmileShop cost $59. The cost for each is fully refundable if you are ineligible for aligners.
The cost of Smile Direct Club aligners, regardless of your plan, is $1,950 as a one-time payment. The company also offers a payment plan called SmilePay. With this plan, you’ll pay a downpayment of $250 and then make monthly payments of $89 for 24 months.
Smile Direct Club highly recommends you purchase retainers after your plan’s completion to preserve your smile. These cost $99 each and should be replaced approximately every six months.
The company offers a Lifetime Smile Guarantee, which allows for a reevaluation of your treatment plan if you have concerns during treatment, along with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you change your mind within the first 30 days after receiving and registering your aligners (return shipping costs not included).
Smile Direct Club does accept HSA, FSA, and CareCredit, and will assist you in obtaining payment or reimbursement from your insurance company if applicable. See more details below.
To get started with Smile Direct Club, begin on the company’s website.
Step 1: Complete the quiz
The most prominent link on the homepage – “Am I a Candidate?” – leads you to a brief, 30-second quiz that asks about your tooth alignment issues and your goals. You’ll also enter your zip code, which informs Smile Direct Club whether you are near one of their SmileShops or affiliated dentists.
Step 2: Order an impression kit or make an appointment at a SmileShop
Your decision here will depend largely on your location and/or willingness to travel for an appointment at a SmileShop or affiliated dentist. Either option costs $59 and is refundable if you are determined to be ineligible for aligners.
Step 3: Make impressions or attend your appointment
If you’re making your impressions at home, Smile Direct Club offers virtual SmileParties where a dentist will lead you through the process of using the impression kit. You can also check the company’s Facebook page for additional videos and guidance. After you’ve made your impressions, send them to the indicated lab, and you will receive your plan via email once a dental professional has assessed it. If you go to a SmileShop, your 30-minute appointment will include imaging your teeth and will culminate in a 3D demonstration of your plan for alignment.
Step 4: Order aligners
If you are qualified for aligners, you have several options for payment. You can pay via major credit card in a lump sum ($1,950), or you can make payments via SmilePay. Smile Direct Club also accepts CareCredit. SmilePay requires a $250 deposit and costs $89 a month for 24 months. It requires no credit check or forms to fill out. If you have an HSA or FSA debit card, you can use it for payment. If you don’t have a card, contact the SmileExperts team to help process your order. Smile Direct Club will also help you determine if you are eligible for coverage from your insurance company and will coordinate direct payment from them or help you get a reimbursement.
Step 5: Begin your plan
Follow the instructions included in your package of aligners. During your first month, you’ll wear one set of aligners the first week, one set the second week, and a third set for the final two weeks. Follow your prescribed plan, which involves wearing the aligners for 22 hours daily or 10 hours if you’re using Nighttime Aligners. You can keep track of when to change your aligners by logging into your account on the website and entering the date you began. An assigned dentist or orthodontist will meet with you virtually throughout the treatment time to follow your progress.
Step 6: Follow-up care
Most plans for minor to moderate dental alignment last 4-6 months. After this period, Smile Direct Club highly recommends following up with custom-fit clear retainers. These retainers cost $99 each and should be replaced every six months. During the first two weeks of use, you’ll wear the retainers 24 hours a day except when eating and drinking. Afterward, you’ll wear them only nightly when you sleep.
Smile Direct Club accepts HSA, FSA, and some insurance plans. If you have a debit card associated with your HSA or FSA account, you can use this when ordering. If not, you can contact Smile Direct Club’s customer service team to assist you in payment. The customer service team will also help coordinate payment from your insurance company (if it offers orthodontic benefits) or help you obtain a reimbursement.
Smile Direct Club collects personal and non-personally identifiable information about its customers and users of its website. The company uses this information to render services and to maintain the site, and for correspondence and marketing purposes.
Any health information provided to the company is considered sensitive. Smile Direct Club will not share, sell, or otherwise disclose your personal information to third parties with the exceptions of your licensed dental provider, subsidiaries and affiliates, third-party service providers, or to comply with legal obligations.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service or product. For Smile Direct Club and other health companies, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telehealth services, is the quality of the service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not?
User-friendly: How intuitive and user-friendly is the service? Does the device, program, app, or website achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?
Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure?
Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service ideal for you?