According to the American Association of Orthodontists, one in four people with orthodontics are adults. Given that this number was closer to one in five adults just a few years ago, it’s clear there’s positive change on the horizon. However, the solution still feels out of reach for many people. A lot of 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 SmileDirectClub. Below we break down the pros, cons, and details to help you decide if its aligner treatments are right for you.
- Cheaper than in-office orthodontic treatments and even some at-home aligner plans
- Better access to 3D scans for treatment design
- Treatment plans include free tooth whitening
- Offers a nighttime-only plan
- Comprehensive guarantee
- Offers touch-up treatment for those who’ve followed maintenance requirements
- Start with an aligner kit for only $15 with code SMILE2022 at checkout
- Treatment may be designed by less-specialized dentists rather than orthodontists
- Essential to read all the fine print
- Not recommended by the American Dental Association
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.
- Why you should trust us
- How we evaluated SmileDirectClub
- What is SmileDirectClub?
- Who is a good fit for SmileDirectClub?
- SmileDirectClub’s products and treatments
- Flossers and other oral care
- Teeth whitening
- Aligner accessories
- Getting started with SmileDirectClub
- Insurance and payments
- Your alternatives and how SmileDirectClub compares to competitors
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test each health service or product we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health options, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate products and services based on their adherence to quality and the latest medical evidence and health standards. We ask ourselves two simple questions: Would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job? Would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
8.5 / 10
All SmileDirectClub’s clinicians have at least five years of experience with aligner treatment. Still, it’s important to note that your treatment may be designed and supervised by either an orthodontist or a dentist. While dentists may seem qualified to understand alignment issues (and they’ll certainly be better at it than a primary care doctor), orthodontists have an additional two to three years of training above dentist standards. Still, the dentists and orthodontists we interacted with were well-qualified.
8.7 / 10
If you’re located near one of the company’s hundreds of SmileShops or SmileDirectClub Partner Network dental office locations, start there. These locations will take impressions of your teeth and photographs of your whole mouth using advanced imaging techniques before presenting you with 3D renders of your mouth. This will let you visualize exactly what to expect with the invisible aligners. Given that electronic scans are considered the accurate standard practice in the world of orthodontics, this is a big selling point in our estimation. If you’re happy with the plan you and the dentist or orthodontist have set up, you’ll set up payment and SmileDirectClub will deliver your aligners directly to your door.
If you live somewhere like Alaska where there are currently no SmileDirectClub affiliated offices, you can order an at-home impression kit that you’ll administer yourself. You’ll send in your impressions and some requested photos of your mouth to be analyzed by a licensed dentist or orthodontist at SmileDirectClub. Once the analysis is complete, you’ll receive your plan via email.
No matter how we did the impressions, it took about a month to receive aligners after ordering in our experience.
7.5 / 10
SmileDirectClub boasts faster treatment times than traditional orthodontics, and it delivers here. With the standard all-day program, most clients complete their treatment within 4-6 months. Nighttime-only clients see full results in 8-10 months. Though our testers only had minor concerns, they were able to complete treatment within four months.
You’ll check in with a dentist or orthodontist every 90 days. While SmileDirectClub offers a more robust guarantee than most similar businesses, we wondered at the relatively long gap between check-ins. Competitor companies require check-ins every two to six weeks, so waiting to see someone for three months with SmileDirectClub can feel a little risky. We would’ve been more comfortable with more frequent monitoring, and recommend promptly getting in touch with customer service if you notice anything awry rather than waiting for your check-in time.
Commitment to results
8.0 / 10
If SmileDirectClub determines you aren’t a candidate for their aligner treatments, you’ll be refunded the cost of your Impression Kit. This is standard among most at-home aligner companies, but SmileDirectClub goes further than others once treatment has begun. They offer a 30-day money-back promise, allowing you to return your unused aligners and receive a refund of all payments if you’re unhappy for any reason during the first 30 days, provided you also registered them as directed. Past the initial 30 days, you can return unopened aligners for a prorated refund, provided you’ve been following the treatment plan and are up-to-date on check-ins. Either way, you’ll pay return shipping costs.
There may be a condition for that refund, however. One report from 2020 suggests that customers requesting a refund had to sign a nondisclosure agreement saying they wouldn’t share their negative experiences in any public forum, including social media. We raised an eyebrow at this, so proceed with caution and be sure to read the fine print on any forms SmileDirectClub sends you.
Finally, SmileDirectClub promises a Lifetime Smile Guarantee, which allows for a review of your plan if issues arise during treatment as well as a touch-up following treatment completion. Again, this relies on wearing and replacing your SmileDirectClub retainers as directed.
Cost and payment options
8.3 / 10
SmileDirectClub charges $1950 for an invisible braces treatment, as well as an additional $59 for a starter kit. Uniquely, the treatment cost is the same for both the Standard treatment and the Nighttime-Only option. Most competitors charge an additional few hundred dollars for nighttime-only treatments to account for the extra time treatment takes. Plus, if you’re close to a SmileShop, you can skip the starter kit and get your initial scans for free in person.
SmileDirectClub also offers a convenient payment plan with less than $200 total interest added to the base cost of aligners. If you have dental insurance, HSA/FSA funds, or CareCredit, SmileDirectClub will also accept those as payment. While it might not be the least expensive invisible aligner on the market, its options are similar to other at-home aligner companies.
SmileDirectClub is an at-home orthodontic service specializing in clear orthodontic aligners (also called invisible aligners or invisible braces) that can reinvent your smile in a fraction of the time of traditional braces. Founded in 2014 to bring affordable and convenient oral care to the public, SmileDirectClub quickly ascended in popularity and now boasts over one million customers. It was one of the first providers for at-home orthodontics and remains one of the top sellers.
Unlike traditional braces, which require many trips to the orthodontist for adjustments, SmileDirectClub’s invisible aligners are created for temporary use and then discarded as you move onto the next set. Available for most minor to moderate alignment issues, they progressively move your teeth into a straighter, well-aligned position over four to six months. 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.
SmileDirectClub may be a good choice for people looking to correct mild to moderate alignment issues and who otherwise have good oral health. Commitment to wearing aligners for the entire treatment duration (22 hours/day for the standard treatment or 10 hours/day for the nighttime option) and following through on check-ins and aligner transitions are critical for your success.
SmileDirectClub treatment is designed for adults, but the company also offers a separate teen version of their alignment treatment for teens 12 and up who have all their adult teeth. Plus, the first replacement set of aligners is free for teen treatment.
Who is likely not an ideal customer?
Like other at-home aligners, SmileDirectClub’s aligners can only correct mild to moderate problems. If you have a more severe underbite, overbite, crossbite, or teeth crowding problem, you will probably need treatment beyond aligners. Likewise, if your gums and teeth aren’t healthy, you may be ineligible or be asked to seek dental care for existing problems that would make teeth movement unsafe.
SmileDirectClub has a clause in their consent form certifying that you’ve been seen by a licensed dentist and that you’ve been checked for the following conditions:
- Loose teeth
- Loose or defective fillings, crowns, or bridges
- Dental nerve damage
- Shortened or resorbed roots
- Impacted teeth
- Periodontal or gum disease
- Oral cancer
While the ordering process from SmileDirectClub doesn’t require proof of having seen a dentist for these or other purposes, your contract releases SmileDirectClub from liability if you haven’t. You should see a dentist within six months before ordering aligners to ensure good oral 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.
SmileDirectClub currently has many more in-person studios for initial scans than other at-home aligner businesses and has been multiplying with the goal of getting into more retail partners, such as CVS and Walgreens, for maximum convenience. Whether you get your consultation done in an orthodontist’s chair or on your couch, you’ll be able to participate in SmileDirectClub’s many treatment options.
SmileDirectClub offers both nighttime and traditional aligner treatment options along with an impressive array of accessories for oral health.
Impression Kit ($59)
Contains impression trays, a Smile Stretcher to help you take photographs for your check-in process, and an instruction booklet. Save over 75% and get the impression kit for just $15 with code SMILE2022.
Traditional Clear Aligners ($1,950 or $89/month)
Contains all the aligners you’ll need for your treatment process and Bright On Premium Teeth Whitening.
Nighttime Clear Aligners ($1,950 or $89/month)
Contains all the aligners you’ll need for your treatment process along with Bright On Premium Teeth Whitening.
Custom Retainer ($99)
At the end of your treatment process, you’ll be able to purchase a personalized retainer to maintain your alignment. SmileDirectClub requires you to purchase a new retainer every six months and to use it as directed to retain eligibility for their company guarantee.
SmileDirectClub also offers a wide range of accessories for their aligners and general oral health.
- Electric Toothbrush ($19.00)
- Club Edition Electric Toothbrush plus Aligner Brush Head ($23.00)
- Travel Toothbrush with Replacement Head ($10.00)
- Electric Toothbrush Brush Head and Battery Refill ($5.00)
- Aligner Brush Replacement Head ($5.00)
- Travel Toothbrush Brush Head 2-pack Refill ($6.00)
- Large Tank Water Flosser with 2 Flossing Tips ($40.00)
- Pop-Up Water Flosser ($40.00)
- Water Flosser with 2 Flossing Tips ($35.00)
- Water Flosser Replacement Tips (2-count) ($5.00)
- Premium Fluoride Toothpaste - Whitening ($5.00)
- Oral care travel kit, including a travel bag, toothbrush, dental floss, whitening travel toothpaste, and hand sanitizer ($39.00)
- Smile Journey Starter Kit, including Movemints, lip balm, cleaning tablets, and a travel kit ($49.00)
- Smile Journey Premium Starter Kit, including everything from the Smile Journey Starter kit, a Smile Spa Ultrasonic and UV Cleaning Machine, and a Club Edition Electric Toothbrush ($99.00)
- Fast-dissolving whitening strips ($30.00)
- Teeth Whitening Kit with LED light - six months ($40.00)
- Teeth Whitening Kit with LED light - one year ($67.00)
- Teeth Whitening LED Accelerator Light $22.00
- Premium Teeth Whitening - two treatments with LED light and touch-up pen ($75.00)
- Teeth Whitening Pens - 1 Year of Whitening ($45.00)
- Teeth Whitening Kit with Bonus Lip Balm - 6 Months of Whitening ($25.00)
- Teeth Whitening 2.5ml Touch-Up Pen ($17.00)
- Stain Barrier ($17.00)
- Wireless Premium Teeth Whitening Kit - one whitening pen and rechargeable LED light ($45.00)
- Pro Whitening Boost & Extend ($25.00)
- Pro Whitening System Plus ($90.00)
- Bright On Pro Whitening System ($55.00)
- Aligner/Retainer Case ($15.00, down from $20.00)
- Trackable Retainer/Aligner Case ($30.00, down from $35.00)
- Smile Spa Ultrasonic and UV Cleaning Machine ($38.00)
- 32-count of Universal Cleaning Tablets ($7.50)
- 2-pack of lip balm ($5.00)
- Selfie Light ($10)
- Movemints Aligner-Seating Mints ($5.00)
We found the SmileDirectClub website and instructions straightforward, and customer specialists were responsive to our questions.
Getting started with SmileDirectClub is easy, similar to other invisible aligner companies. The first step is a short eligibility questionnaire. (You can find it in the upper right corner of the website.) It will ask you:
- Whether you’ve worn braces or not
- What your zip code is
- Whether you have dental insurance
- What degree of alignment issues you have (complete with example photographs)
- If you’d prefer to do an impression at home or visit a SmileShop office
- What your contact information (email address) is
If you don’t provide an email address at this last stage, you won’t get a follow-up with any next steps or offers.
However, if you know that your bite concerns are mild and that you’ll be fully eligible, you don’t have to take the questionnaire. (Likewise, you aren’t obligated to use SmileDirectClub if you fill out the survey.) You’ll be able to initiate the treatment process by buying an impression kit right off the site or by making an appointment in a nearby SmileShop. We were able to get an appointment within the same week.
In a SmileShop, you’ll work with a dental assistant who’s trained and certified for 3D scan imaging of your teeth. Although they’ll be able to answer your questions about the process, they aren’t the ones designating eligibility for treatment. The appointment typically takes less than 30 minutes and is totally free, unlike many other in-office consultations.
If you go the at-home impression route, you’ll have everything you need in the impression kit, including:
- Impression trays and putty
- A SmileStretcher you’ll use for taking photos of your teeth
- A pre-paid return shipping label
- A rebate coupon to apply toward your SmileDirectClub treatment
Not feeling confident about doing your own impression but not having access to a SmileShop location doesn’t mean you can’t use SmileDirectClub. They offer 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’ll receive your plan via email once a dental professional has assessed it.
The treatment process
If you’re eligible for SmileDirectClub treatment, you can order your desired plan and wait about four weeks for your aligners to come. Once they arrive, read the instructions included in your package for the best detail on how to start treatment. During our tester’s first month, they wore one set of aligners the first week, one set the second week, and a third set for two weeks. It’s important to make sure you’re wearing them for appropriate lengths of time every day, which is 22 hours daily or 10 hours if you’re using Nighttime-Only aligners.
You’ll get email prompts throughout the treatment process when it’s time to change aligners. Every 90 days, you’ll do an actual check-in. The app-based check-in will ask you a few questions about your progress and prompt you to upload three photos, one with aligners in and two without them. You’ll use your phone camera for this and the SmileStretcher. You won’t hear back unless there’s an issue, so at times it may feel like you’re doing this on your own but no news is good news.
Once your treatment is complete, you will be invited to order a retainer. If you’ve followed the treatment guidelines but haven’t achieved a better smile, you should contact customer service within 30 days to have your SmileDirectClub dentist or orthodontist reevaluate your results. If a touch-up is ordered, you’ll receive additional aligners. Otherwise, if the treatment results were as expected, you’ll be set up with a custom-fit clear retainer that you need to reorder every six months to maintain eligibility for the company’s Lifetime Smile Guarantee.
SmileDirectClub is in-network for several large insurance companies like:
- United Healthcare
- Blue Shield of California
- Capital Blue
- Dominion National
- Empire BlueCross BlueShield
They offer a portal to check insurance coverage with results sent to your email. The amount insurance covers varies by plan. In most cases, SmileDirectClub will be able to coordinate payment with your insurance provider, leaving you to pay only the balance. However, in some situations, you’ll need to pay the full amount and submit forms to your insurance for reimbursement. You can also apply HSA/FSA funds toward SmileDirectClub.
Unable to afford almost $2,000 out-of-pocket? You aren’t alone. SmileClubDirect offers a payment plan called SmilePay that everyone is automatically approved for, regardless of credit score. No credit checks are even required. Instead, you’ll pay a $250 deposit and then $89 a month (or less, depending on your insurance coverage) for 24 months. In total, you’ll end up paying $2,386 if you have no dental insurance or they won’t cover it, but that’s less than a $500 difference between a full up-front payment at most. Other invisible aligner payment plans can rack up to $850 in interest, so we think this is a great option.
Some other major players in the teeth straightening business are Candid and Byte, both founded a few years after SmileDirectClub in 2017. All three offer invisible aligner treatment to correct mild to moderate malocclusion, but how do these other companies compare to SmileDirectClub’s service?
After a systemic remodel in early 2022, Candid has become a more professional, but more expensive, invisible braces option. They come with a much larger price tag at an average of $3,500 per treatment because they no longer offer at-home impression kits or orthodontic mapping from afar. Instead, you’ll go into a Candid-partnered orthodontic office to have a 3D model made of your teeth. The orthodontist will come up with your treatment plan and, at that point, set your price. Right now, Candid has more than 100 in-office locations nationwide and adds more every day. While SmileDirectClub has offices in most states, Candid is quickly gaining in-office traction. Plus, while SmileDirectClub works with both dentists and orthodontists, Candid is much more selective about the orthodontists they will work with.
Candid will send either you or your orthodontist – depending on your orthodontist’s preference – your aligners when they’re ready. This package will also include a scan box device that offers more information to supervising orthodontists than pictures alone. You plug your smartphone into the device and take pictures using the attached cheek stretching technology.
Those looking for a shorter treatment experience may lean toward SmileDirectClub’s 4-6 month average treatment time over Candid’s average of six months. Candid also doesn’t offer a nighttime-only plan, which may be a deal-breaker for some.
Like SmileDirectClub, Byte works with both dentists and orthodontists. The company doesn’t have physical locations for initial visits, but they offer a slightly lower price point than either SmileDirectClub or Candid. Byte charges $1,895 for a standard (all-day) treatment plan and $2,295 for their nighttime-only system.
Byte’s major selling point, however, is speed. Whereas most companies have a six-month average treatment time, Byte claims a four-month average (with five to six months for its nighttime-only protocol). The company uses a teeth movement acceleration device they call Hyperbyte, an FDA-cleared device that’s been used by in-office orthodontists for years. The high-frequency vibration helps fit your aligners more closely, reduces discomfort, and boosts cellular activity at the bone and roots of your teeth, which is what speeds treatment time.
While the technology does have research-backed validity, not everyone is looking for the fastest solution or rock bottom price. SmileDirectClub offers more office locations for initial scans, which may offer extra peace of mind. Customers who prefer to work with a provider who’s been in business longer and who provides a more mainstream treatment length may feel more comfortable with SmileDirectClub.