Smile Direct Club is an “at home braces” service which gives you multiple sets of clear aligners that straighten your teeth over time.
It’s basically exactly the same as Invisalign, but it’s a lot cheaper because you order it online and don’t have all those pricey trips to the clinic.
Smile Direct Club costs $1,895 whereas Invisalign can cost $3,500 – $8,000 depending on the length of the treatment.
However, it’s worth mentioning that Invisalign can treat more severe teeth problems, so it might be better if you have particularly crooked teeth.
SDC started in 2014 and successfully disrupted the orthodontics industry – they now represent 95% of the “at home aligners” industry, boasting 391 studio locations and 6,300 employees across the globe.
SDC has had well over 1 million customers at this point, and boasts an impressive 5-star Trustpilot rating. It’s the most popular invisible aligners company after Invisalign.
They had been on my radar for a while, and it was finally time to give them a try. I’d seen ads for other teeth aligners like Byte, but SDC seems to be very popular and well-known, so Smile Direct Club was my first choice
Pros and Cons of Smile Direct Club
- Cheap price ($1,895 USD)
- Straight teeth in 4-6 months on average
- Not too noticeable transparent aligners
- Zero or one trip to a studio
- 391 studio locations across the US, Canada, UK, and more
- Monthly payment plan available ($250 followed by $85/mo)
- At-home impression kit costs $49
- Uncomfortable to wear
- Visible if looking closely
- Uses dentists as well (orthodontists are better for this)
- Only check on your teeth every 90 days
- Customer service team mostly based in Costa Rica
- Post-treatment retainer sets cost additional $99
Things to Consider Before Buying
Before you purchase Smile Direct Club, Byte, or any other aligner service, there are some things you need to ask yourself:
Am I Suitable for Invisible Aligners?
When you sign up for SDC, they ask you a bunch of questions about your top and bottom teeth, such as whether you have overcrowding, spacing, an overbite, etc. They must’ve had a field day with my answers.
If you have more serious dental problems, you may not be eligible for clear aligners. More serious dental problems may require dentist-sponsored services like Invisalign.
90 Day Check Ups
Smile Direct Club remotely monitor your teeth once every 90 days to check they’re being straightened correctly. Some other companies, like Byte, do this every two weeks.
Are you okay with being monitored less? I had multiple problems with my teeth straightening that could’ve been caught sooner if SDC had more regular checkups.
Personally, I‘d rather go for a service like Byte that has more monitoring… especially when you’re not doing this process through your own dentist or orthodontist like you would with Invisalign.
I don’t like the idea of keeping my fingers crossed for 90 days.
Do you have insurance?
Smile Direct is cheaper than Invisalign and 60% cheaper than traditional braces, but $1,895 is still a lot of money and the payment plan works out to be $2,290 over a couple of years, so you’re essentially paying an extra $395 if you can’t afford it all in one go.
SDC does accept HSA, FSA, and CareCredit insurance, which could reduce costs to $795 or less. However, many insurers won’t agree to treat cosmetic procedures like this, so always check with your insurance company.
Features & Benefits of Smile Direct Club
Teeth Straightening in 4-6 Months (Or More!!)
Invisalign usually takes around 12 months to complete, but Smile Direct Club can align your new smile in as little as 4 months.
However, if you’ve got more extensive dental problems, you might find yourself going past this timeframe.
For me personally, I was wearing SDC teeth aligners for a total of 8 months due to mistakes made in the 90-day monitoring windows where I wasn’t being checked on.
The cost is the same no matter how many months you wear the teeth aligners, though as I experienced, the time frame is not always a guarantee.
Custom Smile Plan
A licensed dentist or orthodontist will design your “custom smile plan” for you and give you an idea of roughly how long it will take.
Going on a “smile plan” sounds weirdly dystopian to me. Like something from 1984.
I initially had some problems with my representatives because I wasn’t happy with the smile plan that was designed for me.
After some awkward customer service and revisits to (far away) SDC locations, I finally able to get the smile plan I was looking for.
I’m sure it’s fine for most people, but it wasn’t for me.
Smile Direct Club has physical locations all over the world, totalling 391 locations around the US and many other countries.
While this is convenient for many people, I found the SDC at my local location to be very tardy at the best of times.
On one occasion I had an appointment at 3pm and was not seen until 3.25pm. On another occasion I had an appointment at 11.30am and was not seen until 11.45am.
While services like Byte don’t use physical studios, they do perform fortnightly remote monitoring and in my experience they are always very professional and timely.
So, how does Smile Direct Club work?
They (or you) take an impression of your teeth, design several months’ worth of aligners which you change every two weeks in sequence, and then you wear the aligners for 22 hours a day.
However, you pay an extra $49 if you want to take your own impression at home.
If you need to eat, drink, or brush your teeth, you can take out your aligners. I was very adamant about sticking to the rules, yet I had subpar results.
Barely noticeable invisible aligners
When I told friends and coworkers that I was wearing clear braces, 90% of the reactions were “are you?”
Most people hadn’t even noticed I was wearing aligners.
If you look closely, you will see that someone’s teeth have a slight plastic-ey shine over them, but it’s hard to spot.
My coworkers, friends, family, and partner could spot my SDC aligners when they were close to me, though I imagine casual passers by wouldn’t notice.
They’re not invisible, but they do.
Decent price (with monthly payment options)
SDC costs $1,895 as a one-time payment, or you can choose to pay $250 followed by $85/month until you pay back a total of $2,290.
You might also be eligible for an insurance discount – they accept HSA, FSA, and CareCredit insurance. You can get the price down to $795 or less.
Basically, you have options.
I didn’t have any eligible insurance, so I bit the bullet and went for a one-time payment. I know $1,895 isn’t an easy figure for many people to splurge, but it beats the $3000 – $8000 for Invisalign.
If you’re looking for a very similar service that comes with more frequent monitoring, Byte costs exactly the same $1,895 price as a one-time payment.
Stay at home or go to a Smile Shop
For your initial teeth impressions, you can either visit a Smile Shop studio for a 3D scan (they have them in 47 out of 50 states) or you can ask for an at-home impression kit where you make a mold of your teeth and send it back to them.
Is it me or does “Smile Shop” sound creepy AF?
You have to pay an extra $49 for an at-home impression kit, so consider what’s going to be cheaper – travelling to a Smile Shop or doing it yourself at home. If you mess up the impression at home, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll pay another $49 for a new kit, so be careful.
I lived a few miles away from a Smile Shop, so I just turned up in person.
I had a couple of appointments where I was left waiting for 15-25 minutes after my appointment start time. I was furious.
I didn’t have the best experience with the staff at the Smile Shop – they seemed a little stiff and robotic. The customer service was fine, but for a place called a “Smile Shop”, no one was smiling much.
Teeth whitening included
It wasn’t my main reason for buying Smile Direct Club clear braces, but SDC does come with premium teeth whitening included as part of the treatment plan.
You don’t have to do it, but my poor lifestyle choices of ungodly amounts of coffee and cigarettes have stained my teeth over the years, so I was more than happy to take it.
I’ve used teeth whitening kits at home before, and I’d say the quality was a tad lower. It seemed to make a slight difference, though my teeth felt very sensitive after.
Better teeth whitening kits exist, but it was free so whatever.
10 Hour Night Time Aligners Option
Don’t wanna wear aligners all day?
Smile Direct Club offers a 10-Hour Night-Time Aligners package for the same $1,895 price tag.
Basically, you wear the aligners for 10 hours a day at night, so while you’re asleep and a couple hours before bed.
So you’re not only wearing it while asleep – you’ll probably need to wear it for 2-3 hours either in the morning or the evening. Make sure you’re prepared for this – a lot of people don’t realize.
Obviously, this option takes much longer than the daytime aligners version. I have a friend who tried this option and it took him almost 12 months to get his teeth to where he wanted them.
Smile Spa Machine for $38
In the Smile Direct Shop, you can buy the Smile Spa Machine for $38, which I thought was a decent price. I decided to get one.
Basically, it’s a cleaning machine that uses ultrasonic and UV cleaning to kill 99% of odor-causing bacteria (so they say). You can use it to clean your aligners, retainers, toothbrush heads, and more.
I felt like my teeth aligners might be “cleaner feeling” after using the machine, though I’m not convinced that it’s not just a Placebo effect.
Other People’s Smile Direct Club Reviews
I’m only one person, so I decided to have a lot at Smile Direct Club’s Trustpilot page:
Here are some people’s experiences:
“Went in for my follow up after initial set of braces was complete and was told I would receive my follow up braces in 4 to 5 weeks. Never received anything. Called to ask where they were and was told nothing had happened since my follow up visit.”
“Going in for the scan was great option for me. The office is clean and modern and the staff was professional and friendly.”
“Nobody followed up with me regarding my impressions or asked if I needed any help. I’m also doing impressions with the company called Byte and they have been very great about customer service from the time I ordered my impression kit.”
“They explained everything in detail, step by step, and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the work they’re doing to help me to the smile I want.”
My experience with Smile Direct Club was subpar. I had an above-average treatment time, problems with the staff in the Smile Shop, and issues with my teeth due to the long 90-day checkup windows.
To be honest, I’d recommend going elsewhere. Here’s how some of their competitors compare:
Byte costs less than SDC, but you must use an at-home impression kit because they don’t have physical studios. However, Byte can help you straighten your teeth very quickly, with some people getting it done in just 3 months.
Byte do more frequent monitoring sessions remotely, with a licensed US orthodontist checking on your progress every 2 weeks compared to SDC’s every 90 days.
It also costs exactly the same as SDC – $1895.
Byte also benefits from the “HyperByte” – an FDA-approved piece of technology that uses high-frequency vibration therapy to reduce the overall treatment plan time.
I’m not gonna pretend to understand how the HyperByte device works, I’m just gonna take their word for it that it does.
If you want cheap, cheap, cheap, then Aligner Co is a teledentistry company based in New York that offers teeth straightening plans for just $1145 (or $110/month with no deposit). This makes it much more affordable, but the service is a lot more no-frills and there are a few add-ons you have to pay extra for.
Treatment with Aligner Co takes 6-12 months on average, so it’s not as fast as some of their competitors. Their inspections are also very limited, so you’re not going to have the same level on ongoing supervision that you get with other invisible braces companies (read about best invisible braces here). Still, you save a bunch of cash at least.
Candid is probably SDC’s biggest rival when it comes to quality of care. You see, Candid uses ONLY licensed orthodontists to plan and monitor your teeth alignment journey, whereas SDC uses a dentist or orthodontist. In this case, orthodontists are more suited to the job than dentists, so working with exclusively orthodontists is better.
Candid also do remote monitoring inspections where they check your teeth every two weeks to make sure that everything is okay – SDC only checks every 90 days, which is quite a difference. So what’s the catch? Well, Candid is more expensive, costing $2400 (or $399 followed by $99/month) which won’t be affordable for many people.
Read the full Candid Co Review.
SDC Review Final Score
So, is Smile Direct Club effective?
I mean… yes, technically. My teeth are undoubtedly whiter and straighter, though I had a lot of issues getting to that point and I think it would’ve been much easier with a service like Byte.
I give it a solid 2.5 out of 5.
Whoever you go with, good luck with your new smile!
Check the difference – Smile Direct Club vs. Invisalign.