Interested in straightening your teeth, but don’t have the time for regular orthodontist visits? Or, do you have the time, but cringe at the thought of traditional braces?
In either instance, SmileDirectClub promises to deliver an “innovative remote treatment process” that can help you straighten your teeth and brighten your smile using custom invisible aligners.
We’re told this process allows SmileDirectClub to evaluate a patient’s teeth from anywhere, which, when combined with the their 3D treatment modeling and direct-to-patient convenience, means they can work around your schedule at a fraction of the price. You’ll even get to know what your new smile will look like before beginning the process.
Despite this, SmileDirectClub promises to do this without sacrificing quality. In fact, they claim to “use the same labs as our competition.”
Regardless of what you’re shopping for, it’s difficult to resist 50% off. But will you have the same teeth-straightening experience with SmileDirectClub as a traditional orthodontist? In other words, even if it is less, does SmileDirectClub represent a solid deal? That’s exactly what we’ll explore here.
How Does SmileDirectClub Work?
Overall, we can break the SmileDirectClub process down into two steps:
Step 1: Initial Consultation & Setup
First, you’ll make an appointment through SmileDirectClub’s website to visit one of their SmileShop locations. There, you’ll be able to have a 3D map of your smile taken by a certified smile tech, which they claim takes about 30 minutes. After you’re finished, you’ll be able to immediately see the results.
Then, your scan is digitally sent to a licensed dentist, who will “create a personalized plan showing you exactly how your new smile will look.”
Not near a SmileShop location? If so, you can complete an online photo assessment (you’ll need to have a friend’s assistance to take the pictures). Afterward, the company will send you an at-home impression kit, which will then be sent to a “state-licensed dental professional” for “review and set-up.”
Once all of this occurs, SmileDirectClub’s dental professionals will determine your exact treatment option based on the information available. If you have any questions, you can reach out to a SmileDirectClub patient care specialist via phone, email, or live chat.
From initial consultation through the end of your treatment plan, SmileDirectClub’s proprietary SmileCheck software provides a connection between your dental professional and helps manage your case records. There, your doctor will be able to view uploaded images and dental impressions, as well as prescribe your treatment, while SmileTechs can use the system to perform their work and manage your case file.
Step 2: Work the System
SmileDirectClub claims that in many cases, you’ll receive your treatment plan in days. If you pay all at once, you’ll be sent a complete 5-aligner set, each of which will need to be worn in the proper order, 20-22 hours per day, removing them only for meals and drinking beverages other than cool water.
On the other hand, if you choose a monthly option, you’ll receive a new set of aligners once per month as your payments are processed, according to your treatment plan schedule. Each package will be marked and numbered so you’ll always know in which sequence the aligners should be worn.
As soon as you start wearing your aligners, one of SmileDirectClub’s smile care specialists will check in regularly until you “graduate with your new smile.” This can take anywhere between 3 and 10 months, depending on your diagnosis.
Once you’re finished, you’ll need to continue wearing your custom fit retainer while you sleep in order to avoid dental relapse (i.e. your teeth attempting to shift back into their original position).
Exactly how do these invisible aligners do their job?
How Do Invisible Aligners Straighten Teeth?
Unlike braces, which use interconnected brackets and wires, invisible aligners “are a series of tight-fitting custom-made retainers that slip over the teeth.” Each tray will slowly move your teeth into the desired position, leaving you with straighter teeth and a brighter smile over the course of several months. Regarding SmileDirectClub specifically, their aligners are made of BPA-free plastic, which is fairly common amongst the competition (more about this soon).
The Pros & Cons of Invisible Aligners
On the positive side, compared to traditional braces, invisible aligners:
- Can be removed and generally aren’t as noticeable
- Often need to be worn for shorter periods of time
- Remove having to worry about difficulty eating or food getting stuck
- Cause less discomfort. However, you’ll still feel some discomfort, especially after the first few days of changing to a new tray
- Offer little chance of tooth discoloration
However, invisible aligners aren’t perfect. Here are some potential drawbacks:
- Price (invisible aligners can be twice as expensive as metal braces, or more).
- You’ll have to brush after each meal, or your aligners could become stained.
- You’ll also need discipline in order to stick to your treatment plan and keep the trays in place 22 hours per day.
- Invisible aligners can’t be used for those with bridgework, or those with complicated issues requiring moving teeth vertically, rotating canines or premolars, or those with anything more than mild-to-moderate crowding, rotation, and/or bite correction.
If invisible aligners sound like an ideal solution, how much will you pay through SmileDirectClub?
How Much Does SmileDirectClub Cost?
Your online SmileDirectClub assessment is completely free, which will help you find a nearby location. When visiting a SmileShop, you’ll need to pay a $95 evaluation fee. If it’s determined that you’re not a suitable candidate, this fee will be refunded.
When the time comes. SmileDirectClub provides two payment options for their clients:
- Single Payment: $1,500. If you choose this option, the company will send you a complimentary tube of whitening gel.
- SmilePay Monthly Payments: Pay $250 at the time of purchase, plus $99 per month for 15 months, which includes lab setup costs. In total, you’ll pay $1,735.
Once your treatment plan is complete, don’t forget that you’ll have to pay another $99 for a retainer set.
Other miscellaneous SmileDirectClub fees include a $95 missed appointment fee, a $50 fee for each replacement tray if lost or damaged, as well as a $49 fee for additional impression kits. Regarding this last one, the fee “can be deducted from your treatment plan cost when you purchase your aligners.”
Finally, SmileDirectClub provides a Confident Smile Guarantee, which stipulates that if you’re dissatisfied for any reason, simply return your unused aligners and they’ll refund the prorated amount. In order to request one (or to ask any questions), customer service can be reached at 800-848-7566.
Does SmileDirectClub Accept Insurance?
Here’s what the company has to say:
If your dental plan provides orthodontic benefits you may be reimbursed directly from your insurance company after purchasing your aligners. SmileDirectClub doesn't accept direct payment from insurance companies.
What Kinds of Reviews Will You Find for SmileDirectClub?
Considering that SmileDirectClub (formerly Smile Care Club) has been around since 2008, there wasn’t a whole lot of online customer feedback at the time of our research. And what feedback there was seemed to be largely through video.
For example, YouTube user Ashley S posted four reviews for SmileDirectClub spanning the course of a month. Overall, she claims she experienced a very long delay at the beginning, without hearing so much as a peep from the company. She spoke with customer service on several occasions, which only served to further frustrate her—and even after finally receiving her aligners, she found the top one didn’t fit well at all.
On the other hand, misselissalk seems to have had a much better experience with SmileDirectClub, finding them less expensive the competition, while receiving everything right on time. She also enjoyed the 3D digital model that shows you what your teeth will look like with each tray.
Interestingly, she was able to correct her top teeth only. Per their FAQ, the company generally recommends against straightening just the top or bottom, since this can significantly change your bite.
She noted that SmileDirectClub’s aligners didn’t hurt at all, but they did give her a slight lisp. She didn’t like brushing her teeth after eating or drinking something other than water, and felt that the email communication between her and the company was “kinda poor.” Specifically, she noted long response times with several follow ups required.
In her follow up video, misselissalk provides some great product tips to accompany your aligners, so be sure to give it a view as well.
As a company, SmileDirectClub had an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (as of 7/16/16), based on 19 closed complaints. Most of these seemed to reference poor customer service, problems receiving aligners on time, or difficulties obtaining refunds. The company responded to each of the complaints.
Who, exactly, is behind the company?
Who Founded SmileDirectClub?
Based out of Nashville, TN, SmileDirectClub was co-founded by Doug Hudson, David Katzman, Jordan Katzman, and Alex Fenkell, who recognized that 3D printing and telehealth “could bring about disruptive change to the invisible aligner market” by delivering “dramatically lower” prices. You can even find Doug’s original Indiegogo campaign pitching the idea of SmileDirectClub.
From a financial perspective, SmileDirectClub is backed by Camelot Venture Group, the same private investment group behind 1-800-CONTACTS, Quicken Loans, and many other successful direct-to-consumer companies.
Is SmileDirectClub Better Than Invisalign? Should You Join?
According to some sources, the average cost of an Invisalign treatment plan treatment plan is $5,000, compared to SmileDirectClub’s flat full-pay price of $1,500. That’s well over a 60% savings, which is huge.
On top of this, there don’t appear to be any clear (no pun intended) differences between the BPA-free plastics used between Invisalign and SmileDirectClub’s trays, or the results you might achieve with them.
In fact, SmileDirectClub claims their trays come from many of the same labs used by the mainstream competition, and you won’t have to glue any clips to your teeth. You will, however, probably have to wear a retainer for the rest of your life.
Even compared to traditional braces—which can also cost up to five grand and might look unsightly—SmileDirectClub’s aligners seem to have a sharp advantage.
Taking all of this together, does this mean a SmileDirectClub treatment plan will deliver straighter teeth and a brighter smile? As long as you only require mild to moderate straightening, it certainly seems like it might fit the bill. And if your personal preferences dictate, you might be able to save a whole lot of moolah compared to the competition.
How well did SmileDirectClub work for you? Give us the inside scoop by writing your very own review below!