At-home clear aligners, also called direct-to-consumer aligners, are a convenient and affordable way to straighten your teeth.
Unlike Invisalign and metal braces, you do not have to visit a dentist or orthodontist for bi-weekly checkups. Instead, you’ll take virtual scans from home every few weeks to ensure your teeth are moving correctly.
SmileDirectClub is a 6-year-old aligner company that offers remote teeth straightening for 60% less than braces. They are the first and most well-known brand of at-home aligners. The company also works with registered doctors, dentists, and orthodontists to ensure each treatment case runs smoothly.
SmileDirect’s aligner trays are made of comfortable, smooth, BPA-free plastic. The aligners are nearly invisible and slowly straighten your teeth in small increments. They can be removed at any time for cleaning, eating, and brushing your teeth.
SmileDirectClub can ONLY fix minor to moderate teeth alignment issues, including:
Overbites, underbites, crossbites, and open bites typically require more intensive treatment with braces.
Since SmileDirect is the oldest at-home aligner company, there are many online reviews for the company.
One article from NBC News (2020) states that a patient was experiencing bite problems and pain after her aligner treatment. The patient also developed jaw issues and migraines due to improperly fitting aligner trays.1
Another patient said they were also at risk of losing a few teeth because the aligners moved them too fast.1
Because of this, nine members of Congress (five of them being dentists) asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate SmileDirectClub “to ensure that it is not misleading consumers or causing patient harm.” 1
In California, a new law requires “all teledentistry patients to get an X-ray or diagnostic bone scan before undergoing online aligner treatment.” Virginia is considering implementing similar rules.1
On the other hand, there are also many positive reviews about SmileDirectClub. These reviews are mostly written by patients who had minor teeth misalignment.
In general, most dentists and orthodontists recommend in-office aligner treatment (like Invisalign or metal braces) over at-home aligners.
This is because remote orthodontic treatment is not monitored as closely and it is more difficult to make mid-treatment adjustments.
With Invisalign, your dentist can make adjustments easily at any time. This is not the case with at-home aligners because you typically receive all of the aligners at once. Your dentist can also not directly intervene if there is a problem mid-treatment.
However, current research shows that direct-to-consumer aligners are generally considered effective and safe (87.5% satisfaction rate).2 To prevent poor results, make sure you follow the impression kit instructions very carefully and stick to your treatment plan.
Since at-home aligner treatment is still new, more research needs to be done on the benefits and risks of treatment. But many patients are happy with the results and prefer remote aligners over traditional orthodontics due to convenience and pricing.2
Keep in mind: direct-to-consumer aligners are not suitable for severe cases of teeth misalignment. These treatment cases will require braces, Invisalign, and/or other orthodontic devices (like attachments).
SmileDirectClub is one of the only at-home aligner brands that offer in-person scans and impressions. If you do not want to order an impression kit and take them yourself, SmileDirect recommends visiting a SmileShop to ensure your aligner trays fit perfectly.
The SmileDirectClub aligner process is straightforward and convenient. Here are the basic steps:
If you aren’t a candidate (or simply change your mind about treatment), you’ll receive a full refund on the impression kit. However, you cannot request a refund if you have already approved your treatment plan.
The average treatment time for SmileDirectClub is between 4 and 6 months. However, some cases may take longer, especially if you need refinements (an additional set of aligners after your initial treatment is complete).
Yes, SmileDirectClub offers two types of aligners. The most popular are the original aligners, which are worn for 22 hours a day. The Nighttime Aligners™ are only worn for 10 hours a day (at night/while sleeping).
* Disclaimer: Although night aligners may be convenient, NewMouth does not recommend them over traditional aligners. Many oral health experts are concerned about their safety and effectiveness.
In fact, there is no scientific proof that night aligners are safe. They may actually do more harm to your teeth than good.9 From a clinical perspective, there are also concerns about what could go wrong if aligners are only worn for a few hours each day (less than 20 to 22 hours).9, 10
Every additional hour that you are not wearing the aligners increases the likelihood of your teeth shifting in an undesired direction.9, 10
In addition, without a longer and more consistent wear schedule, your teeth can be left in a limbo state of inflammation. This means it would take your teeth and gums much longer to heal, if at all.9
NewMouth recommends SmileDirect's original aligners over the night aligners.
The remote impression kit and SmileShop scan both cost $59. If you aren’t a candidate, you’ll receive a full refund on the impression kit.
SmileDirectClub aligners cost $1,950 total. You can also choose to pay over time with SmilePay™ (a down payment of $250 and $89/month for 24 months). No credit checks are required.
Yes, but only if your dental plan provides orthodontic benefits. The aligners will not be covered in full.
In most cases, SmileDirect coordinates payments directly with insurance companies. This means patients will pay the balance of what they owe after the insurance coverage and discounts are applied.
Here are the benefits and downsides of SmileDirectClub aligners:
There are many aligner options to choose from. If you're unsure which one is right for you, read the comparisons below:
Candid is the most expensive at-home aligner available ($2,400). Similar to SmileDirectClub, you can visit an in-person studio for a scan or order an impression kit online.
SmileDirectClub treatment is less expensive and quicker than Candid (4 to 6 months vs. 6 to 12 months). Candid also does not have a night aligner option for safety reasons.
However, based on customer reviews, Candid has better remote monitoring and customer service than SmileDirect. It is also easier to request treatment refinements with Candid.
Byte and SmileDirectClub both offer regular aligners and night aligners. Byte’s regular aligners cost about $100 less than SmileDirect, while SmileDirect’s night aligners cost about $300 less than Byte.
The length of treatment for byte and SmileDirect are also about the same (between 3 and 6 months, on average).
* Disclaimer: NewMouth doesn't recommend night aligners or 'quick treatment' for safety reasons. Learn why here.
ALIGNERCO aligners cost hundreds less than SmileDirectClub aligners. The average treatment time for SmileDirect is between 4 and 6 months. ALIGNERCO can take up to 12 months.
ALIGNERCO only offers in-person consultations at their New York Smile Studio. Most impressions are completely remote.
NewSmile costs about the same as ALIGNERCO but is an even newer company.
Invisalign is best for moderate to severe cases of teeth misalignment. SmileDirectClub is much cheaper than Invisalign, but treatment is not monitored as closely.
Also, with SmileDirect, refinements cannot be made mid-treatment since you receive all of the aligners at once.
At-home aligner treatment comes with more risks than in-office treatment like Invisalign or traditional braces. But if you follow the instructions, wear your aligners correctly, and do not have severe misalignment issues, treatment is likely to be successful.
Invisalign is better for moderate to severe cases of teeth misalignment.
Most dentists recommend in-office aligner treatment over remote aligner treatment. If you decide to go with at-home aligners, set up an oral exam and teeth cleaning beforehand to check for any dental health issues.
The cheapest at-home aligners are ALIGNERCO and NewSmile.
Yes. SmileDirectClub allows you to pay with an HSA or FSA.
(1) Nguyen, Vicky, and Lauren Dunn. “'Things Didn't Feel Right': Some SmileDirectClub Customers Report Problems.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 18 Feb. 2020.
(2) Wexler, Anna, et al. “Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics: Surveying the User Experience.” The Journal of the American Dental Association
(3) Werner, Alison. “Accelerating Aligner Therapy.” Orthodontic Products, 23 Sept. 2019.
(5) SmileDirectClub. “Insurance.”
(6) SmileDirectClub. “Pricing.”
(7) SmileDirectClub. “How Does Smile Direct Club Work?”
(8) Proffit, William R., et al. Contemporary Orthodontics. Elsevier/Mosby, 2019.
(9) Candid, “Why Candid Doesn't Offer Night Wear Only Clear Aligners.”
(10) Cosmetic Dentistry New York. “Why Compliance Matters: Following the Invisalign® 22-hour Rule.”