Invisalign vs Smile Direct Club: What’s the Difference & Who is Legit?

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Invisalign and Smile Direct Club are two services with a lot in common, but a few major differences as well.

When trying to decide between these two teeth-straightening services, it’s important to make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages that come with each option.

invisalign vs smile direct club: same, but different

First, let’s talk about how Smile Direct Club and Invisalign are similar.

Both services rely on clear trays to gently adjust and re-align your teeth back into proper positioning. These services are considered great alternatives to traditional metal braces.

how smile direct club differs from invisalign

Both Invisalign and Smile Direct Club (SDC) rely on using clear trays to straighten teeth, but how the treatment plan is created and delivered is different.

invisible-braces

1. virtual communication, no dentist office to visit.

Smile Direct Club is cheaper from Invisalign in large part due to the complete virtual communication. This can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. 

Those who can’t stand doctor visits will likely be happy to not be obligated to trek into an office to get their new set of trays every few weeks or month.

However, no access to a dentist at your disposal also means you won’t benefit from having a human dental professional – who knows you and your teeth well – to talk to. 

This won’t be an issue most of the time, but if something unexpected occurs (say, if you lose a tray), you’ll have to deal with stressful support calls and virtual chats instead of calling up your dentist and getting a replacement ASAP.

dentist

Some folks aren’t happy with the idea of putting their pearly whites into the hands of strangers, and that’s understandable.

While you won’t be able to consult with a dentist directly, it’s worth noting that when you send in your mold, Smile Direct Club has a team of licensed dental professionals who formulate your treatment plan and oversee your care. They’re not just a bunch of monkeys! 

SDC customers are actually matched up with one of 225 affiliated dentists and orthodontists across all 50 states, who then review your details themselves before designing the aligners that Smile Direct Club sends out to you. So yes, there is a real person designing your plan – you’re just not talking to them.

Still, there are some situations where having a personal dentist to consult with will be beneficial.

Your personal dentist can be made aware of past dental procedures you’ve gone through, or individual concerns you might have. It’s true that Smile Direct Club won’t offer the level of personal care that your local dentist will be able to provide.

However, it’s also worth noting that Smile Direct Club only will move forward treating you if your teeth alignment issues are fairly basic – they’ll recommend seeking out a dentist if you have more serious or advanced teeth troubles.

2. monthly payment options

Many users love that Smile Direct Club offers monthly payment options, which helps clients avoid dealing with one large lump bill than can be financially stressful.

smile-direct

image from smile direct club

3. quality of impression & scan

One variable that Smile Direct Club detractors bring up is that it can be a bit tricky asking users to take impression molds of their own teeth, as they aren’t professionals and may take an improper impression.

Much of the treatment plan depends on what can be learned from your impression mold. If your mold is inaccurate, your results may not be as desirable.

SDC has a video showing exactly how to take a proper impression of your mold. But of course, there’s always room for user error.

However, mold impressions aren’t the only option. There are designated “SmileShops” in some cities that let a technician photograph and digitally 3D scan your mouth. These scans and images can be used instead of the mold assessment. 

If you can get to a SmileShop, this definitely seems to be the way to go, as these scans can be more reliable than DIY mold impressions.

4. bonus teeth attachments with invisalign

There are some aspects of the treatment plan that will be different with Invisalign users.

Invisalign uses small tooth-colored attachments that can connect with the aligner trays.These attachments are designed to fine-tune the teeth moving progress, as without them there is a degree of variability.

While this fine-tuning may only be important for more complex teeth alignment cases, it’s still worth keeping in mind that Invisalign has access to this additional technology that Smile Direct Club does not use. 

5. no accountability – it’s all up to you!

When getting Invisalign through a dentist’s office, you’ll have the dentist on your case if you stop using your trays or slip up. However, with Smile Direct Club, it’s all up to you whether or not your stick to your treatment program.

For most, a dentist accountability parter isn’t worth the money saved with Smile Direct Club. However, if you know you can be lazy about keeping up with treatments, a dentist-run Invisalign treatment might be the better option.

Some people also just sleep a little better knowing that their trusted dentist is monitoring their progress every couple weeks. 

Dentists can also help you develop post-treatment options in case more dental work is required, and can get you set up with a retainer to keep that straight smile going.

Smile Direct Club offers the option to purchase a retainer (for $99) after treatment, but of course they can’t help with any additional dental work you might want to have done. 

6. cost: Smile Direct is Cheaper

The main reason why so many folks opt to choose Smile Direct Club over Invisalign is that, while Invisalign can cost around $6,000, the price tag for Smile Direct Club’s treatment is under 2k.

Of course those against Smile Direct Club will argue that the additional damage that could potentially be done to your teeth from improper alignment procedures will outweigh the cheaper price tag.

Still, in BuzzFeed’s correspondence with 50 Smile Direct Club users, all noted that SDC was the only financially viable option to correct their lifelong insecurities about their crooked teeth.

7. customer service

A not-so-small advantage to traditional dentists and Invisalign over SDC is that a dentist won’t keep you on hold for hours. While Smile Direct Club has many advantages, customer service isn’t one of them.

SDC has had a tough time keeping up with demand, resulting in lengthy hold times and frustrated users complaining about late shipments, messed up deliveries, and poor customer service experiences. 

However, even those who have been unhappy with SDC’s customer service tend to not have many complaints with the final product. They simply note that you may have to be more patient and deal with some frustrating customer service snafus over the course of treatment.

the low down: is smile direct club worth the risk?

Ultimately, whether Smile Direct Club is a good choice for you comes down to how risk averse you are.

SMD has some appealing advantages – it’s easy, convienent, and cheap. However, it’s not without risks.

Most folks walk away happy with their smile, but not everyone.

It’s worth noting that most dentist do not like Smile Direct Club. This isn’t a huge surprise, since SMD is taking away quite a bit of business from orthodontists. Business interest aside, their issues aren’t totally unwarranted.

Our opinion (non professional dentist, regular ol’ joe opinion) is to consider consulting with an orthodontist first in person and feeling them out when you ask about getting your teeth straightened.

Remember, Smile Direct Club is a solution for minor teeth straightening – not re-positioning teeth or bite structure. If your teeth alignment issues seem relatively minor, SMD might be worth shot. 

However, if your ortho seems especially concerned and it looks like you’ll require some more tricky procedures and advanced teeth movements, skip over SMD and work with someone you can consult directly and regularly with.

The thing is – even with Invisalign, your orthodontist isn’t doing much. Invisalign makes the trays and does all the work.

However, your ortho is there to monitor your progress and make sure nothing unexpected happens. It’s a safeguard. And for most cases, it’s un-necessary. But if there does end up being issues, having a professional to catch any missteps is pretty huge.

how smile direct club works

If you do decide to go ahead with Smile Direct Club, here’s how it works.

1.

get your impressions & assessment

You’ll start off by sending Smile Direct Club a mold impression of your teeth, which they’ll use to assess whether you’re a good candidate. If they like what they see, they’ll create a treatment plan for you.

The impression kit they send you to take an impression mold of your teeth costs $99 (use this link and code LIFEHEALTHHQ to get it for 50% off). However, if Smile Direct Club decides that they can’t treat you, you’ll be reimbursed for the full amount.

2.

get your teeth aligners in the mail

Once Smile Direct Club’s dental professionals have a treatment plan for you, you’ll get your first set of aligners, with trays for upper and lower teeth.  Wear ’em every day!

smile-direct-trays

3.

switch out aligners

You’ll periodically receive new aligners to switch out with your old ones as part of the treatment plan. The amount of time you spend wearing each set of aligners will depend on your individual treatment plan and teeth.

You’ll also need to photograph pictures of your teeth to upload and send to Smile Direct Club so they can keep an eye on your progress.

4.

new teeth complete

After several months (usually 4-8 months), you’ll be all set with your new chompers!

You’ll have the option to also purchase a long-term retainer to keep your smile straight for the future. The retainers cost $99, but trust me – as someone who had braces and didn’t use a retainer to keep them in place – the retainer is well worth it.

In fact, it’s pretty essential if you don’t want all that money spent straightening your pearly whites to go to waste!

Smile Direct Club is a pretty cool and convienent option if you are looking for a new smile on a budget and only need minor straightening – not extensive work done. 

Check out our full Smile Direct Club review here, or get started with 50% off your assessment kit today when you use code LIFEHEALTHHQ!

Have you used Invisalign or Smile Direct Club for your teeth straightening assistance? Share your story in the comments!

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31 thoughts on “Invisalign vs Smile Direct Club: What’s the Difference & Who is Legit?”

  1. Very informative, although I’m still on the fence if this is a viable option for me.
    Please fix your grammatical errors as they distract from the content.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Wow. Even in the comments section of an informative article, there always has to be someone who takes pleasure in saying something negative.

      To the author of this article, thank you for the information. I have three teenage boys who all need minor orthodontics. This was very helpful.

      Reply
  2. I opted for SDC. I had braces 30 years ago and hated retainers so I relapsed. My dentist said that I grind at night, so I went with SDC and it seems to be working well. When treatment ends, my retainer, worn all night, should help me to not grind my teeth down further. My dentist wanted $475 for a night guard. That night guard price was nutz. For $1400 more, I get my teeth re-straightened and my retainer (night guard) to boot!

    Reply
  3. I would like to know if anyone had issues with the aligners staying in place as there is no mention of the small attachment to the teeth like invisilign has

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy, I’m on week 2 and I have no issues at all with the SDC aligners staying in place. I actually needed to use the included plastic tool to remove the aligner the first couple of days as it was so tight. After the third day or so I could use my fingers to remove the aligner, but it was still very snug.

      Reply
  4. Question: If the aligners are self positioned in your mouth without any clips to hold in place, how is the pressure maintained on your teeth to move? Also, I assume these are removed for brushing and flossing, but are they worn 24 hours a day or just during sleeping.
    Thanks for responding.

    Reply
    • The attachments with invisalign are strategically sized and placed in order to move not only the crown of the tooth but the root as well (very important to your oral health) Invisalign is recommended to be worn 22 hrs/day (only taken out to eat and brush)

      Reply
      • I’ve had extensive work in my mouth. I had 14teeth pulled followed by 6yrs of braces to correct a massive overbite and twisted teeth that came in over my baby teeth (which never fell out). I had the old style ones you know james bond “jaws” style. No child should look like I did. They wrapped around my every tooth and then connected together. I wore a head gear and neck gear to pull my teeth into place from 10-16yrs old. This was a horrible feeling being called out from school for doctors appointments and generally in pain from the pulling. Dont forget, the sores along the gum line were never ending.

        Due to the braces I had gum problems too. My first gum surgery was at 25yrs old. It took almost a month to recover. Now at this point I had a beautiful smile but was told another gum surgery would be needed in 8-10yrs. I put it off an extra 5yrs (fearful of the recovery).At 40yrs old I had the daddy of all procedures. It was a combination of 4 partial smaller procedures (1/4 mouth at a time) followed by 2 more in depth gum cleanings/scaling. A procedure that opens the gum line completely. After this my beautifully straight smile shifted to a front gap, over bite and crooked lower.

        I’m pretty resilient but the psychological part of loosing my smile might have been the most shocking and unexpected part of all.

        My periodontist told me I could not do anything with my teeth for at least year while they settled. Each day I felt them move and saw myself shift. In the end after 2yrs of waiting he referred me to Ortho who said the resulting cost would be +/-$10k and 1.5yrs.
        Keep in mind I already went thru braces for 6yrs of my life and now two hefty (no cheap) gum procedures. I already know what it feels like to have straight teeth. Unfortunately it was out of my possible price or emotional option to do this route again.

        When I first found SDC they sent me a DIY imprint and then a second followed by a card saying they couldn’t get a proper imprint. Go figure my snaggle mouth gets me again. Months past and when they opened a location near me I received an email. I went in from there they did a 3D scan. It was brilliant. No pain or messy goop just a nice person with a wand.
        I was able to put my first lump payment on Card Card with regular small monthly payments. They made my situation possible. I’m guessing they worked out many of the kinks by the time I came along because all my interactions with their people have been wonderful.
        At 45yr old im 3trays into my process and couldn’t be happier. To start it was difficult I couldn’t wear both top and bottom at the same time. Uncomfortable and sore in a way I wasnt used to feeling. On the first set, I did bottom during the day and top at night. On the app I extended my start time accordingly to accommodate my adjustment too.

        I extremely familiar with dentists, ortho and perio. If I can stay out of the office, I’m happy to do so. This however doesnt mean I’m on my own using SDC. I still see my dentist for cleanings. I’m still going in to check my gum stability with my perio and when I finish with SDC I will be able to see an othro if I need any fine tuning.

        What SDC has done is allow me the space to get my smile back on my terms without the pain of cut up gums or a Dr trying to bully me into feeling bad about my mouth. I can do this with a sense of confidence building rather than shaming.

        If I never had anything before I might have complaints about this type of straightener but after all I know about dental work I’m beyond grateful for this option.

        SDC thank you !!!

        Reply
    • To finish your question, other aligners put heavy, intermittent force on your teeth instead of light, constant force that Invisalign can provide. Light, constant force allows your teeth to move teeth more predictably and comfortably.

      Reply
  5. “The thing is – even with Invisalign, your orthodontist isn’t doing much. Invisalign makes the trays and does all the work.” FALSE FALSE FALSE!! The orthodontist spends a great deal of time developing the treatment plan through Invisalign’s awesome software! THEY are the ones manipulating the teeth and placing the correctly sized and placed attachments to get the result THEY want! It’s not like the office submits an impression or intraoral scan and people in another country (not orthodontists) magically create a perfect clincheck lol the orthodontist is the one treatment planning to get patients the best result! Stop lying to consumers!!!

    Reply
  6. I just started my SDC treatment two weeks ago and my wife finished Invisalign about a year ago – here’s one difference (aside from the differences mentioned earlier) I’ve noticed between the two companies aligners.

    The “finishing” of the aligners is much better with Invisalign. Invisalign is significantly smoother on the edges and has less extra plastic material vs Smile Direct Club. I’m having to sand / trim the sharp, rough plastic edges from the aligner, especially toward the inside of the lower molars where my tongue rests and moves when talking. The back edges of my tongue were very sore and roughed up the first couple of days until I filed and sanded the aligner edges. I’m imagining this contributes to part of the lower cost of SDC – cheaper labor having less time trimming the aligners when Invisalign does it better. It’s still not perfect and I’m sure I’ll get better as I learn how much to take off, but my wife kept all her aligners and they’re very smooth and neatly trimmed all around.

    Another difference, expanding on that mentioned in the article, is the initial fit and communication. I’m waiting to hear back via email from the “dental team” as I have one tooth that isn’t fitting in the aligner properly and it buckles the rear of the aligner. With Invisalign and having aligner evaluations done at a dentist, this would have been taken care of and already re-ordered.

    All that being said, I’d do SDC again given the significant cost difference, not having to go into the dentist every month or so for a new aligner, and the ability of me to smooth out the rough edges of the aligners myself. The tooth that isn’t fitting perfectly was probably a bad scan (I went into a retail shop for the 3D scan) and it’s a weird scenario where one lower front tooth is crowded and pushed back a bit. My wife had a similar thing on the uppers and her fit was perfect from the start.

    Not meant to dissuade anyone from SDC, but just to be aware. If you’ve got the time and money, Invisalign is better. If you’d rather keep that extra $3,500 for a vacation or whatever 6 months down the road and don’t mind trimming or filing some rough edges yourself, go with Smile Direct Club.

    Reply
    • The reason Invisalign can sculpt their aligners to make the gums, cheeks and tongue less irritated is because they use attachments or buttons to apply force to teeth that might be difficult to move. The SDC alternative to buttons, which it cannot use without office visits, is to cover the gum line to create turning and moving force. Yes, it can be uncomfortable. I slightly filed my first tray but decided to just deal with it going forward. I am on my second to last tray and it seems like each one has irritated a different part of my mouth but I adjust within a couple of days.

      Reply
      • Hi and thanks for sharing! We’re getting our son SDC aligners soon. He’s a teenager. Do you have any suggestions for increasing comfort or do you recommend enduring it? How bad is the discomfort? Thanks again!

        Reply
  7. I’m a new user of Candid Co.’s aligners and already are progress after 4 days. I don’t have any issues with rough edges and have found the process to be pretty seamless thus far.

    It’s worth mentioning that my issues are minor and I formerly had braces. (I just waited to get my wisdom teeth out and ended up with shifting.) If you’re the kind of person that likes convenience, modern technology and is tired of paying the exorbitant cost of health care in this country, I highly recommend Candid Co. I can’t speak for SDC but assume results are very similar.

    Reply
  8. Some things to be considered in the SDC vs Invisalign argument is that: you are moving teeth which are in a bone and have a root. Without proper xrays and doctor analysis, you can cause severe damage to your teeth. People should not be performing their own medical treatments because at the end of the day, though aesthetic to most using SDC, this is a medical treatment. Many people are happy with SDC because it makes things “good enough” for those with minor crowding etc. Typically though, there is more to the story, such as bite relationship, crossbites etc that are all things smile direct club will not address. I compare Smile direct club to doing your own botox injections or something similar. It seems easy to do but a medical professional should be overlooking you and knowing every aspect.

    Reply
  9. I am using the Invisalign procedure and am quite happy so far. With respect to earlier comments, my dentist is very involved with my treatment. In addition the the buttons on my teeth, my dentist will also be doing some ‘micro filing’ on a couple of teeth which will allow my teeth to fit together. In addition some insurances will pay for Invisalign treatment, my plan was $4700 an d my insurance paid $3000. This includes all office visits plus I have decided to use ‘wires’ when I am finished which is included in the plan. Not very interested in retainers!

    Reply
  10. Do not use SDC. I get it, dentist dont like it but for good reason. Its not all about money. SDC literally hires fresh “dentists” to just click yes on everything. Im surprised there hasnt been litigation yet. For very minor issues, it might be ok. But wouldnt risk it. No follow up. No personal visits. I had both. Invisalign was far more superior. I hate office visits every few weeks where my dentist made sure things were on track and made several adjustments during my time. This doesnt happen w SDC. You have to just hope it works. Technology and product is way cheaper as well. Pay the extra money and do it the right way

    Reply
  11. Thanks for all great comments! I got SD and they are just too rough and painful! I filed it, but ripped the cheap plastic! I’m going to now go to Invisalign…. I’m glad that those seem to be a better quality and are trimmed! The SDC was very irritating

    Reply
  12. Has there been any research of the materials used for the plastic (or acrylic?) aligner trays being safe regarding plastic leeching chemicals into your system? i wonder if this may be a difference in price also and wonder if the FDA has ever tested the trays since they are in your mouth for 6 months or more. I’m a SMD user and almost at end of my treatment.

    Reply
  13. I am at day 86 with SDC. Every aligner change results in bleeding and pain from the lower aligner plastic edges curling into the extreme rear and lower tongue. I severely trim each new aligner daily until day 4, then have a couple of days of peace with what is left of a lower aligner that is very loose. After two months SDC took a new scan and promised a replacement in 3-4 weeks. It has been 5 weeks and I have received nothing. I am disappointed with this process and would not recommend it given the absence of meaningful response or help.

    Reply
  14. I do like the assessments made in the article. Orthodontic tooth movement is a very complex medical procedure, tooth is in bone and a socket there also nerve and blood supply to the tooth. If it was any other part of our bodies a doctor will be consulted so why are we diy our teeth alignment. I have to disagree with the notion that Invisalign does all the work. Force systems are built using the Invisalign platform to patient teeth into the final position once the doctor is satisfied with the plan the ok is given to manufacture the clear aligners.
    Excessive force when moving a tooth can result in lost of blood supply to the tooth and the. Cause the tooth to become dead. Which would then require a root canal or some other type of treatment who is responsible at that point if you diy it. Just think about potential consequences of tooth with out seeing an orthodontic specialist. Some patients taking bisphosphonates should probably not be treated unless the benefits really outweighs the risk. When you diy who is making that assessment? Diabetes and orthodontic treatment presents another area of concern. The list goes on and on. Straight teeth is one of the great benefits of orthodontic treatment.

    Reply

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