Is Smile Direct Club The Same As Invisalign? 8 Myths You Need To Know Before Joining The Club
Smile Direct Club a hot topic of conversation right now among many people - parents, grown adults, teenagers, and dentists alike. So what's all the buzz you ask? Smile Direct Club takes the "middle man" out of tooth straightening and offers teeth aligners (similar in appearance to those offered by Invisalign) sent straight to your home. Oh, and did I mention they are able to do this at a reasonable cost? Sounds pretty great doesn't it? As a concept, this new service is a great idea, however there are several things that a person should know prior to joining the Smile Direct Club and that is what we are going to talk about today. So here we go, 8 myths everyone should know about Smile Direct Club before joining.
#1 - Smile Direct Aligners Are The Same As Invisalign
Although similar in appearance. the aligners are simply not the same as Invisalign. The main difference is the fact that Invisalign aligners actually lock into place on the teeth due to something called attachments. These tooth attachments are placed by your dentist prior to beginning the Invisalign process. The importance of having an aligner that locks into place is that, without it, your aligner can slide or shift around which could lead to tooth movements that are unfavorable or unpredictable.
#2 - Dental Impressions Are Easy To Take
While the idea of taking a mold of your teeth sounds easy enough, there is a lot that can go wrong during this process if it is not directly overseen by dentist. For starters, if a dentist has not physically seen someone or looked inside their mouth then they can not be 100% sure that what they are seeing in a mold is the actual representation inside the mouth. This may sound insignificant but the important takeaway message is that your aligner trays are made to fit on your custom mold and the aligner trays are the only thing that is straightening your teeth. Therefore if your teeth are not accurately represented in the mold your final result and smile may not be exactly what you are looking for. Not to mention it can be a hassle if your mold is not approved and you need to redo it and wait for another kit in the mail. Dentists and dental assistants have to take a course and practice this procedure for a reason - it is not something that comes naturally on the first try!
*Note - If you have read that Smile Direct now has Smile Shops where you can talk with and get a mouth scan by a professional, just be aware that this "professional" is not a dentist or even a hygienist. Each Smile Shop has what they call "dental technicians", this means they are trained and have practice taking scans but do not have any formal dental schooling or training.
#3 - Your Case Is Monitored By A Dentist
While a dentist does oversee your treatment, this is done through tele-dentistry and your assigned dentist checks in only once every 90 days. It is possible that some unfavorable tooth movements occur over those 90 days that you may be blissfully unaware of and your dentist will not have the ability to notice that for 3 months! In comparison, most dentists see their patients that are in Invisalign every 4-6 weeks. In regards to how many cases each dentist oversees at one time it is hard to say for sure however Smile Direct says that they have 225 dentists and orthodontists working for them and have treated over 500,000 people. Doing some simple math can lead one to the assumption that each dentist is seeing several patients at a time remotely which increases the liklihood that something critical may get overlooked. In addition to this, dentists and orthodontists are not employed by Smile Direct themselves and thus are able to treat any patient - not just Smile Direct patients. This means that it is certainly possible that these dentists are overseeing many other patients in their own practice or for another company.
If you do have questions about your treatment in between your 90 day doctor communications you will be at the mercy of the messaging system within the patient portal. Most likely a representative to the doctor will try to reach out and troubleshoot your problem as your dentist/orthodontist may not be immediately available.
#4 - The Screening Process Is Very Detailed
Based on numerous reviews and Better Business Bureau complaints, it is safe to say that case selection for use of Smile Direct aligners is not optimal. To put it in simple terms, a person does need to get their scan and tooth mold approved to ensure that their case is not too complex; however there is a lot that is NOT required to begin treatment. Patients do not require any x-rays to evaluate for bone loss or oral pathology. A patient does not even need to be cavity free to begin wearing aligners - which can definitely lead to complications straightening the teeth and certainly health wise. Without x-rays it is also not possible to evaluate the positioning of wisdom teeth and advise on how this may effect the treatment or the long term results.
#5 - It's Good Enough For "Simple" Cases
Rest assured that no orthodontic case is ever "simple". While there may only be a few perceived problems, it is always possible that unforseen tooth movement and shifting comes up that requires course correction and developing a new plan. Moving teeth can cause movement not only on the tooth in question but on the surrounding teeth and even the way the teeth bite together as a whole. Orthodontics is always about moving teeth in harmony with each other to get an overall result that is pleasing to the eye, but also acceptable to the bite. This means that cases need to be monitored very closely and in great detail and changes may be necessary to the plan as time goes on. Again, reading through online reviews and Better Business Bureau complaints, it seems that there are many users of Smile Direct aligners that now are unable to bite their teeth together well or have long term discomfort from the way their new teeth are positioned.
#6 - It's Cheaper Than Invisalign
While on the surface this is true, one should truly consider all factors when deciding on purchasing something as important as a service to adjust their smile. Smile Direct Club costs anywhere from $1850 - $2170 with additional costs for impression taking and retainers. Invisalign costs anywhere from $3500-$8000 depending on the complexity of the case. Clearly this is a fairly large price difference but you must keep in mind what you are giving up in order to get such a low cost. The biggest reason for the cost difference is that there is not a dentist seeing you in person every 4-6 weeks. Sure this may be inconvenient for you to have so many dental appointments but this does give you one on one time with the dentist to ensure that your teeth are moving properly, no issues have arose, and that you are able to get any questions answered easily. Plus, you must consider that if you are unhappy with the results you may want to be retreated by an orthodontist and thus you would really not be saving any money.
#7 - It's Hassle Free
Again, reading through many reviews on Yelp and complaints from the Better Business Bureau, it seems that there is actually a great deal of inconvenience that can occur during treatment. It does not seem uncommon that patients get sent the wrong aligners and have to wait for new ones or new ones are forgotten to be sent altogether. There are also numerous complaints logged with the Better Business Burea about retainers that took too long or were forgotten to be shipped and in the meantime the teeth moved back out of alignment. It also seems that there is no consistency with who you speak to on the customer service end if/when issues arise. From what I gather there seems to be very poor communication between all of those involved in the care of the patient. To be fair, and if you think about it, this is not all too surprising. You are talking about a very large company with hundreds of employees, you are talking about a shipping department and a mailing service, and about dentists logging in remotely. With so many divisions of care as opposed to a small dental office, you are bound to run into more "hassle" as things are largely out of one single person's control.
#8 - Your Happiness Is Guaranteed
Sure Smile Direct Club has a warranty, but be sure to read that fine print first. Impression kit costs are refundable only if the Smile Direct dentist does not feel you are a good fit for aligner treatment. Once you have officially signed up for treatment, you only have 30 days to be eligible for a full refund, afterwards your refund would be prorated based on the number of aligners already used. If at the end of the treatment, you are not satisfied with your results you have 30 days to make that known and then if your overseeing dentist approves it, you will then be shipped more aligners to continue treatment - you will not be issued a monetary refund. Reading through some complaints from the Better Business Bureau it also seems that there are long wait times and problems with people not getting refunds that were promised them.
As a dentist, coming from a family of dentists, it is hard for us to suggest that Smile Direct Club is a good thing. Yes, we have heard from people that have used and enjoyed this service and we certainly see the appeal with such a cost difference. But we also know all too well the problems that can arise when it comes to straightening teeth and it is our opinion that a patient should never undergo this process without direct supervision from a dentist. I recently read a post on social media by a dentist talking about Smile Direct Club and he actually said something that I am in total agreeance with and that is that we live in a free country where everyone should be allowed to make their own choices. And yes, dental care and services should be a personal choice that everyone is allowed to make. This dentist also suggested that while Smile Direct is not a great service for many reasons - at the very least it places some competition on other services such as Invisalign to make them more competitive in the sense of both pricing and in convenience. So, yes, it's not all such a bad thing! But at the end of the day and when it comes down to it, your smile is so important, and you shouldn't trust just anyone with it!
* Please note, all information gathered came directly from the Smile Direct website and blog posts. Any testimonials/anecdotal stories came from online reviews which can be found on Yelp or the Better Business Bureau ( as of the time of posting this article there are 818 complaints filed against Smile Direct Club on the BBB)
Dr. Arshia Kalantari has been a practicing general dentist for over 8 years and grows to love his profession more and more every single day. Since finishing dental school, Dr. Kalantari continually chooses to advance his education and takes specialty seminars and courses to become well practiced and knowledgeable in the fields of Sleep Apnea, Invisalign, Root Canal Treatment, and Cosmetics. Dr. Kalantari views his patients as an extension of his family and appreciates the bond he is able to form, always up for a chit chat or to lend a listening ear.