(Article updated Februrary 23rd, 2017)
Wondering if Smile Direct Club is a good option for straightening your teeth? You’ve come to the right place.
A little about me and why I’m qualified to give you the scoop on Smile Direct Club…
First, I’m a general dentist. I’ve used a variety of orthodontic treatment options in my private practice office over the years. These have included traditional braces, Invisalign, and various types of spring retainers. I’ve also seen some of my own patients start and complete treatment separately with Smile Direct Club. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on what the system realistically can and can’t accomplish.
I’m going to give you all the pros and cons of Smile Direct Club so that you can make an educated decision whether it is a good option for you personally.
A short history of clear aligner therapy…
Clear aligner orthodontic therapy (pioneered by Invisalign) doesn’t nearly have the history of standard braces but improvements in the systems have made it a great option in the majority of cases for straightening teeth. Impressions are taken and then a sequential set of plastic aligners is created. Small plastic attachments are added to a couple of places on your teeth and then you start wearing the aligners. You change to a new set of aligners approximately every two weeks. Every time you change to the next aligner, it is moving your teeth into the correct position. Best of all, it isn’t nearly as noticeable as standard braces. Invisalign treatment in most dentist’s offices costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $5000-8000. It is very costly because the dentist incurs nearly $2000 in material and lab costs before the case even starts. There is also a pretty significant amount of time you spend in the office for adjustment’s and checks and before long it adds up to a lot of money they have to charge to make any profit.
This is typically what the aligners look like…
Much nicer looking than metal braces right?
Then along came Smile Direct Club….
Previously known as Smile Care Club. They allow you to take impressions on yourself and send them to the company where a dentist will create a treatment plan to align your teeth. This allows you to have clear aligner therapy while skipping going to see the dentist (in most cases). In other cases you will still need to see a participating dentist for various modifications that you can’t make yourself… Primarily something known as interproximal reduction (IPR) in which the dentist removes a very tiny amount of enamel in between the teeth in order to make enough room to alleviate the crowding. Some people also aren’t a good candidate for therapy with Smile Direct Club due to more extensive treatment needs than can be accomplished.
In general this ends up being far less expensive than seeing the dentist for full treatment but there are some definite trade-offs for this lower price…
- Unless you have a very easy case, it is unlikely that you will get results as good as you would at a dentist or orthodontist.
- No attachments are used with Smile Direct Club so the aligners can’t create forces that are nearly as precise as Invisalign.
- You have to take your own impressions. If you don’t get accurate impressions (harder than you think) you won’t get good results.
- If complications arise, or treatment doesn’t go as expected, options are going to be much more limited in terms of fixing it.
- If you have cavities or existing periodontal disease, this process can make them worse.
- You are unlikely to get nearly as stable a result as you would get with a dentist or an orthodontist. You will absolutely have to wear your retainers consistently if you don’t want your teeth to relapse to where they were before treatment.
- The material that the trays are made of isn’t as durable as Invisalign trays. If you’re a heavy grinder you do run the risk of breaking them or wearing through them very quickly.
Before you get started with Smile Direct Club…
I think it is very important you are aware of these possible complications before you start on this path.
I also highly recommend you see a general dentist for a full check-up prior to starting any orthodontic treatment. You should ideally have all cavities taken care of and your gum health should be stable prior to any orthodontic treatment.
If you understand all these possible complications and are OK with them, I think this can be a great option for some people to straighten their teeth (see below for more information on some of my patient’s results).
And let’s take a quick look at the nuts and bolts of the process..
The first step is an initial assessment which costs $95. You’ll submit photos and impressions to them and a licensed dentist will create a treatment plan for straightening your teeth.
If you are a good candidate for treatment and decide to proceed they will create your clear aligners and send them to you. This costs $1500 or they have some monthly payment options. You wear the aligners approximately 20-22 hours a day and they will slowly move your teeth. If you need to see a dentist for any help, they’ll refer you to a participating dentist.
After treatment is complete, they will make clear essix style retainers for you for $99. They recommend you replace these every 6 months. I personally think you should wear the essix retainers full time for six months and then have a Hawley style retainer made that you wear at night. The Hawley style retainers will hold up for you much better over time. See my retainer guide for more specific details on retainer design and an effective schedule for wearing them.
I have had three of my patients go through process and they have been mostly happy with the results. They were all adults who had braces when they were teenagers, didn’t wear their retainers, and their teeth shifted as they got older. They couldn’t afford professional Invisalign treatment (approximately $6000 in my office) but could do Smile Direct Club. They all had some mild to moderate crowding.
Patient #1: Minor crowding of the lower front teeth. At the end of treatment the crowding looked much better.
Patient #2: Minor crowding of top and bottom front teeth. At the end of treatment the crowding had been eliminated and she had a nice even smile.
Patient #3: Moderate crowding of top front teeth and bottom front teeth. She is still in treatment and has another couple of trays to go. The bottom teeth were looking pretty good but the top teeth hadn’t moved nearly as well. She’ll likely need some additional trays to correct her smile fully. I think her crowding was pushing the limits of what they can do.
Overall, I think the system is an OK option when used correctly and with an understanding of it’s limitations.
Think Smile Direct Club is a good fit for you?
Head over to the Smile Direct Club website and order their initial assessment kit. It will have everything you need to get going.