What Is Better? Smile Direct or Invisalign?

Invisalign vs. Smile Direct Club: Reviewing the Differences

It’s true, both Invisalign® and Smile Direct Club® use invisible tray aligners to straighten your teeth over time.

However, which one is right for you?…. And more importantly which service provider provides a better smile?

Caution – After research was completed for this article, we strongly advise that you do your research on Smile Directs reviews. Please visit their Facebook Page (click here), and their Better Business Bureau page (click here) for more information

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How Smiles Direct Club® and Invisalign® Are Alike

Both Invisalign® and Smile Direct Club® rely on the use of clear and adjustable trays. These trays are used to align your teeth, over time, so they are properly positioned for that picture-perfect smile.

They Both Use Aligners

Smile Direct Club Logo
Invisalign Logo

How You Get Your Aligner Trays Matters

Smiles Direct Club ®: A Virtual Relationship

For Smiles Direct Club® you do not visit a dentist at a brick-and-mortar location. Instead, communication is mostly virtual. This can be an advantage or drawback, depending on your view.

How It Works

  • Take impressions of your mouth at home, or at a SmileShop
  • Your impression is translated into a 3D smile
  • A licensed orthodontist or dentist reviews the 3D image who will guide your smile during your treatment plan
  • Any issues you have will require you to call them on the phone
Smile Direct Club® Allows you to take impressions at home, saving you a trip to the dentist

Invisalign: One-on-One Dental Counseling

Choosing Invisalign permits you to speak one-on-one with a dental professional – someone who becomes familiar with your treatment and can completely support you through the process.

Invisalign Diagram

He or she will be analyzing the progression of your treatment and can make the necessary changes to your plan as your teeth begin to shift into place.

How It Works

  • You visit a dentist who scans your teeth
  • The dentist sends in your scans to create a 3D treatment plan
  • You regularly visit your dentist who reviews your treatment progression in person
  • You obtain your new trays from your dentist
  • If you have any problems, you can visit your dentist for help
Invisalign® is the safest option should anything go wrong during treatment. This is your smile after all, so treat it with care.

Do I Get Supervision From Smile Direct Club?

Smile Direct Club does have a team of dental professionals onboard who plan dental treatments. Therefore, one of SDC’s licensed dental professionals does supervise your treatment. It just isn’t done in the traditional way. SDC matches customers with one of just over 220 affiliated orthodontists and dentists in the 50 United States.

A dental professional considers the details of your case before he or she designs the aligners for use. A real person does review your case and the straightening process. You just don’t’ have direct contact with him or her.

However, Smile Direct Club only moves forward with treatment if your straightening issues are basic. Otherwise, the provider will suggest seeing a dentist for more advanced straightening issues.

Smiles Direct Club Offers A Payment Plan

Users of the services offered by the Smile Direct Club favor the monthly payment plant – plans that help them avoid dealing with paying one lump sum, which can lead to financial stress.

Be Aware – Warnings Issued by the ADA

The American Dental Association has raised concerns over SmileDirect Club’s unconventional straightening services. The Association sent a letter to the Bureau of Consumer Protection on July 11, 2019. This letter was drafted two months after a petition was filed by the ADA with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both the letter and petition expressed concerns about the risk of the Smile Direct procedure.

The ADA, which took the actions out of a concern for public and patient safety, believes that SmileDirect is placing people at risk when it evades the FDA’s mandate of not providing “by prescription only” teeth aligning products.
  • According to the report, the indirect contact that Smile Direct provides can cause a patient potential harm.
  • A dentist representing the interests of the ADA added that “orthodontic treatment, if not done properly, [can] lead to potential bone loss, lost teeth, receding gums, bite problems, jaw pain, and other [dental] issues.”

The ADA, in its communications to the FDA and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) emphasized that the SmileDirect Club required that customers hold the company harmless should they experience any negative treatment results.

The Cost Of Smiles Direct Club

If someone does go with the Smile Direct Club (SDC), it usually has to do with cost. Compared to a dentist-based and in-office procedure like Invisalign, SDC costs about $4,000 less, or around $2,000 compared to $6,000. However, as the ADA noted, this dental service is geared toward straightening the teeth, not correcting misalignment problems or bite issues.

If you choose to go with Invisalign, however, you can have direct contact with a dentist, which means your progress can be directly monitored over time.

Invisalign: Some of the Highlights

Below are some of the highlights featured when using Invisalign for teeth straightening. Some of the amenities compare closely to SDC treatment.

  • The aligners are trays, made to fit the patient’s mouth.
  • When the retainers or aligners are worn, they are hardly noticeable. They are made of a see-through and soft plastic material that adds to their aesthetic appeal. (Again, they are similar in appearance to the aligners offered by SDC.)
  • Retainers are removable, as are Smile Direct Club
  • You can eat your favorite foods, as you can take out the aligners when you eat. They should also be removed when you brush and floss. At al other times, they should be worn. This treatment approach is also used by SDC.
  • You can stay active when you use the aligners.

While SmileDirect aligners offer many of the above benefits, you go through less stress when visiting a dentist, or using the Invisalign approach. Beginning any kind of orthodontic treatment can cause a person concern. Therefore, it helps to work with a dental professional directly when straightening the teeth.

How the Invisalign Treatment Begins

The dentist will take a 3D image of your teeth when treatment starts. He or she does this by using a 3D scanner. By using this type of software, the dentist can note tooth movements so he or she can place an order for new aligners as your smile improves. You don’t have this type of advantage if you choose SDC treatments. The scanning software greatly reduces the cost of lab fees, thereby reducing the overall expense.

Invisalign: Will Fix Both Bite Problems and Overcrowding

Unlike SDC’s service, you can fix bite problems by using Invisalign. Therefore, you can realign your smile and fix any crooked teeth at the same time. SDC is designed to handle mild to moderate straightening issues.

The following information gives you a better idea of how Invisalign works for different dental orthodontic problems.

How Invisalign Is Used to Correct a Smile

Invisalign can be used to fix dental misalignment or teeth straightening issues. The aligners or trays can be designed to do the following:

  • Fixing an overbite or deep bite. This kind of bite can lead to jaw pain or wear problems.
  • Correcting an underbite. An underbite can make chewing difficult or cause problems with speaking. It can also lead to tooth wear. When the condition is severe, Invisalign may be combined with surgery.
  • Correcting a crossbite. If you close your mouth and some of your upper teeth meet the inside lower teeth, this bite is known as a crossbite. A crossbite can cause the gums to recede or lead to wear problems.
  • Correcting spaces or gaps in teeth. If you display an additional space between two or more teeth, this extra space if referred to as gap teeth. Gap teeth can produce pockets between the teeth and gums where food can get embedded and stuck. Gap teeth may lead to gum soreness and tenderness, or periodontal disease.
  • Correcting an open bite. If your upper teeth and lower teeth do not touch whenever you close your mouth, you have an open bite. An open bite makes it difficult to chew foods or bite down when eating.
  • Straightening crooked teeth or correcting overcrowding. Using Invisalign allows you to straighten your teeth in 18 to 24 months – in less time than when wearing braces.

Receiving Your Invisalign Aligners

After your bite has been analyzed with 3D software, a plan will be established for your dental straightening treatments. On the first day you receive your aligners, the dentist will answer any questions you have. Each set of aligners will be worn one to two weeks before they are switched out. Your dental provider will schedule check-ups every six to eight weeks to check on your teeth straightening progress. You will pick up a new batch of aligners during appointments.

Aligner Care for Invisalign and SDC

You should rinse your Invisalign and SDC aligners each night and brush your teeth using a soft-bristle toothbrush. If you maintain Invisalign aligners, you can use an Invisalign cleaning system to keep the trays clean and clear. This system entails using a device that removes plaque from the aligners. This is done by using specialized cleaning crystals.

Pros and Cons of Smile Direct Club and Invisalign Treatment Plans

Let’s look at the pros and cons for each product, SmileDirect Club and Invisalign.

Pros of SmileDirect Club

  1. The clear aligners you receive are removable.
  2. An average plan takes about six months.
  3. You do not need rubber bands or attachments.
  4. The aligners can be worn while you play sports or work out.
  5. You will be assigned to a dentist, although indirectly.
  6. SmileDirect Club, on average, costs about 60% less than metal or ceramic braces.

Cons of SmileDirect Club

  1. It takes about five weeks to make and ship the customized aligners.
  2. As with any teeth-straightening procedure, you may experience discomfort and pain.
  3. The aligners should only be worn for minor or moderate straightening of the teeth.
  4. All SDC customers must be at last 12 years old.

Pros of Invisalign

  1. Invisalign is comfortable to wear because the wearer does not need to wear brackets or wires. You won’t get cuts inside your mouth. The clear and smooth aligners do not feature sharp edges.
  2. People hardly notice anyone wearing clear Invisalign aligners. Therefore, you can smile and not feel self-conscious.
  3. The straighteners are more convenient than braces, as you can remove them for dental hygiene or when you eat or drink. In turn, you reduce the risk of gum disease.
  4. Your plan is directly monitored by a dentist.
  5. Invisalign corrects crooked teeth as well as bite problems.

Cons of Invisalign

  1. The aligners are expensive. Plus, they usually are not totally covered by dental insurance. You will pay from $3,500 to $8,000 for the treatment.
  2. Attachments must be worn with the aligners so they fit better and can more effectively shift the teeth. The attachments make the clear aligners more noticeable, almost as noticeable as braces in some cases.
  3. You need to wear the aligners for at least 22 hours per day. While you can take them out to eat or brush and floss, you will still have to wear them at work or at social gatherings.
  4. Each time you receive a new set of aligners, the experience can be painful. You will need to take a pain reliever to alleviate the discomfort.
  5. You have to remove the aligners while eating, which, at times, can prove to be embarrassing, especially if you are dining out.

Bottom Line –

While Smile Direct aligners are much like Invisalign in appearance, they offer fewer options for improving your smile. Use the aligners if you only have mild to moderate crowding of the teeth. You will also like wearing aligners if you are a dental do-it-yourselfer. If your smile only needs minor corrections, the SDC aligners may be for you.

Heed the ADA’s Warning about the SDC Treatment Plan

Just keep in mind the ADA warnings about using the product. You should be okay if you only need to correct some mild or moderate crookedness. If your teeth are misaligned, stick to Invisalign, even if the process is more expensive. The ADA states that using SDC for more than minor straightening can actually harm your bite and teeth.

Covering the Cost for Treatment for Invisalign and SDC

Otherwise, choose Invisalign if you want to ensure that your teeth straightening or bite correction is successful. Invisalign costs about $3,500 to $8,000, while Smile Direct Club costs around $2,000 to correct mildly crooked teeth. In either case, you usually can use individual or employee-sponsored dental insurance to cover part of the cost.

Types of Payment Methods to Consider

You can also cover the cost for straightening or alignment with the following:

  • Health savings account (HSA)
  • An interest-free plan, such as Care Credit
  • Various payment plans
  • Discount plans

Buyer Beware – Make Sure the Dental Procedure Will Help You

Regardless of your choice for care, your selection will hinge on the cost, the extent of straightening, and whether you prefer direct or indirect dental contact. Don’t consider SDC if you have an overbite or similar malocclusion. You would not be considered a suitable candidate.

Again, only use SDC if you would rather take care of a mild problem with crowding and you prefer to do it on your own. Also, be aware that any adjustments that need to be made, or any lost aligners that need replacement will take longer to process.

Review Insurance Coverages and Compare Prices

If you choose Invisalign, contact community orthodontists to review insurance coverages and compare prices. Once you know you have the best insurance protection, check local dental clinics for the best treatment price. While orthodontists will probably not give you prices upfront, they may give you a discount on treatment if you express the need to work out a payment plan.