If you’re looking to straighten your teeth, you’ve never had more choices than you do today.
There are braces, in-office clear aligners, and – just in the past decade or so – aligner kits that are delivered directly to you.
Among all the clear aligner options out there, two names have risen above the rest: Smile Direct Club and Invisalign. Both have established reputations, and both have continued to improve their treatments as the years have gone by.
Is one clearly better than the other in 2022? Let’s find out by comparing each clear aligner system in 5 key areas:
Why you can trust me
Before we go through our Smile Direct Club vs Invisalign comparison, it’s only fair that I disclose I’m a dentist who works extensively with Invisalign. Using their aligner system, I’ve helped hundreds of people successfully improve their smiles.
However, I’m also a faculty member at UCLA, and an active Western Regional Examining Board dental instructor. These positions give me in-depth knowledge of the latest standards and developments in the world of smile correction – including mail-order aligners – and I’ll be using all of my expertise to compare the two options.
Recap: How clear aligners work
After years of braces being the only option to fix your smile, clear aligners have been a game-changer. They’re removable, comfortable, convenient, and in most cases are just as effective as traditional braces.
Instead of using wires and brackets, all clear aligners function by using custom-molded plastic trays to apply steady pressure to your teeth.
This pressure gradually shifts your teeth into the desired position, improving both your health and smile aesthetics.
How are Invisalign and Smile Direct Club different?
Functionally, the main difference between the two options are:
- Invisalign’s process requires in-person visits with your dentist or orthodontist, while Smile Direct Club’s process is almost entirely appointment-free.
- Invisalign’s aligners can treat practically any orthodontic issue(s), but Smile Direct Club’s aligners can only treat mild to moderate issues.
- Smile Direct Club offers an overnight-only option while Invisalign insists that its aligners be worn for most of the day.
Which option is more effective?
It goes without saying that, if you’re pursuing orthodontic treatment, you want it to improve your smile and oral health.
So, while both Invisalign and Smile Direct Club’s aligners can achieve good results, the edge here has to go to Invisalign — its aligner system can do much more for your smile and long-term health.
Smile Direct Club’s aligners have limitations
Smile Direct Club’s aligners can effectively correct mild to moderate orthodontic cases, including minor bite issues. Beyond that, however, they can’t be relied on to achieve safe or satisfactory results.
While the company has gone to great lengths (like setting up dedicated SmileShops) to improve the way it assesses and corrects smiles, its technology just isn’t able to match what Invisalign’s aligners are able to accomplish.
Invisalign’s expertise sets them apart
Invisalign’s parent company, Align Technology, is arguably the world’s most experienced and capable manufacturer when it comes to clear aligner technology, and it shows.
With Invisalign, you can correct just about any orthodontic issue, whether it’s for health, aesthetics, or both. From the scanning technology to the aligners themselves, their system offers more precise control over fine tooth movement and a wider range of capabilities when it comes to jaw repositioning and bite correction.
Altogether, that means your dentist can do more for your smile and oral health using Invisalign than you’d be able to accomplish at home with Smile Direct Club.
Which option is more affordable?
After effectiveness, the next big question people have to answer is: can I actually afford this treatment?
In this area, Smile Direct Club handily takes the win. Even though the cost of Invisalign has come down over the years, the cost of getting clear aligners from Smile Direct Club is almost always lower than the cost of getting Invisalign.
Mail-order aligners have an affordability advantage
The total cost for Smile Direct Club typically sits at around $2000, and can be paid off in installments with no credit check required. By comparison, a full Invisalign treatment can cost twice as much.
Affordability is one of the biggest selling points for Smile Direct Club, and mail-order aligners in general. By cutting back on in-person appointments and other service-related costs, they promise a leaner, more efficient treatment experience with lower all-around costs, and then they pass those savings on to you.
There are ways to make Invisalign more affordable
If you’re leaning towards Invisalign but are struggling to make the higher cost work within your budget, you still have options.
Financing is a common option that people use to stretch out the cost of the treatment. Depending on your financial history, you might even be eligible for a no-interest payment plan.
Dental insurance is another great option if you have it. Orthodontic treatment, and Invisalign in particular, are covered under most dental plans. That’s one area where Invisalign has a leg up on Smile Direct Club — since it’s a more proven option, you’re more likely to get coverage for it.
Which option is more comfortable?
If you’re going to be wearing something for hours each day, for potentially several years, it had better be comfortable.
This one is close, but there are a couple of key differences which put Invisalign ahead of Smile Direct Club on comfort.
Smile Direct Club’s DIY approach can impact comfort
If you’re able to visit one of Smile Direct Club’s SmileShops or Partner Network dentists, they’ll have all the technology required to take a 3D scan of your mouth, which will then be used to create your aligners.
Between its SmileShops and dentists, Smile Direct Club maintains around 2000 locations across the nation, so – generally speaking – you should be able to find one that’s reasonably close to you. If you can’t, however, that’s when the situation becomes less than ideal.
In that case, you’ll be stuck creating a mold of your smile with absolutely zero professional support. That matters, because a poorly created mold could result in ineffective, uncomfortable, and potentially unsafe aligners.
Invisalign’s aligners are a cut above
When you get Invisalign, the part of the aligners that’s positioned near your gums is custom-contoured to fit your gum line instead of being cut completely flat like Smile Direct Club’s aligners.
While that makes Invisalign’s aligners more comfortable, it also means that, when directly compared with aligners from Smile Direct Club, Invisalign’s aligners actually have less compressing force.
Are you sacrificing power for comfort? Ultimately, no. As I mentioned in the “effectiveness” section, Invisalign’s aligner system is incredibly precise and capable, so the small difference in power between a flat and contoured cut doesn’t materially affect how well your aligners work.
Which option is more convenient?
Whether it’s school, work, or just running a household, life is busy. So, for most people, spending less time on treatment and anything related to it is a good thing.
Taking that into account, it’s no surprise that – with its focus on remotely-guided, appointment-free treatment – Smile Direct Club tops Invisalign in convenience.
Smile Direct Club prioritizes convenience
Smile Direct Club played a big part in turning the concept of mail-order clear aligners into something that people are now comfortable with, and their treatments have only gotten easier as their aligner system has evolved.
Aside from an initial mandatory visit to a dentist for a pre-treatment checkup, as well as an optional visit to a SmileShop or Partner Network dentist for your scans, the rest of the process happens entirely at home.
Yup, entirely at home — Smile Direct Club even offers an overnight-only option so you don’t need to worry about taking your aligners out and putting them back in during the day.
New sets of aligners are sent directly to you over the course of your treatment, and you simply submit a photo of your smile every 90 days as part of their check-in and monitoring process.
A different kind of convenience with Invisalign
With its in-person appointments and check-ups, Invisalign falls well short of Smile Direct Club and other mail-order aligners in terms of day-to-day convenience.
If there’s a redeeming quality to it, it’s Invisalign’s ability to treat more advanced orthodontic issues like jaw position and bite alignment.
By addressing those health challenges as part of your Invisalign treatment, you could spare yourself the cost and disruption of further treatment later on in life.
Which option is more reliable?
When you’re spending thousands of dollars and months to years of your life on a treatment, you want to be confident that you’re going to have a great experience.
That doesn’t just apply to the results, either. Everything that happens before, during, and even after your treatment matters, and in that regard, there’s no fair way to crown a winner here.
Has Smile Direct Club cleaned up its act?
While it has grown into one of the recognizable names in smile correction, Smile Direct Club’s rise to prominence hasn’t been free from controversy and questionable service.
It isn’t hard to find articles from major news outlets like NBC and The New York Times which show Smile Direct Club engaging in activities which don’t put its customers’ best interests first.
Investigations into the company turned up issues like overly lax patient screening, treatment policies that weren’t being followed, and refunds that were contingent on all negative sentiment towards the brand being deleted online.
However, Smile Direct Club pledged to address the issues that were highlighted in those reports, and – in the 2 years that have followed since most of those articles were published – it hasn’t been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
Your Invisalign experience depends on your provider
Invisalign is one of the oldest and most trusted providers brands for clear aligners, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
In the end, Invisalign itself is just a clear aligner system. Everything else you experience while using it – like quality of care, responsiveness, and even refunds – all depends on the dentist you work with for your treatment.
As a consumer and a potential patient, it’s up to you to take the time to find a provider who has great reviews, lots of experience, and proven expertise using the orthodontic options available from Invisalign.
The Verdict: Invisalign or Smile Direct Club?
If you’ve been keeping track during our Smile Direct Club vs Invisalign head-to-head, that’s two category wins for Invisalign (effectiveness and comfort) and two for Smile Direct Club (affordability and convenience), along with a too-close-to-call result on reliability.
That’s a fair reflection of how they compare in 2022. Each option has its own merits and, in the end, the best choice depends on what matters most to you and what you expect to receive from the treatment.
Smile Direct Club is best if you…
- Need mild to moderate smile correction
- Have a very strict budget to follow
- Value having lots flexibility in your schedule
Invisalign is best if you…
- Need moderate to extensive smile correction
- Value guided care, in-person that keeps you informed
- Want the most comfortable, versatile system available
Looking for smile correction in Los Angeles?
If you live in or around the Los Angeles area, I’d be happy to chat with you about your options for making your smile look and feel the way you want it to.
As a certified Invisalign Diamond Provider, I’m in the top 1% of all American dentists for successful Invisalign treatments. That means you get a great smile plus access to some of the best prices you’ll find anywhere in Los Angeles for Invisalign.
Having said that, my #1 commitment is always to my patients — not to an aligner system. If an option like Smile Direct Club is right for your needs, I won’t hesitate to tell you.
You can get started with a free consultation by calling LA Dental Clinic at (213) 385-9710, or by scheduling a virtual consultation through our online booking system.