This is my unbiased review on the company Smile Direct Club, formerly known as Smile Care Club. I am not a dental professional or a doctor. Always consult with your own dentist or doctor before beginning any kind of treatment.
The premise of this company is this: they offer invisible aligners to help straighten your teeth while under the remote supervision of a state licensed dental professional. They ship you your monthly set to prevent at-home disasters or misplacement of certain sets of aligners. With intermittent photo check-ins, you’re essentially getting the outcome of a straight smile without the hassle of an orthodontist’s office or the really high price tag.
I was wondering how I could tie in something like this to a primarily food and health/fitness blog. However, seeing as dental and oral health is indeed an aspect of your health, I figured it would be deserving enough to have its own place on the blog.
I also decided to document my journey with the company because they are still very much in a start-up phase and haven’t had very many reviews done on the internet prior to my starting this treatment. I’m quite fine being the guinea pig at a company trying to work out its kinks in customer service and shipping in return for an awesome product at a very affordable price.
Not getting too deep into the backstory of why I wanted to have straight teeth – my sister had terribly crooked teeth after her baby teeth fell out and adult teeth grew in. My parents knew they had to get her braces because otherwise kids would taunt her for the rest of her life (side note: kids are mean.) They dropped the $5,000 or so on her braces and she was very diligent in wearing her retainer. Money well spent.
In my terribly competitive spirit, I wondered why I couldn’t also have perfectly straight teeth. No, they aren’t that bad and no, they aren’t hindering my ability to be a normal functioning human. I was a kid, and that’s what kids do.
Now I’m an adult with an income who hopes to get married one day, I was hoping I could take a stab at improving something that’s been bothering me for quite some time. In my attempts to seek out a better smile, I found Smile Direct Club and their invisible aligners. Actually, maybe they even found me via a Pinterest or Instagram ad. I think it was Pinterest. Excellent marketing team, by the way.
After doing extensive internet research (the only kind of research these days), I decided to take the plunge and do their evaluation kit to see if I could be a candidate for their invisible aligners. The first steps of the process begin with you taking several photos of all the angles they require and submitting them. After they approve your photos, they either ship you a kit where you capture your own dental impressions, or you can visit one of their 3 SmileShops in either DC, NYC or Nashville.
I am technically within traveling distance to the shop in NYC, but I opted for the impression kit because a trip to the city usually sets me back at least $24, and that’s just for the train. If I’m in the city I may as well be visiting a friend or having lunch, so that was a no-go. I also really enjoy not waiting in lines or visiting offices (especially in NYC), so the impressions kit worked out well for me.
Doing the impressions on your own is no walk in the park. Even if you’re following the instruction pamphlet, it’s a little difficult to mix two colors of putty so vigorously in under 60 seconds so that they fully mix. I definitely recommend reading through the entire booklet before even beginning. You should ask for help if you think you might need it and keep a paper towel handy. You will probably drool.
Make sure you’re financially ready for this kind of investment. I was intrigued by the (no longer available, I believe) promotion of paying in full and receiving a year’s worth of teeth whitening and two sets of retainers for after your treatment is over. They also offer something called SmilePay, which is a reasonable amount of money down (I believe it’s $250) and then monthly installment payments of $99 with no interest. Either way, it’s a great deal and it’ll save you a big chunk of change if you were otherwise considering getting another (much more expensive) brand of invisible aligners.
I keep thinking to myself: SmileDirectClub is a lot like what Uber was to taxi services. They took an idea and improved upon it and offered it at a better price than their competitors. There have obviously been some nasty reviews from dental professionals online who think that people who participate in this kind of teledentistry are sick and twisted. I am neither sick nor twisted and I think it’s brilliant that you can bypass the high costs associated with visiting a brick and mortar orthodontist’s office for a remote treatment.
Things that have been especially helpful:
- The Smile Direct Club Members Facebook group
- Patience!!! You might be waiting a long time between steps, but hopefully you won’t be waiting too long.
- Having a fully stocked Invisible Aligners Essentials Kit! I take this with me everywhere I go, stashed away in my purse. I’ve only forgotten it once, and I was absolutely miserable.
Here’s a timeline of how things have been going with me and Smile Direct Club. Your own experience may vary, as they only have one office out of Nashville, TN and this may affect your shipping times if you live out on the west coast.
- May 16, 2016 – order evaluation kit on Groupon (they had the best offer at the time), fill out electronic dental history and consent forms.
- May 17, 2016 – submit pictures for the online photo assessment.
- May 18, 2016 Smile Direct Club ships out impressions kit with shipment tracking number so I can go literally insane watching it travel from TN to NJ.
- May 23, 2016 – impression kit is received.
- May 25, 2016 – do the actual impressions of my teeth.
- May 27, 2016 – drop off the impressions at a FedEx drop box, take a picture of the return tracking number and proceed to go insane again following the tracking from NJ to TN.
- June 1, 2016 – Smile Direct Club receives my impression kit. I’m sure it will vary, but the amount of time they say you have to wait for them to be reviewed and approved/rejected is 7-10 business days.
- June 16, 2016 – received official email that my impressions had been approved. I was impatient and contacted their Facebook page, who let me know they had been approved on the 13th. I’m hoping they’ve improved on this feature and actually let their customers know whether or not they should be expecting to take another impression kit if their first set failed. Since mine were accepted, I was told that it would be another 7-10 business days to receive my treatment plan.
- June 27, 2016 – receive 3D treatment plan PDF. In the Smile Direct Club Facebook group, it seems that some plans are 3D and others are simply before and after renderings of what the teeth will look like after treatment. I’m thankful I received a 3D plan. My plan also came with this terrifying addition that said IPR – entire case. IPR stands for interproximal reduction. This basically means I’ll actually be traveling to see a dentist to have them shave down .3mm in 8 different spots on my upper teeth. To say I am terrified is an understatement, but this is coming from someone who actually can’t handle getting blood drawn as a grown adult.
- June 27, 2016 – email Smile Direct Club’s customer service team asking if they can help me apply the Groupon code, as it says someone used it before (and obviously they hadn’t. It was my Groupon that I bought for myself.)
- June 28, 2016 – Smile Direct Club sent me an email back saying that they would love to help me apply the coupon (which was 20% off the entire treatment, so 20% off of the flat rate of $1,500 = $1,200 total.) They told me to call when I was ready to order, but since I actually hate calling and being put on hold, I logged into my account and saw they updated the final purchase price to $1,200. I used my credit card to make a one-time purchase. The timeline they anticipate between payment and receiving your first set of aligners is 21 business days. If nothing else, this process will teach me a lifelong lesson on patience.
- July 2, 2016 – received an email saying they were printing my 3D smile. This isn’t the part where they’re printing your aligners, but the actual mold of each step of your soon-to-be smile. I was a little shocked at how quickly this step happened after ordering. So far I’ve been pleased with the level of service and communication from the company.
- July 7, 2016 – Got the email that said my aligners were in the thermoforming stage. This is when they mold the aligner plastic over the 3D molds of your teeth. Waiting is absolutely agonizing, but I’m thankful for a process that’ll let me have beautiful teeth without spending a fortune.
- July 20, 2016 (at 11:45pm…) – email with tracking number saying aligners have shipped.
- July 25, 2016 – aligner steps 1-3 arrived in my mailbox. Also included in the Smile Direct Club box was a blue retainer carrying case, chewies to help seat the aligners, a tool to remove the aligners, an emery board and 5 vials of Glo Science gel whitening. I put them in right before bed to minimize the pain. The initial pressure isn’t too bad, but the morning after is very different for someone who has never had braces. My teeth felt so awkward trying to eat that morning. After 2-3 days the mild pain and pressure subsided.
- August 1, 2016 – without any warning/notice/shipping email, I received steps 4, 5 and 6 in my mailbox in a padded envelope. Totally not complaining, but I wish I would have known they were on their way so I could be more vigilant of the mailbox.
- August 8, 2016 – I switched to tray 2 at night before bed. I was also at Disney World. There was much less pressure this time around and the initial soreness seemed to wear off within 1-2 days instead of the usual 2-3.
- August 22, 2016 – Tray 3 seems to be just as easy as tray 2. A day or two of soreness and light pressure followed by a week and a half of smooth sailing.
- September 5, 2016 – My goodness, tray 4 is really tight. Hopefully the tightness goes down within the next few days! I go for my IPR in one week and I’m getting a little nervous!
- September 12, 2016 – IPR (interproximal reduction) appointment was at 6 P.M. and I left work early at 3:30 to travel 2 hours north to visit the only Smile Direct Club affiliated dentist in NJ (at the current time of this posting). Although I wouldn’t say that my IPR was fun/enjoyable, it wasn’t painful either. It kind of just felt…uncomfortable. The dentist compared it to being “like nails on a chalkboard”…except the nails are super thin razors that shave down in between your teeth, and that chalkboard is the enamel between your teeth. I was anticipating having the IPR done on most of my upper teeth, but after the initial 10 minutes of my upper IPR, the dentist and his assistant said they were going to take a break. I was under the impression that I was done–and then he came back and asked if I was ready for my lower IPR. I figured he knew more about my case than I did, so I let him do his thing. Hopefully there are no negatives to having IPR on both my upper and lower teeth. The entire procedure (including getting set up and his “intermission”) took about 25 minutes, although I’ve heard usually it takes no more than 5-10 minutes. The dentist told me I should switch to tray 5 as soon as I could after leaving his office. Thankfully I had brought tray 5 with me. It was a little painful to switch because it was a little earlier than my usual switch time of 2 weeks. In other news, flossing is interesting now because there’s space to floss in between and it no longer feels like I have to forcefully floss between my teeth. Looking forward to Oct. 3rd where I switch to tray 6 and will be officially halfway through!
- October 3, 2016 – Finally got to switch to tray 6 – it felt like FOREVER wearing the same set of aligners for 3 weeks. For people who have to wear their aligners for that period of time – how do you do it?! I felt like no matter what I did I could never get them clean. However, tray 6 snapped right in and didn’t give me much trouble, as I switched trays before bed and slept through the initial pain/pressure, as usual. Only 2 more trays left until I see my big changes! Also, at the end of this 6th tray, I’ll be officially halfway done with my treatment! 🙂 The months really fly on by once you have your aligners on.
- October 17, 2016 – Tray 7 means I’m halfway done with treatment! I’m not due to see the big changes that I saw on my 3D treatment plan until tray 8, but I’d like to think that the aligners have finally made some progress in getting my crowding under control. I have an appointment for my first checkup and cleaning since wearing aligners – I will be sure to update on how that went after my visit!
- October 31, 2016 – Tray 8 might be the tightest tray I’ve worn on record. I’m hoping that this one and tray 9 are able to pull in the lateral incisor next to my larger looking front tooth in line with the rest. I’m really loving how straight my bottom teeth are getting, though!
- November 10, 2016 – Today I had my first dental checkup since starting with SDC. I had previously had x-rays and a cleaning done in February 2016 and changed dentists for this appointment to a dentist closer to where I live now. The hygienist said my teeth were “a hygienist’s dream” and that she “doesn’t give out compliments like that, ever”. Neither the dentist or hygienist asked if I had been wearing aligners, and I didn’t tell them either. If they had asked I was 100% prepared to tell them. However, the dentist said I had beautiful teeth and that they would see me in 6 months! I brush 3-4 times a day and floss every time after I eat and also brush my aligners every time I take them out as well. Also, last week I received my last 2 sets of aligners – finally in the home stretch!
- November 28, 2016 – Switched into tray 10 and I can definitely feel that these trays will not be moving my teeth as much as the previous trays. Only two more to go after this one!
- December 12, 2016 – Second to last tray and things seem to be moving as planned, although I have an inkling I may need refinements to move one of my problem teeth. They look great from the front angle, but when I tilt my head back you can still see a little bit of overlap/crowding. I also had to use dental wax for the first time since tray 2 or 3, so I’m glad I didn’t throw it away! I will keep everyone informed on the refinement process if SDC deems I am qualified for it.
- December 26, 2016 – Finally, my last tray is ready to be worn. I thought this day would never come! I popped in tray 12 with very little discomfort. I reached out to SmileDirectClub about refinements last week but was advised to wait until I was completely done with treatment before emailing with a request for refinements. I did request that if I was a candidate for refinements that I would prefer to go to the SmileShop in NYC as opposed to doing the impressions over again. Since the company has gained so much traction over these past 6 months, I feel less wary about going to a location in New York – lol. I am so glad I threw my skepticism out the window and took a chance on SmileDirectClub. I can’t say enough good things about them and how they transformed my smile.
- January 1, 2017 – not really treatment related, but I heard an advertisement for Smile Direct Club on Pandora while I was driving home from doing a gift exchange from my friend. I know many of my photos have their “old” branding and I’m hoping that when I contact SDC with a request for refinements that they’ll send a box with their new packaging! I’m also aware that there was a recent price increase from the base price of $1,500 upfront to $1,700 if you pay in full and a slightly higher price than that if you choose to pay in installments. Although I do think it is a bummer for consumers, I also understand that as a company they are (hopefully) using the extra money to provide better resources to their employees or better product out to us, the consumers. And there is the fact that it’s still less than half the price of Invisalign. This week I’m going to put together a proper grid of my progress and update to this post so keep your eyes peeled!!
- January 9, 2017 – This morning at 10:20 A.M. I submitted 13 photos requested by SmileDirectClub along with a detailed description of my concerns with reference to tooth numbers to Patient Care to be considered for refinements. Although I’m much happier with my teeth now than I was 6 months ago, I do feel there is a little room for improvement because one of my teeth never “caught” onto one of the aligners. Overall, I’m still really hopeful and have been pleased with SDC throughout my entire treatment thus far. I’m attaching a photo of the tooth in question because it’s not really visible from the front view as much as it is here. Here’s to hoping these chompers get approved for a refinement!
- At 8 P.M. I received a reply from the SmileMakers Team saying they are submitting my case for refinement review and I would have an update within the next 24 hours.
- January 12, 2017 – It was over 48 hours since I heard from SDC so I figured I would reach out to them again via email. Fortunately, I got a nearly immediate response from a Customer Care Specialist. (It seemed as if he had already composed the email and just forgot to hit “send”.) I was approved for refinements (!!) and they will be sending a new impression kit within 6-8 business days. I originally thought I wanted to go get a scan done in NYC, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that at home impressions and no office visits were one of the reasons I chose SmileDirectClub in the first place. And my weekends are looking pretty full for this month, so I appreciate not having to take a few hours out of my weekend to go to NYC. I’m hoping this process doesn’t take a very long time, because I know that constant aligner wear can make them get kind of gross over time. I was advised to continue wearing my final aligners until I receive my new refinement aligners. I’ll be sure to capture a better photo of the impressions once I get my kit in the mail – and once I get it sent back I’ll go back to compulsively checking my email to see if aligners are on their way to my doorstep.
- January 17, 2017 – my refinement impression kit came in the mail while I was at work! SDC recommended doing it ASAP so they can get the refinement process moving along quickly. I redid 2 upper and 2 lower impressions before I went to bed. The kit was much cuter this time around, but I did think the putty they give you to mix together felt a little more loose than the first kit I did back in May. I’m hoping these impressions are good enough to be accepted so I don’t have to make a trip for a scan (or be in my aligner #12s for much longer). The process was very much the same, except I remember being in a lot more pain with the impressions the first time around. This time I did not feel like my teeth were being surrounded by a quick drying cement and that’s why it felt weird to me. Anyhow, I’ll be dropping these off in a FedEx drop box during my lunch break and will keep you all updated!
- January 23, 2017 – I took a photo of the FedEx tracking label before I shipped it out so I could track its location. The impressions were delivered but I haven’t heard back from SDC yet and I’m not sure if I will. Here’s to hoping they aren’t rejected!
- January 27, 2017 – I got one of the automated emails that said SDC has everything they need to build my new smile, AKA I think this means that my impressions were accepted!
- January 29, 2017 – Although I’m not complaining, I had no idea that treatment plans could come through on the weekends! (I thought they were only open M-F.) I got my refinement plan, which is 2 additional months of aligners. Not ideal when you figured you would be done by now, but I am beyond grateful that they are able/willing to fix my smile to get it to where it needs to be! I also got a regular/plain 3D image of my before and after this time around instead of the 3D animated plan like last time. Now, to sit and wait again and peer out the door waiting for my aligners to come in the mail 🙂 I hope they come soon because my last aligner from the first treatment is starting to get a little cloudy even with constant cleanings.
- February 5, 2017 – I got one of the SDC automated emails stating that they’re “cooking up my smile”. Although I’m glad these refinement aligners are being produced, I’m getting a little sad that I’ve been in my old one for 6 weeks straight. I am very much looking forward to popping in a new set. Until then, I’ll keep pretending I have patience.
- February 8, 2017 – It’s like the aligner gods knew I was getting impatient, because when I got home from work they were in my mailbox. Again, I was a little sad I wasn’t able to track their progress and know exactly when to expect them, but I was still like a kid on Christmas when I opened up the box. I have 2 months worth of aligners left to wear, and this time I was instructed to wear one set for one week, followed up by another 1 week set, and then a set I’m supposed to wear for 2 weeks straight. In the SDC Members Facebook group, this is referred to as the 1/1/2 plan. I’m pleased with this because I won’t have to worry about the aligners getting all cloudy and funky from wearing them too long. Here’s to hoping these next 2 months do the trick!
- As a side note, these 1 week aligners are thinner feeling and have not been as painful to wear so far. They have irritated my lower gums a little, but I think it’s because these aligners fit like a glove and my old ones were a little loose and ill-fitting at the end of my scheduled treatment time. I also had to trim out a significant portion of the aligner that was dipping into my tongue web. After a quick snip with a scissor and filing with the Emory board, they were good as new.
- February 14, 2017 – I only have to wear this set of aligners for another 2 days (thankfully) because they are cutting up my gums in between my lower canine tooth and the lower lateral incisor pretty badly and there was a little bit of blood in my aligners this morning. I am currently suffering until I get home from work to gargle with salt water and file this spot down. I would post pictures, but it kind of grosses me out a little (more so than regular pictures of my mouth on the internet, ha).
- February 15, 2017 – I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think the gum irritation was from my mouth not being used to new aligners. Also, since this time I was not provided with a step-by-step 3D plan, I have no idea which teeth are moving until, well, they have moved. Apparently my bottom teeth are moving more than I anticipated and that’s why they were so torn up by the first tray. This second week’s tray seems to be much better so far.
- February 22, 2017 – I just changed to my third tray of 6 for refinement (the week 3&4 aligner) and my goodness is this thing tight/much more sturdy than the previous two weeks. I’ll definitely be needing the full 2 weeks for this one to loosen up again and feel comfortable.
- March 8, 2017 – Just when you think you’ve gone through this process with (mostly) smooth sailing, your third to last scheduled refinement aligner fits really terribly. I’m not sure if it’s because the Week 1 aligners of the 3 aligners per month feel like they’re made from plastic wrap or if I have a genuine concern with the fit of these. I sent in my concerns via email. My top aligners are terribly loose, don’t stay in place when I bite down in different spots and overall just feel like they aren’t…working. This is my first run-in with a poorly fitting tray and I’m not sure what happens next.
- I got a response within a day that said to try on the week 2 aligners to see if they fit any better. I tried them and they seem to be a bit better/tighter than the week 1 aligners but I’m going to wear the week 1 aligners for the recommended amount of time because I don’t want to compromise treatment.
- March 15, 2017 – Week 2 of my second and (theoretically) final month of refinement aligners and they fit slightly better than last week’s but I have a sinking suspicion I’ll be in for another round of refinements. If this is the case, I will probably choose to go to the SmileShop in NYC. It’s been awhile since I’ve been there and could use a bit of adventuring. If, however, my teeth shape up and become straight in these next 3 weeks, I will not be mad and can’t wait to order a retainer.
- March 22, 2017 – I switched to my last aligner for this go around, and although I can see a tiny bit of improvement over what my last regular aligner left me with in December, I think I’ll be in for another round of refinements (cue the sadness). My first of 2 months of refinement aligners fit really well, but the moment I snapped in the second month aligners I knew something wasn’t right. When they sit flush against my front teeth, it comes off of my molars entirely. As much as I’d like to be in the retainer stage, I know that these aligners aren’t doing me any favors. Overall, I’m still really happy with the product/company and don’t really mind wearing the aligners for extra time because I’m all for healthy and stabilized teeth. At the end of the 2 week wear time I’ll express my concerns to SDC and hopefully be able to set up a scan appointment at one of their NYC SmileShops. I’d love to do either a Facebook live video or Instagram story of my visit for others to see.
- April 5, 2017 – I finished my final aligner of this round of refinements and reached out to SDC to request another round of refinements because the last month’s aligners weren’t fitting very well. They replied that I would hear back within 4-5 business days whether or not my request will be approved. I also requested to have a scan at the NYC SmileShop this time around if I’m approved. Here’s to hoping!
- April 7, 2017 – So I’m not sure if it’s because when I first purchased my aligners that the running promo was that you would get 2 sets of retainers included with the price for free, but I got a retainer set of aligners and a new (purple instead of blue) retainer case. Unfortunately, I won’t even be able to use these because my top teeth don’t look anything like them. I might use the bottom retainer if this aligner starts to get really funky until I can get a scan done. I will say that the retainer material is much sturdier than an aligner, which I feel good about at least. Hopefully I’ll get there soon enough.
- April 13, 2017 – So I emailed SDC as a follow up if I had been approved for my second round of refinements or not as it was the end of the 5th business day. The representative I email apologized for the delay but asked me to give them another 24-48 business hours to review my request and thanked me for my patience. I’m a little bummed that it’s taking this long when the last time I had to request refinements it took just a little over the 48 hours (2 business days) they said it would to hear back.
- April 20, 2017 – I emailed SDC again today as a follow up, just to remind them that I’m here (waiting). Although I usually consider myself a mostly patient person, I get a little peeved when I am told something will be done at a certain time and isn’t done by that time.
- April 21, 2017 – So I finally received a reply from SDC that stated “The licensed dental professional responded regarding your treatment. He advised to stay in the current aligner for an additional two weeks as your teeth need more time for the prescribed movement to be achieved before looking into a 2nd refinement.” Obviously this was not the reply I was hoping for, especially since the lateral incisor that was the most crooked when I began treatment last July is the one that is still resistant to moving. So I emailed them back asking if I was to wear them an additional 2 weeks on top of the 2 weeks I had been waiting for a reply from the dentist for a total of 6 weeks or if the 2 weeks extra I had been waiting would count. After I sent that email I was particularly cranky and sent a second email asking why I should be wearing an ill fitting aligner for 6 weeks and if it was even going to do me any good. I got a response at 10 P.M. on a Friday night that was very apologetic but also still insisted that I wear these aligners for another 2 weeks and that my tooth is “particularly difficult to move”. So I suppose I’ll be wearing this aligner for another 2 weeks in the hopes that it’ll make the poorly fitting aligner fit better (which I know won’t happen – they haven’t fit well since the beginning of March when I switched to the second month.)
- April 25, 2017 – Soooo today I received an email saying that I was approved for free dual refinements…weird. I followed up with this email to make sure that they weren’t playing a prank on me and I received a reply saying that this was indeed the correct information. Now all I need to do is call and schedule my scan appointment!
Did you enjoy my review and want to get started on your own journey to a straighter smile? If you use > my unique referral link < – it pops you over to the SmileDirectClub page and takes 50% off of your impression kit order and I get the joy of knowing I was able to help someone 🙂
Want to make your own essentials kit before your aligners ship? I promise you’ll want to have these things on hand before your aligners arrive. Check out my Invisible Aligners Essentials Kit post! These are the things I’ve been using for 9+ months on my SmileDirectClub journey and basically cannot live without.
I also wrote a two post series on behalf of Smile Direct Club, the first is How to Get a Straighter Smile Without Going Completely Broke and the follow up My SmileDirectClub Experience and Awesome Progress <— This post has a slideshow video of my before/after progress. I hope you’ll check those out!
Here’s my current progress!
Without further ado, my progress from the beginning to my 12th and final aligner. Let me know what you think!!
As of 3/14/2017, my current teeth with aligners on ⬇️ Exaggerated smile is to show upper and lower teeth. I usually don’t smile like a maniac 🙂
Updates to follow. Check back soon to read more/see before and after photos 🙂
Have any comments or questions? Feel free to drop me a line in the comment section below! You can also find me on Instagram or Twitter.