Written by Shawn Candela for Avima.com

Both Invisalign and Smile Direct Club offer transparent plastic dental devices meant to correct the alignment of a person’s teeth. The main differences in the two brands lie in the involvement of the client, the extent of the treatment and the cost of the service.

Involvement of client

To get started with Invisalign, a potential patient must first make an appointment with an Invisalign-approved orthodontist who will evaluate the person’s teeth to determine whether the treatment is recommended. If the patient and dentist agree to move forward, the dentist will make either physical or digital impressions of the patient’s teeth. Most often, these are 3D scans rather than physical molds, but not all dentists have access to scanners. Invisalign has approved dentists throughout the United States.

Once the scans are completed, the same dentist will create the aligners for the Invisalign patient. He will then insert the first aligner and make adjustments as needed. On a regular basis from then on through the course of treatment, the dentist will remove old aligners, insert new ones, and make necessary adjustments.

With Smile Direct Club, a potential patient begins with an online assessment that takes about 30 seconds. If approved for treatment, the client then either elects to receive an in-home kit with which he will create his own impression of his teeth or makes an appointment at a “SmileShop” to have a scan done. The former option is more common, as not all areas of the country offer SmileShops and the at-home kit is meant to save the cost of a dental visit.

While a SmileShop visit can determine whether a person is a candidate, people who use the at-home test will have their scans looked at by a Smile Direct Club dentist, who will determine candidacy and set up the treatment plan. As of 2018, there are SmileShops in 36 states.
A client with Smile Direct Club has access to a dentist but is expected to remove and replace aligners at home, without the need for a dental visit. The dentist assigned to a client will perform remote checkups every 90 days.

Extent of treatment

A key difference between Invisalign and Smile Direct Club is that Invisalign can be used in a larger variety of dental cases. While most people will be candidates for Invisalign, those in more dire need of detailed dental adjustment might not be candidates for Smile Direct Club.
Smile Direct Club focuses mostly on correcting mild to moderate cases of tooth problems, including relieving crowding and correcting bite. It is best-suited for those patients who are not in need of extensive dental correction.

Invisalign prides itself on being useful in all but the most extreme dental situations. Part of the reason it can be administered in a large variety of cases is that it employs additional attachments on the aligners that are meant to be used to fine-tune tooth adjustments as the treatment progresses.

Costs

Because of the previous two factors — patient/dentist involvement and treatment options — there is a wide disparity in the pricing of Invisalign and Smile Direct Club.

On average, an Invisalign customer can expect to pay between $3,500 and $8,000, depending on the extent of the treatment required, the involvement of a dentist and the number of aligners and adjustments required. Smile Direct Club charges a flat fee of $1,850 if paid at once. Clients may also elect to make a down payment of $250 and then make 24 monthly payments of $80, for a total of $2,170. Retainers are available at $99 once the patient is doe using the dental aligners. The initial at-home kit from Smile Direct Club costs an additional $79, but the fee is refunded if the potential patient is deemed ineligible.

Summary

Generally speaking, Invisalign is a more comprehensive dental alignment services because it can focus on a wider range of dental issues and relies on individual dental visits to make adjustments as they are deemed necessary. For many people, the cost of such a service is the main prohibitive issue. Smile Direct Club is more affordable, but it also requires most patients to do a good deal of the work at home — including the initial tooth mold — which not everyone is comfortable with. And although dental visits can be arranged, the only actual dental consultation is via remote visit every 90 days.