Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman, founders of Smile Direct Club, first met each other at a summer camp when they were both 13 years old and with mouths full of metal thanks to their braces. Years later, the by-then firm friends reminisced over the early years and became convinced that there had to be a more cost-effective and less intrusive way to have a perfect set of teeth. The two soon partnered with Camelot Venture Group with the aim of democratizing, innovating and revolutionizing orthodontics.
In this review, we will be taking a closer look at one of the brands to have followed in the footsteps of Invisalign – Smile Direct Club.
When Uber first launched, it turned the metered taxi industry on its head. At first, it faced a wave of skepticism, with everyone questioning the quality of its service but in 2019 Uber has become such a part of our lives and popular culture that Uber has now become a byword for all app-based taxis.
The latest area to be disrupted and changed for the better by an innovative brand is orthodontics. Invisalign was the first to bring to the idea of invisible teeth aligners to the public, suddenly the traditional wired metal braces we all know and hate instantly became outdated.
Launched in 2014, today Smile Direct Club accounts for a staggering 95% of the at-home clear tooth aligner market. They claim to have changed their lives and boosted the self-esteem of more than 750,000 people. In just 5 years Smile Direct Club has grown to the point where they can boast over 360 locations across the world, employing over 5,400 people.
Smile Direct Club aims to improve the number of Americans receiving orthodontal care through their clear tooth aligners. Customers of Smile Direct Club receive a set of custom-made tightly fitted BPA-free clear aligners that gradually align teeth until they are perfectly placed, a process that usually takes only 6 months, costs 60% less than other orthodontic solutions, and eliminates the need for in-person visits or consultations.
Traditionalists need not fear – even though Smile Direct Club has eliminated the need for in-person visits, they do still have a network of over 360 fully licensed dentists and orthodontists who are on hand to review patient’s medical history and photos and create a 3D image of what their smile will look like at the end of the treatment plan. Smile Direct Club offers comprehensive customer support, with their experts available to answer any questions or concerns via instant chat, email, phone, and social media.
Smile Direct Club claims that it’s their mission to make transforming your smile as affordable and convenient as possible.
With Smile Direct Club, you are only 6 steps away from having a picture-perfect Hollywood smile.
Your journey to the perfect smile starts with completing an online survey on their website. Questions include:
After answering these questions, you will receive an immediate answer letting you know whether or not you are a potential candidate for their teeth alignment program. Those who qualify are then asked to choose whether they would like to proceed with a face-to-face consultation (if they are located close to one Smile Direct Clubs dental partners) or receive a DIY impression kit. Both consultations and kits cost $45 each. If you are judged to not be suitable for treatment after having your impressions taken, the full amount is refunded.
What the second stage consists of depends on whether you have chosen a face-to-face consultation or the DIY home kit.
Those who have selected an in-person consultation will have their impressions taken for them by an expert who will fill an upper and lower tray with a type of putty, which you will be asked to bite into to create an exact mold of your teeth. The next part consists of the expert taking a few photos of your mouth. A tool that can best be described as a “cheek stretcher” is used so that the imaging wand can take unobstructed photos of the inside of your mouth. These images are used to create a model of your smile and as the basis for your aligners.
Those who choose the DIY kit will be supplied everything they need to take the impressions at home, including a check stretcher that makes taking the photos with your phone as easy as possible
Next, Smile Direct Club will use the info supplied in the previous step to create a treatment plan and a 3D model showing you how your teeth will align perfectly over time. The dentists or orthodontists will also tell you how long the treatment program will last. If you are happy with all of the above, you go ahead and order your aligners.
One feature that sets Smile Direct Club apart from the competition is that aligners can be designed to accommodate a permanent retainer using the impressions and 3D model.
Soon after step 3, a large box will be delivered to your home. Inside the box, you will find all of the aligners you require, the tools needed to fit them along and a LED tooth whitening kit to give your smile that extra sparkle.
Over a month you’ll go through three different aligners – the first two sets will each be worn for a week, while the third is worn for two weeks. This schedule is advised as it allows your teeth to align into place so that by the last week, there will be absolutely no discomfort or pressure felt. Smile Direct Club also advise that you brush your teeth after each meal and don’t remove the retainers for more than 2 hours per day.
Based on several user reviews, the aligners are near invisible and while they may be uncomfortable at the start of the program, they never hurt and are nothing like the agonizing pain that were part and parcel of braces.
Once your alignment treatment program is over, it is strongly recommended you get a set of retainers. Slightly thicker than aligners, for the first two weeks they should be worn for 22 hours per day. Thereafter they only need to be worn during the night. Smile Direct Club charges $99 for a set and should be replaced twice a year.
Starter Kit / Consultation - $45 per kit (fully refundable if Smile Direct Club experts deem the patient to be unsuitable for treatment)
Invisible Aligners - $1,895
Monthly payment plans - $250 down payment and 24 monthly payments of $85
Retainers – each set costs $99
Smile Direct Club charge a flat fee of $1,895 for a set of aligners, regardless if you decide you only want aligners for the top or lower jaw. Overall, their price is only $5 less than Candid Co. and $1,600 less than an average treatment program from Invisalign (which can skyrocket up to $8,000).
Before Smile Direct Club and its competitors arrived on the scene, the only way to straighten your teeth was to go to your local dentist or orthodontist and have unsightly, uncomfortable and expensive metal braces fitted. After having them fitted, the wearer would have to return on a monthly basis to have the braces adjusted. All of which adds up, putting it out of reach for the average American. With Smile Direct Club, the entire process can be done from your home for less than half the cost of traditional braces.
Much like traditional metered taxi drivers warned of the dangers of Uber when they first launched, licensed orthodontists and dental associations have been claiming that Smile Direct Club, and its competitors, pose a danger because of what they feel is a lack of medical supervision for such a complex procedure.
Smile Direct Club has responded by saying that while there are no in-person assessments done upfront, they have partnered with over 360 licensed dentists and orthodontists, all of whom have at least 4 years’ experience dealing with aligners. They claim that this allows them to guarantee safe and effective treatment.
We believe that Smile Direct Club are living up to their aim of making improving your smile as affordable and convenient as possible.