Invisalign vs Smile Direct

Nov 18, 2022 | Cosmetic Dentistry, Invisalign

What is the difference between Invisalign and Smile Direct?

Invisalign vs Smile Direct seem like two very similar ways of straightening teeth. They both use clear aligner trays that look nearly identical. In addition, when you see the ads for the Invisalign alternatives, all of them claim to straighten teeth just like Invisalign does. However, they are not telling the whole truth. Invisalign alternatives like Smile Direct are too simple do everything that Invisalign can do.

Smile Direct: What’s Missing?

Both Invisalign and the alternative, at-home companies provide clear aligner trays that move teeth. Because the Invsalign alternatives ONLY use trays and do not use any of the more complicated attachments that require a dentist, Smile Direct trays can only move teeth in the simplest motions. When you see their ads, they make it seem like they do what Invisalign does for a fraction of the cost. However, Invisalign offers limited, no attachment

The Smile Direct system uses ONLY clear aligner trays to straighten teeth. Trays by themselves only move teeth in limited ways. Invisalign uses clear aligher trays AND attachments, rubber bands, rubber chains and interproximal reduction. All of these additional Invisalign tools require a dentist. However, these tools make Invisalign as effective as traditional braces. The simple Smile Direct trays can only cause simple tooth movements because they lack the dentist tools that Invisalign uses.

Invisalign buttons
Invisalign patient getting buttons placed

Smile Direct: Deceptive Marketing Problem 1

If you can’t tell, I hate deceptive marketing. The ads for Smile Direct, Candid or any of the other Invisalign alternatives talk like they offer the same service as Invisalign at a much lower cost. Only a stupid person would pay significantly more for something than they have to – Right?

On their website FAQ’s, Smile Direct claims that “Unlike Invisalign, we don’t require the use of attachments or buttons, which are generally considered unsightly and uncomfortable.” They make attachments and buttons sound yucky, stupid and unnecessary. This is clinically irresponsible. Attachments and buttons are what make Invisalign so much more powerful than all of its at-home alternatives. In fact, they are the only reason that Invisalign now fixes complex cases that only braces could fix before. Making attachments sound stupid and unnecessary in order to sell their inferior product is a disgusting marketing technique.

Smile Direct: Deceptive Marketing Problem 2

Smile Direct: Deceptive Marketing Problem 2

Low Supervision Increases Your Risk for Costly Dental Health Complications

Less Clinical Care Also Means Lower Quality Treatment

Less Quality Care Means Less Quality Results

Nearly every Invisalign patient we see requires the placement of attachments or small composite buttons during treatment. These buttons provide a handle for the trays to grab so that they move and turn teeth. These attachments both add precision to tooth movement and shorten treatment time. Funny enough, on Smile Direct’s website in the FAQ’s it states that their aligners “don’t require the use of attachments or buttons, which are generally considered unsightly and uncomfortable.” They make buttons sound yucky and stupid, but they forget to mention that these buttons actually make Invisalign more precise and clinically effective. So what’s real reason they don’t use attachments? Maybe they don’t use buttons because their tele-dentists don’t have a way of putting them on your teeth… The advertising from these Invisalign alternatives makes it sound like they offer the same service and treatment process as Invisalign for a much lower cost, but neither the service nor the process is the same.

However, the Invisalign alternatives do NOT offer the same service as Invisalign. If they did, we dentists would use them too and skip paying hefty Invisalign clinical fees. These Invisalign alternative systems use ONLY clear aligners, and clear aligners by themselves can only fix the simplest problems. Smile direct is only equivalent to Limited Invisalign that also does simple teeth straightening for a fraction of the cost of comprehensive Invisalign. Limited Invisalign cases don’t use buttons or other attachments either. If they were being honest, Smile Direct and the others would compare their cost to that of LIMITED Invisalign.

So If My Case Is Simple Smile Direct Will Work?

Yes, if you have a very simple case, then the simple, trays-only approach of Smile Direct should be able to fix it. Keep in mind that what looks simple to you may actually be complex. This is the risk of dental treatment that doesn’t involve seeing a dentist in person. You lose the chance for an accurate evaluation. If you were my friend, I’d tell you to get an exam by a dentist to find out if your problem is truly simple.

Conclusion: Invisalign vs Smile Direct

Smile Direct and the other Invisalign alternatives are at-home teeth straightening systems that fix the simplest kinds of crooked teeth problems. They use deceptive marketing techniques making it seem like they deliver similar results to comprehensive Invisalign when they do not and cannot do so except in very simple cases. Because they only use simple clear aligner trays, they can’t move teeth like Invisalign can. Their systems lack the clinical complexity of Invisalign attachments and buttons. These Invisalign alternatives are only alternatives to Limited Invisalign. They can’t compete with comprehensive Invisalign on any level.

cosmetic dentistry

To learn more about Invisalign vs Braces, check out our blog.

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Final Warning: Not Having a Dentist Check IN Your Mouth Raises Your Risk for Complications

When you choose an option like Smile Direct that skips the regular in-office dentist visits, you also lose the chance for your dentist to catch problems when they’re still small. Some types of dental problems are made worse by clear aligners and need to be treated asap to avoid complications. For example, if you have cavities starting in your teeth and you start wearing clear aligners without repairing the cavities, you can soon end up with multiple painful toothaches. In addition, if you aren’t keeping your teeth clean enough when wearing aligners, you may find yourself with straight, rotten teeth at the end. If you have periodontal disease and get aligners without treating the gum disease, you can lose teeth. In general, the people choosing these poorly supervised options to straighten their teeth are young, healthier people who have lower risk for some types of problems. However, people incorrectly assume that if the government allows you an option it is risk free and that isn’t true. Before you choose an Invisalign alternative, know your risks.


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