low-cost teeth aligners

Smilelove vs Candid vs SmileDirectClub: Comparing Low-Cost Teeth Aligners

Can the at-home teeth aligners offered by Smilelove, Candid and SmileDirectClub replace braces for straightening your teeth? Do they really offer similar results to orthodontic work, and at what kind of discount are we talking about? If your teeth have always been a bit crooked or you’ve noticed them shift over time, read on to see which of these low-cost options could work for you.

Some quick background on teeth aligners

Image Source: Candid

It wasn’t long ago that heading to an orthodontist and shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for braces was the only real way to straighten teeth. This was often a multi-year investment that, for anyone who remembers wearing head-gear or bite-correcting bright rubber bands, involved a ton of pain and embarrassment.


But then dentists and orthodontists innovated by developing clear aligners that showed results faster than a mouth full of metal. Invisalign® grew exceedingly popular (and remains so!) as doctors lined up for certification courses and began selling the miracle of invisible braces to patients all around the world. 


Today, a new wave of direct-to-consumer teeth alignment startups have emerged with an even cheaper, more convenient alternative to Invisalign. Before you get too excited, it’s worth looking into the pros and cons of these young upstarts, especially since deciding to straightening your teeth can have a potentially major impact on your life.


So who are the major players in the direct-to-consumer teeth alignment space, how do their offerings differ from invisalign, and is it all just too good to be true? Or does their recent popularity prove that they work?


Keep reading for an in-depth comparison of the three best known low-cost teeth aligners — Smilelove vs Candid vs SmileDirectClub. By the end, we hope you’ll have decided if this option is right for you and which brand makes the most sense.

How do Smilelove, Candid and SmileDirectClub compare to Invisalign and braces?

Despite modern innovations, many folks still choose to go to an orthodontist. That’s because braces are the best solution for mouths with complex tooth or jaw alignment issues. Going to the dentist for Invisalign or the orthodontist for braces offers an unparalleled level of personalization, including a high level of care from seasoned experts and the most accurate diagnosis via x-rays and other high-fidelity digital scans.


Orthodontists still are, and are likely to always be, the gold standard of tooth straightening and jaw alignment. Full stop. End of story.

But on the flip side, everyone has either experienced or heard about the hassle and expense of braces. Your insurance may cover a bit of the cost, but even in such circumstances, most patients still end up shelling out thousands of dollars.


In fact, the average outlay falls somewhere between $5,000 to $6,000. Given how long they take years to work, it’s a huge investment for a brighter smile, not to mention all the awkwardness associated with a mouth full of metal.


As a less conspicuous alternative, Invisalign’s® clear aligners help many adjust their teeth with less awkwardness. The cost is around the same as braces, although because it’s technically a dental treatment as opposed to orthodontic, insurance may cover more.


Invisalign still requires you to see a doctor in person to pick up aligners and consult a professional. Conservatively estimating that you’ll see the dentist once every 6-8 weeks, Invisalign still requires a ton of in-person visits, which can take a lot of time throughout the duration of treatment.


Here are some major pros of clear aligners in general vs braces:

  1. They’re not embarrassing or in the way. They’re clear, so people don’t even notice you’re wearing them, unlike braces that are impossible to hide (even the clear ones stick out like a sore thumb).
  2. You can remove your aligners when you need to (as long as you wear them enough to adjust the teeth). So when you’re going on a date, take them out. You can also take them out to clean your teeth, which is way better than tackling that piece of hot dog stuck in your braces.
  3. Aligners may be all you need to get similar results to braces. They can fix cosmetic or functional issues like crooked teeth, crowded teeth, spaces or gaps between teeth and other minor alignment problems.
  4. They work way faster than braces. You can have your new smile in six months or less whereas braces usually take years of discomfort and metal mouth.

So clear aligners definitely have major advantages compared to braces. But these days, there may be an even better option than Invisalign.


The recent emergence of direct-to-consumer clear aligners from companies like Smilelove, Candid and SmileDirectClub is revolutionizing the industry yet again. The main things that sets these brands apart from Invisalign and braces is the lower cost and the convenience.


The cost savings is substantial — typically thousands less than traditional options, and like Invisalign, your dental insurance might even help cover this option, or you might be able to use HSA and FSA accounts to pay for them. Best of all, you don’t have to spend all those hours in the dentist’s chair-staring at the ceiling, an activity most would do almost anything to avoid.


Before we get into describing new solutions from Smilelove, Candid and SmileDirectClub, it makes sense to explain how clear teeth aligners work in general. Here’s a quick overview.

How exactly do clear aligners work to straighten teeth?

Image Source: SmileDirectClub

Much like braces, Aligners work to gradually shift your teeth into the right placement. They can move crooked teeth and push everything into the right place so your top and bottom teeth are flush when you bite down.


Typically in the form of plastic mouthguards that envelop your teeth, clear aligners need to be worn for over 20 hours a day. They’re initially made to fit your current teeth, and then each subsequent aligner helps guide the movement of your teeth, much like how an orthodontist “tightens” braces to adjust their course. 


Every two weeks or so you get a new set of mouthguards that puts slight pressure to slowly move your teeth into a new position. Another similarity to braces: you’re supposed to wear a retainer indefinitely at the end of the process to keep your teeth from moving out of alignment.

Smilelove vs Candid vs SmileDirectClub: Which One is Best?

On the surface, these three direct-to-consumer clear aligners aren’t so different. Each one sends you aligners in the mail without the need for dentist visits, and the prices are almost identical. They all work in the same way (gently moving your teeth by wearing them for hours every day) within the same general time frame of up to 6 months. All three companies throw in premium teeth whitening as a bonus to make your smile POP at the end of the process.


Considering the similarities, how does one choose where to invest? The answer will come down to the small details, including branding. Ultimately, we think this will be a personal decision based on your own preferences. But we’ve outlined the differences below so you can make the most informed choice. Use this chart to compare SmileLove vs Candid vs SmileDirectClub:

SmileDirectClub vs glowup. vs HiSmile: LED Teeth Whitening Treatment Comparison

Best Low-Cost Clear Teeth Aligners

Cost of Aligners $1895 (minus $300 with code BUNDLE300) $1900 $1895 (minus $100 with code AFF100)
Cost of Starter Kit Free at-home starter kit; no studio option available Free at studio, or $95 for at-home starter kit (minus $75 with code SIMONE75) Free at studio, or $49 for at-home starter kit (minus 50% with code AFF100)
Payment Plan $66/month $88/month $85/month
Cost of Retainer Included with $1895 bundle Not specified $99
Time Spent Each Day 22 hours Not specified 22 hours for regular aligners or 10 hours for nighttime aligners
Time Frame of Optimal Results 6 months 6 months 6 months for regular aligners or 10 months for nighttime aligners
Refund Policy Full refund if you don’t like the preview Full refund if the doctors say you’re not a fit Full refund within 30 days
Review by Professional Unspecified “dental team” Licensed orthodontist Licensed dentist or orthodontist
Whitening Included? Yes Yes Yes

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Low-Cost Teeth Aligner Comparison

They all see pretty similar, right? Let’s take an even closer look at those details to hopefully further distinguish each brand.


Smilelove’s starter kit is free, while both Candid and SmileDirectClub charge for theirs. The free starter kit makes up for Smilelove’s lack of in-person studios, which is a free option provided by the other two companies.


This company also includes a retainer in the price of the aligners, and offers the most generous payment plan. So this SmileLove could be a good fit if you’re trying to ball on a budget. You can get $500 off the clear aligner bundle here.

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The downside of SmileLove is that it’s unclear who is looking at your teeth impression and designing the aligners for you. The other brands say they use a licensed dentist or orthodontist, but Smilelove only mentions a “dental team,” which is a bit more ambiguous. I can’t say with certainty that they don’t have experts at hand, but they don’t clearly state that. Could this be where they’re cutting costs? I hope not.

We're not like regular braces - we're cool braces


Candid’s aligners cost $5 more than the other brands, but that alone shouldn’t be a deciding factor.


One of the things that sets Candid apart most is their alternative option to get a free scan in one of their studios located all around the U.S. You can pay $95 to get the at-home starter kit (get 65% OFF here) and do the impression yourself, or schedule a studio visit to get started for free. Up to you.

The main pro of Candid is that they are clear about using a licensed orthodontist to review your impressions and customize your aligners. Orthodontists are the top specialists in tooth and jaw alignment so you’ll get the best expertise here. SmileDirectClub, on the other hand, may only have a less-specialized dentist review your impression.


That said, Candid is anything but (see what I did there?) when it comes to details on how long you have to wear the aligners every day, and whether or not you’ll have to pay extra for a retainer at the end. I’ll update this post if I’m able to find these details elsewhere.


Having just recently IPO’d, SmileDirectClub is arguably the most established of the three low-cost teeth aligner companies. If you don’t mind waiting longer for your straighter teeth, SmileDirectClub has the option of nighttime aligners worn for 10 hours vs the daytime version that requires 22 hours. Nighttime aligners take up to 10 months to work while the daytime ones work in up to 6 months, but this could be a more convenient option for anyone who  craves even greater discretion.

Like Candid, SmileDirectClub can give you a free scan at a studio instead of paying for the starter impression kit, but it does charge extra for the starter kit and the retainer. (You can get 50% OFF impression kits here or book a free SmileShop visit and get $100 off clear aligners with code AFF100.) Ultimately, it’s a brand you can trust that’s loved by thousands of happy customers.

Low-Cost Teeth Aligner Kits: The Verdict

Overall we are firm believers in low-cost, at-home teeth aligners vs traditional treatments. They all promise to help straighten your teeth with less cost and hassle than braces or Invisalign, and we think you’ll enjoy a similarly convenient experience plus a similarly beautiful smile from any of the three: Candid, SmileDirectClub, or Smilelove.


The chart and overview above can help you figure out the similarities and subtle nuances separating these companies. If you’re keen to try the at-home kit and cost matters most to you, try Smilelove. Otherwise we recommend going in-person to one of Candid or SmileDirectClub’s studios to take advantage of their free consultations.


If you care most about working with a legitimately licensed and highly-specialized orthodontist, pick Candid. If the idea of straightening your teeth at night while you sleep sounds appealing, go with SmileDirectClub. Either way, it seems unlikely you’ll go wrong.


Let us know about your experience with low-cost teeth aligners below, and whether you tried Candid, SmileDirectClub, Smilelove, or another provider altogether.

Reviews of DTC Oral Care Brands

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