Ad Alert

Smile Direct Club: ‘3x Faster Than Braces’ finds gaps in orthodontic startup's marketing.


Ad Alert

Smile Direct Club: ‘3x Faster Than Braces’

Venture-backed startup Smile Direct Club implies in the above online ad that its “invisible aligners” work “3x faster than braces.”

First, we can see them so they’re not invisible. Second, results vary and Smile Direct Club isn’t for everyone despite what the company may tell you about being “a great candidate” for its custom aligners.

Smile Direct Club says it takes an average of six months to complete one of its treatment plans, which by the company’s math would mean braces take about 18 months. But no two smiles are the same.

According to the American Association of Orthodontics:

The length of treatment will depend on the kind of problem an individual patient has. Simple cases may take only a few months to treat, while a complete bite correction can take a couple years.

Smile Direct Club says its system is “designed for minor to moderate teeth correction, including space between teeth, crowding, rotations, and some bite correction.” Yet when filled out the company’s online questionnaire, selecting options for extreme teeth crowding and extreme teeth spacing, the results came back saying we are “a great candidate” for its aligners, which cost $1,850.

AAO, which says it represents 19,000 orthodontists in the U.S., warns against direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies like Smile Direct Club that do not require in-person visits with a dentist or orthodontist at any point during treatment (Smile Direct Club gives consumers the option to create dental impressions at home):

An in-person evaluation and in-person supervision throughout treatment can be very important, because there is more to creating a healthy, beautiful smile than moving the visible portions of your teeth.

For example, AAO says, there may be issues lurking underneath the surface that only an X-ray can detect.

In response to an inquiry by, a spokeswoman for Smile Direct Club said the company’s aligners work three times faster than braces in “cases we treat vs. cases braces treat,” adding, “We do not claim to treat the same degree of [teeth misalignment] that braces do.”

Well, maybe not anymore.

Following’s inquiry, the most severe option for teeth crowding and teeth spacing in the online questionnaire changed from “extreme” to “moderate +,” though the images remain the same.

Find more of our coverage on oral care products here.

This article was updated 7/3/19.

Our Ad Alerts are not just about false and deceptive marketing issues, but may also be about ads that, although not necessarily deceptive, should be viewed with caution. Ad Alerts can also be about single issues and may not include a comprehensive list of all marketing issues relating to the brand discussed.

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