Melanie is a tech YouTuber who loves social media and is an expert on internet culture. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.
Why I chose Smile Direct Club
I initially chose Smile Direct Club over Candid and Byte because of pricing and because they offered locations where your teeth could be scanned. I wanted this because I felt it would be more accurate and it was free versus the ~$50 mail order impression kit that *might* work.
Read ahead to hear the whole story. Don't have time? Get the short version.
Booking an Appointment
Living in Western Michigan, I went to their website to just look around and saw that they had a location just a jaunt north (I think Grand Rapids.) Days later, I went to book an appointment while sitting in a Starbucks (different IP than my home) and it would not even show that any Michigan locations existed. It only gave me Chicago as an option and would not let me browse locations. Chicago or nothing.
Not wanting to drive all the way out to Chicago, I started looking around at the other companies (Candid and Byte.) I did end up deciding that Smile Direct Club was probably the best choice for me, found a coupon for the impression kit (originally $49, down to $29 with a really good coupon I found), and ordered it.
So, no dice on an appointment because their website would not let me select anything other than Chicago.
The Impression Kit
The impression kit arrived while I was out of town and I passed a deadline they had for me to return it. (I didn't know when ordering that there would be a "return by" date.)
I completed my impressions anyway. The first tray was painful to put in, but after the first one, I developed a way to get them in. The putty was easy to mix and the process was actually kind of fun. I was surprised that it dried like a rock!
I took all the photos they needed. This part of the process seemed pretty straightforward, fast, and easy.
When you finish your impressions, you put them in a box with no packing peanuts. They just roll around in the box with nothing protecting them (the company says not to worry about this.) Postage was easy. You just close the box and toss it in with the mail (I love self-addressed, stamped mailers.)
Unfortunately, my impressions failed. They offered to mail another impression kit (for $49.) They offer to discount the cost of your aligners by $49 if you purchase aligners. I felt like I already did my part. By paying $49 more dollars, I'm assuming all the risk in the situation.
It wasn't a big deal, I was out of town, so I logged onto their website to see if they had a location near me so I could do a free scan. They did. Really close! So I booked an appointment for the upcoming Monday.
I do have to say the appointment went great. Everyone was really professional and friendly. They gave me a free whitening kit and were just all around great. I committed to the program, gave them my payment information, signed off on everything, and left feeling pretty awesome.
My Treatment Plan
I would get frequent email updates from Smile Direct, but was disappointed not to get an update that my treatment plan had come in. My friend posted on Facebook that hers came in so I logged into my account to find my plan. I was really disappointed but asked around for opinions.
The main thing I wanted to fix was a small crossover in the front and some crowding. My plan turned the crossover and crowding into a gap-tooth situation that I was really disappointed with. When I asked them about it, it was sort of a "that's how it's going to be" response. They offered nothing like, "you don't have to commit to something you're unhappy with" or anything. They were polite, they were always nothing but polite, but I was disappointed in the "black triangle" situation.
Smile Direct's response to my question about the outcome
"I have carefully reviewed your smile plan and I do see that we have done a great job in the alignment of your teeth. However, I do see the concern that you have about the spacing between 8 and 9. Due to the original crowding and the shape of your teeth a black triangle has formed. This can happen in any type of orthodontic treatment. I would advise that after treatment you reach out to your local dentist for possible bonding or veneers."
Why I Continued with Smile Direct Club
Smile Direct's online interface shows stages of your teeth as they are straightened. I was happy with some of the middle stages but hated the result. Since I didn't really feel like I had an out having signed a contract, I figured I could ditch the aligners once the gap started getting too large.
I know, I'm not an orthodontist, but I figured that was the only way we would both be happy. They would have my money and I would have teeth at an intermediate between what I had and what I wanted.
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My Order Never Arrived
I would receive constant updates on my order and received a message that my aligners were "getting a haircut" and were going to be shipped soon. I took the haircut comment to mean they were finishing down any rough edges and that they would probably be skipped out within a few days.
I was okay with the constant updates. I mean, I was spending a lot of money, I was happy to get a play-by-play of the status of my order. However, weeks went by after this message and there were no more updates. No shipping update, no "how are you doing with your new aligners" update. Nothing.
I contacted them and they had no idea what the problem was, but were able to identify that they were never shipped out. They said they would look into the issue and I would hear back within seven days.
- Is SmileDirectClub Safe? Orthodontists Warn of Risk to Patients ...
According to a recent lawsuit, Smile Direct Club's "do-it-at-home system lacked critical oversight and entirely eliminated the doctor’s role in treatment."
$250 More & Technical Errors
I received an email saying they were charging me $250. Mind you, I had made a $250 down payment weeks in advance. I freaked out thinking they were drawing an additional $250, but they assured me it was a bug from looking into my account. I surmised that this was an update I should have gotten weeks earlier with my initial payment, but didn't.
When I logged into my account, my case number said Case # • instead of the number that had been there previously.
I never heard back
I had been told I would hear back in 7 days. I waited a bit longer to give them an extra business day but never heard back.
I reached out to them and they still didn't have an answer, so I asked them to cancel my order and refund my money.
They recommend you contact them via social media, but block you instead
I'm so disappointed
I am really disappointed with the company. Anytime I would complain, I was given a non-answer and nothing to rectify the situation.
In fact, when you see someone complain about something on Facebook, their social media team is quick to write "Oh no, please contact us, we can't allow anything like that to happen! We're so sorry."
This gives the impression of great customer service on the surface when it really they are unhelpful and have no idea what's going on.
My best guess is that the aligners are made off-site because nobody seemed to have any idea what the status of my aligners was nor did they seemed to have access to that information.
Here's the short version:
- I couldn't book an appointment because their website gave me one choice of a location.
- I ordered the impression kit (and my impressions failed.) They wanted to charge $49 more for another kit, so I went in for an appointment. I made the $250 down payment.
- I was disappointed with a large gap in my teeth in the treatment plan. They told me to see a dentist after I complete my treatment to potentially get my teeth bonded.
- My aligners were never shipped. Customer service didn't know why. They said they would contact me in 7 days.
- I didn't hear back from customer service but did receive one scary email saying they were charging me another $250.
- I canceled and they refunded my down payment and blocked me on Facebook and Twitter.
I felt like I ran into issues with every step of the process. When I checked out their Facebook, I saw several complaints where customers had really sharp edges in their aligners that cut their gums. Some were allegedly told by customer service just to file down the edges.
All in all, my experience was disappointing and worrisome.
© 2019 Melanie Palen