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Smile Direct Club, Invisalign and clear aligners

5th March 2021

Smile Direct Club (SDC) DIY mail order teeth straightening adverts are currently all over Facebook and they are in the middle of an extensive advertising campaign on TV  leading to my receiving numerous enquires both personally and professionally about them.

The first thing I do when considering a new purchase is to check independent online reviews e.g. Trustpilot and I suggest you do the same if considering SDC. Also look for reviews on whole treatments not just visits to their smile shops.  In the meantime here’s what I’ve found out;

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners to straighten teeth, give you the smile you want and by rectifying other problems can be an excellent choice for many patients, but it isn’t for everyone and in my opinion you need a specialist Orthodontist to advise you. Particularly difficult cases may not be treatable with clear aligners.


SDC costs £1539 plus £39 for home impression kit plus £140 per year for retainers. SDC claim this is up to 60% cheaper than braces which may be true in some cases but not all. In my experience “you get what you pay for”! Also beware they may only be suitable for mild cases of overcrowding

Invisalign v SDC

The quality of Invisalign and SDC aligners were both good as up until last year Align (Invisalign’s parent company) owned 19% of SDC and even made some aligners for SDC. SDC now make its own aligners. One of the main advantages and difference with Invisalign is that the Orthodontist attaches  little resin buttons onto some teeth. These attachments  are tiny and barely noticeable, they make complex tooth movements possible without braces by allowing the aligner to apply the right amount of force in the right direction. These attachments not only enable us to achieve superior outcomes, they result in faster treatment times.

Treatment Time

The treatment times for both SDC and Invisalign are faster than conventional braces. All orthodontic treatment times including clear aligners are influenced by a number of factors, including Gaps in Teeth, crowding of teeth, Patient Age and Compliance. The average treatment times advertised by SDC is 4-6 months, Invisalign mild case treatment times are also 4-6 months. Ultimately, treatment times vary depending on the severity and complexity of your case with my average times usually around 8-12 months.

Remote Treatment

Hopefully your teeth will move the way you want them too, but there is no guarantee and that’s why my patients prefer regular face to face consultations both in person and via zoom to constantly monitor progress and make any necessary changes to ensure treatment stays on course. Mail order treatment such as SDC basically leave you to monitor your own treatment.

Pros and Cons

If you are a mild case and don’t mind taking responsibility for your treatment, SDC could be quicker and cheaper.

Before any SDC treatment commences they ask you to visit a dentist to confirm your teeth are clean, the dentist has taken x-rays (assuming they have the correct x-ray machine) and checked for shortened or resorbed roots and impacted teeth , that they have repaired any teeth  fillings, crowns or bridges. Also the dentist must have probed or measured your gum pockets and confirmed you do not have periodontal or gum disease or oral-cancer screening. I am not sure how much of this would be NHS and/or private dentistry and how long it would take. Also, Dentists are qualified and knowledgeable but they don’t have the same level of expertise that Specialist Orthodontists do when it comes to straightening teeth.

Next you will need to sign an informed consent for SDC saying you take responsibility for your own treatment.

In conclusion

Orthodontics is about more than straightening the teeth. I and my fellow specialist Orthodontists are trained to identify and treat a variety of oral issues during your orthodontic examination. We use panoramic and cephalometric x-rays to allow us to see your teeth, jaws, and facial soft tissue. We are able to diagnose or detect gum disease (with associated bone loss around teeth), cracks in teeth, tooth decay, extra teeth hiding in the jaw bone, or even more sinister things like tumours or cysts.”  I have straighten thousands of patients teeth and am convinced the hands on face to face approach (backed up by zoon consultations) is still the best way to achieve the results my patients demand and deserve.

Dr Shirley Cox

BDS(Hons), FDS RCS (Eng), MSc(Lond), M Orth RCS(Eng), FDS Orth RCS (Eng)
GDC: 68425

Shirley qualified in Dentistry from The Royal London Hospital in 1992, achieved her M Orth specialist qualification in orthodontics and registered on the specialist list in Orthodontics in 2000. Shirley was appointed as Consultant Orthodontist at Barts Dental Hospital in 2004 and now works as an Orthodontic Consultant at the new Royal London Hospital site.

As a Consultant Orthodontist with over 20 years training Dentists and Orthodontists and her additional training in children’s dentistry Shirley is equipped with the skills to provide the very highest standards of patient care. Having orthodontic treatment with her means that you will be in the best possible hands.

Shirley is able to offer the very latest treatments available, enabling her to treat adult and child patients who have simple, moderate and complex needs and to improve both the appearance and the function of their teeth.

Being an Invisalign Platinum provider, Invisalign Teen accredited and member of the Invisalign London Specialist Orthodontist group put Shirley in a unique position to offer Invisalign treatment for a very wide range of cases.

“Patients in my care receive my personal attention at all times and are treated solely by me. I love to treat patients and help them achieve and keep for life the beautiful, healthier and happier smiles they desire. I look forward to meeting you and helping however I can.”

Outside of orthodontics Shirley lives locally with her husband and two teenage children. For many years Shirley has been a Local School Governor and organises a local book club. Shirley enjoys active holidays whether its walking in Norfolk, skiing in the Alps or exploring further afield with her family.

Shirley Cox

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