Smile Direct vs. Invisalign: Comparing Designs


Sixth Street Dental


March 16, 2020

Are you considering braces? Back before invisible braces became popular, people would have to get metal braces in order to obtain a straighter set of teeth. Many adults shied away from this option, as the process of getting traditional braces could be painful. They are also distracting, and not the most flattering accessory to wear. Nowadays, invisible braces are a viable alternative to traditional metal braces. Smile Direct® and Invisalign® are the two most popular invisible brace brands. But what is the difference between them? In this blog post, Sixth Street Dental breaks down the design differences between these two braces. 

Alignment Tray Concept: Traditional vs. Smile Direct® vs. Invisalign®

Alignment Tray

Traditional Braces vs. Transparent Alignment Trays

Traditional braces straighten teeth into the desired position through gentle force. The orthodontist places brackets directly to the teeth before connecting them together with a metal wire. Metal braces can fix mild problems such as crooked teeth and gaps, as well as more severe problems like overbites or underbites. 

Transparent alignment trays, such as Smile Direct® and Invisalign®, are not attached to the teeth. Instead, they are fitted over the teeth for around 20 to 22 hours a day. The trays are made from impressions taken from the teeth of the patient. Alignment trays are effective against moderate issues, but may not be the best fit for more severe cases. 

Smile Direct® vs. Invisalign® Trays

In terms of their structure, Smile Direct® and Invisalign® trays are pretty similar to each other. Both of them are structured and designed to conform to your unique teeth alignment. 

But while Smile Direct® customers do not require regular visits to the orthodontist, Invisalign® customers do. This is because patients often require multiple adjustments to their trays throughout the teeth straightening process. Invisalign® users may also have to get their teeth shaved down before receiving their tray. They may also need to get attachments, which are tooth-colored shapes that are fixed to your teeth, either before or during treatment. Some customers also have to wear retainers after treatment. 

Obtaining Impressions

Sixth Street Impressions

The process for obtaining impressions differs drastically between the two brands. For Invisalign®, patients must enlist the help of a dentist or orthodontist. Smile Direct® users can either make an impression themselves or get one at a retail location. 


Before obtaining Invisalign®, patients must be assessed either through the website or by an in-person dental professional to determine whether they are a good fit for it. If they decide to move forward, the orthodontist will create a dental impression of the upper and lower teeth. This is done by placing a tray filled with a soft compound over the teeth. A plastic mold is then created from the impression. The orthodontist then uses this model to create a comprehensive plan for the patient. 

The lab technicians will take the impressions made by your orthodontist to create a series of aligner trays. Once the tray is made, the dentist will deliver it to the patient. As we mentioned before, the orthodontist may add “buttons” to the patient’s teeth to help give a little more force in moving the teeth. After receiving the trays, the patient will need to visit the orthodontist every four to six weeks. The orthodontist needs to monitor the patient’s process and determine whether or not they need to make any adjustments to the trays. 

Smile Direct® 

Smile Direct® customers will also need to take an online assessment to determine if they are good candidates for the tray. Unlike Invisalign® customers, they have little to no face-to-face interaction with a dental professional. Most of the work is done remotely. Some customers have the option to obtain impressions from a nearby Smile Store with the help of a technician. This dental technician will take a digital impression of their teeth using a 3-D scanner. 

For customers who aren’t lucky enough to live by a Smile Direct® store, they will need to make their own impressions at home. Smile Direct® will make a kit to patients with instructions and materials for making a mold of their teeth. Patients will also need to take photos of their teeth from different angles. 

Once the impressions are received, a technician will create a custom-made tray in the lab. The tray is then mailed to the patient along with a set of instructions for using them. About every 90 days, an online dental professional will check up on the patient to monitor their progress. 


Sixth Street Timeframe

The timeframe between the two invisible brace brands does vary significantly. Invisalign® usually takes an average of 12 to 18 months, whereas Smile Direct® can take as little as 6 months to finish treatment. It is important to note, however, that the timeframe is dependent upon the severity of the dental issue. So if you are looking for a quick fix for a minor straightening problem, Smile Direct® may be the way to go. But if your teeth straightening problems are on the more complex side, you will want to go with Invisalign®. 

At the end of the day, patients should consider their treatment preferences as well as their unique dental goals when deciding between Smile Direct® and Invisalign®. While Smile Direct® may be the better choice for patients seeking something fast and low-cost, Invisalign® may be better for patients willing to spend an extra buck to get the smile they want. If you are ready to achieve the smile of your dreams, contact the team members at Sixth Street Dental today! 


Get in Touch with Sixth Street today!

125 Sixth Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
400 Baldwin Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15205

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