Tara Cook, 28, has the classic smile makeover story. She had braces as a teenager, but didn’t wear her retainers as directed and her teeth shifted back. Then her wisdom teeth grew in and crowded her smile even more. “I was really self-conscious,” she says. “I was tired of smiling with my mouth closed or feeling like I had to cover my mouth when I laughed.”
As an adult, Cook knew she wanted to go through another teeth-straightening treatment, but couldn’t imagine getting braces again. She looked into other invisible aligner options, but was discouraged at how much they cost.
It wasn’t until she got engaged that she really started researching her options. “I wanted to have straight teeth for my wedding,” Cook says. “That’s the day I want to remember forever and be the prettiest. I couldn’t imagine being self-conscious about my smile or looking back at photos and regretting not having done something.” Through her research, Cook learned about SmileDirectClub from Facebook. “I watched a ton of YouTube videos to get other people’s opinions and see their results,” she says. “I’m not someone to jump into something hastily, but after doing research and checking reviews, I couldn’t give it up, especially when you factor in how affordable the price is.”
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SmileDirectClub, an alternative to traditional orthodontic options, provides users with clear, BPA-free plastic aligners for a single payment of $1850, which covers the entire treatment. As part of the custom program, dental professionals evaluate the customer’s smile to create a treatment plan to gradually shift their teeth to the desired position, but regular in-office visits are not required. A 3-D scan and mold of the customer’s teeth is created either at a SmileDirectClub retail location (SmileShop) or using an at-home impression kit. A complete treatment plan is shipped to the customer’s home and then followed through a personalized online portal. Check-ins with customers are conducted remotely every 90 days so the dental professional can ensure teeth are moving as planned.
“Tara needed to have her upper central incisors moved out a bit to meet her lateral incisors for a better aesthetic appearance. We also needed to make more space for her crowded lower front teeth,” says SmileDirectClub’s lead dentist Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD. “The invisible aligners effectively treated Tara’s orthodontic needs, as she required mild tooth movement to obtain her desired aesthetic outcome. Tara also had the ability to remove her aligners before eating and while conducting her daily oral hygiene.”
“There wasn’t a SmileShop in my area, so I used the at-home kit,” says Cook. “It took me three tries to get the molds to come out correctly, but SmileDirectClub didn’t charge me for the two extra tries. That process took maybe a month total. After I got them approved, it took about six weeks to get the aligners, but they sent all of them at one time.”
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Tara’s smile plan was four months in length. “She wore three sets of aligners per month—one set for the first week, the second set for the next week, and the third set for the last two weeks. In total, Tara was prescribed 12 aligners to bring her teeth into alignment,” explains Dr. Sulitzer. “SmileDirectClub customers utilize their accounts on the SmileDirectClub website to track which aligners they should be wearing, when they should be switching to the next set of aligners and how many weeks remain in their smile plans.”
“It took some getting used to,” Cook admitted. “It was quite the adjustment getting used to having the aligners in, so I always made sure to change out my retainers on Friday evenings, so that I had the weekend to adjust. Some of the trays hurt at first, but the pain was usually gone by the next week. I work in customer service and I spend a lot of time on the phone, so I was concerned I would sound different. But, if I wouldn’t have told anyone I had aligners in, I don’t know if they would have noticed.”
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Although Cook didn’t interface with any dentists during her treatment, Dr. Sulitzer says, “Doctors check in with customers remotely every 90 days to ensure their teeth are moving according to plan. Customer care agents are available 23 hours a day by phone, email, chat or social media and can address many of the main concerns SmileDirectClub customers have. Dental team members, consisting of dental hygienists and other dental professionals, are available to address more detailed clinical questions. Customers are also able to speak directly with the licensed dental professional overseeing their case, if desired. SmileDirectClub’s affiliated dentists and orthodontists follow the same Standards of Care that their peers utilize in the states they are licensed in. They are regulated by the same dental boards as traditional orthodontic practices, and as such, the same principles and process are utilized by the affiliated doctors. These Standards of Care, and the principles and process established by each dental community, protect patients and guide the doctors when treating their patients.”
Cook wrapped up her treatment in October, but started seeing results long before she finished the full course. “By the end of the second month, I noticed a difference,” she says. “My two top teeth that were protruding had been pushed back a little bit, and my bottom row of teeth had made some movement. At the end of the third month, I had maybe four teeth that were still a little out of place, and the last month, the last two aligners were just doing very minimal tweaking because my teeth were almost perfect. I absolutely love my smile now. I don’t cringe when I see photos of myself anymore, which is amazing! I no longer have to be self-conscious and I can’t wait to smile ear to ear on my wedding day!”
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