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Wellness

SmileDirectClub sets up shop in CVS to give you straighter teeth

Instead of heading to the dentist, you'll soon be able to get straighter teeth with a trip to your local CVS. But should you?

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SmileClubDirect

Prescriptions, makeup, candy and... braces? Starting today, you'll be able to kick off the process of straightening your teeth at CVS thanks to a partnership with SmileDirectClub.

SmileDirectClub, which launched in 2014, makes clear plastic aligners that straighten your teeth without the need for highly visible traditional metal braces. 

To get started with SmileDirectClub, you can visit a SmileShop -- available in 45 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and several Canadian provinces. At a SmileShop, you meet a SmileGuide who takes a 3D scan of your mouth, determines if your teeth can be straightened by plastic aligners, provides a rendering of what your straight teeth will look like once, and explains the process to them there.

Soon, you'll be able to get that same experience at hundreds of CVS stores starting this year. These SmileShop clinics are currently available in 13 CVS locations, with many more on the way.

You can also sign up for SmileClubDirect through their website, and you'll get a kit with dental impression trays to create a 3-D mold of your teeth (similar to what's used in an orthodontist's office). With that impression, SmileDirectClub creates a plan for straightening your teeth and the plastic aligners needed to get there.

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A team of dentists and orthodontists will assess your (and every patient's) case and check in with you every 90 days to monitor your progress. It's important to note that not everyone is a candidate for plastic aligners. Those with severe overcrowding, overbites, underbites and other concerns often need traditional orthodontic interventions.

Beyond traditional braces, SmileDirectClub also provides an alternative to Invisalign plastic aligners, which have been available since 1997 and are only available through an orthodontist or dentist. Patients must go into a clinic to get an exam, which includes multiple x-rays of their teeth and a full assessment to determine if they're eligible to receive orthodontic treatments, before they can get Invisalign.

Read more: Quip toothbrush review: Is it better than brushes twice the price?

SmileDirectClub was founded to make the process of straightening your teeth more accessible, by letting anyone order a kit without the need to visit a dentist. Their plastic aligners also cost less than traditional braces. SmileDirectClub's cost is up to $2,200 versus the $3,000 to $7,000 you'd pay for metal braces.

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SmileClubDirect uses plastic aligners to straighten teeth.

SmileClubDirect

The company's approach to teeth straightening has been controversial, however, with individual doctors and dental associations filing civil complaints against SmileDirectClub

Those complaints allege that SmileDirectClub doesn't meet the standard of care -- which includes looking for cavities and assessing a patient's bone density via x-rays -- in providing orthodontic treatments for its patients (Bone density plays an important role in the process of straightening teeth, and can only be examined by x-rays).

The company does not have the seal of approval from the American Dental Association, and the group strongly cautions people to not use direct-to-consumer dental services and  "DIY orthodontics." 

SmileClubDirect is aware of these issues, and says it believes that what it's doing brings about more good than harm. A spokesperson for the company told CNET:

In the US, 60% of counties do not have access to an orthodontist and SmileDirectClub is bridging that gap. We have served more than half a million people with a quality, customer-first experience directed by state-licensed dentists and orthodontists. We are working with state dental boards to clarify misperceptions about our business model, and we will continue to work vigorously to defend against any entity that seeks to impact access to care.

Despite the complaints and controversy, SmileDirectClub's new CVS clinics could make it easier for people who have wanted straight teeth, but can't afford braces, to get that process started or learn more about what that process entails for them.