I was one of those kids who got their braces off, wore my retainer diligently for two months, then gave up. I’m very sorry to my parents – who spent I don’t even know how much on orthodontist fees – but 15-year-old me just wasn’t cut out for the responsibility of wearing a (painful) retainer. It means that over the years, my upper teeth began to push out in what I’d nicely declare a hint of buck’s teeth, and my lower teeth began to jumble. It also means that when SmileDirectClub reached out to ask if I’d like to try their aligners for a story, I jumped at the chance.

You’ve probably seen their ads online: Hot people, grinning their enviably attractive smiles at you, sometimes holding a purple box or a little purple container. You know, the people with white but not too-white teeth? Those people. I wanted to be one of them.

SmileDirectClub is an online teeth correction service, using a combination of 3D printing and Australian-registered dentists or orthodontists to create a cheap-ish option (comparatively speaking) to straighten your teeth with clear aligners.

Unlike most teeth straightening services, it charges a flat fee of $2,825, or a 24-month payment plan of $119 per month (total: $3,155). To put that in perspective, clear braces like Invisalign can cost anywhere from $6,500 to $9,500 in Australia.

And as we all know, dental work is expensive. Most of it isn’t covered by Medicare (rude), and according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 4 in 10 people (39%) have avoided or delayed a visit to the dentist due to cost.

The beauty of clear aligners is that they’ve “lowered practice overhead, shortened treatment time, and placed less of a burden on the orthodontist”, according to a paper published in the Journal of Dental Research and ReportsMost importantly, they work.

In its marketing, SmileDirectClub promises you a “smile you’ll love in four to six months”. I got there in just one – but more about that in a minute.

Interested? Here’s what you need to know first.

It’s not going to work for everyone

SmileDirectClub is very, very clear about this: there’s only so much aligners can do. While they can fix your crooked teeth, you’ll still have to go down the traditional orthodontist route for any major corrections. (And if you’re deemed not a candidate by the network of Aussie registered dentists and orthodontists, you obviously get a full refund.)

In my case, I had braces as a teenager to close the four MASSIVE gaps from having teeth pulled as a kid. (Turns out you can be born with too many teeth for your mouth, which is what happened to me.) It’s pretty likely that clear aligners would not have worked for me back then. But for someone who forgot to wear their retainer until it physically hurt to put back in? You’re good to go, baby. (I’m baby.)

But yes, it works

I wouldn’t be writing this piece if it didn’t! Like I said, I got a “smile I loved” in literally one month. I didn’t finish treatment in a month (it was more like eight), but it only took one month for me to start seeing a noticeable difference in my smile. My front teeth were no longer sticking out, and it was only until they started jutting straight down like normal teeth did I realise how much it had bothered me.

Honestly, if I could go back 10 years and do this sooner, I would.

You can’t eat or drink anything other than water while wearing them

Aligners aren’t designed to withstand the pressure of chewing (and your teeth / jaw situation is super strong). And drinking anything not a clear liquid will cause the plastic to stain. So you can drink water – and clear spirits, I suppose.

It’s why I decided to go with the nighttime aligner option. You wear them for 10 hours a day, instead of 22. Your treatment takes longer (roughly 10 months), but you get there all the same, and most importantly it still costs the same.

Obviously if you want your teeth straightened quickly for a wedding or something, then you might as well go for the quickest option possible, but I mostly made the decision out of not wanting to plan my snacking around aligners. 10/10 would recommend.

You’ll want to start wearing your aligners on a Friday or Saturday night

Or, any night when you don’t have to get up early for work the next day. Each set of aligners is intended to be worn for two weeks, after which you move on to the next one. It’s not painful, but it is a touch uncomfortable during the first night or two. (If you’ve ever had braces, the tightness will feel familiar.) I tended to pop a couple painkillers before going to sleep on night one of each set, and it did the trick.

You can make adjustments or even return it if you hate it

Obviously, $2000+ is a big chunk of money to anyone, and it’s your smile we’re talking about here. If you get your aligners and decide you don’t want to go through with it (in the first 30 days), you can send them back for a full refund.

If you’re halfway through treatment and think something’s not working, then you can check in virtually and see about new aligners being shipped to you (free of charge). And if you order the retainer after your treatment and replace it every six months, then you qualify for one free aligner touch-up every year if you need one.

Aligners won’t whiten your teeth – but the complimentary teeth whitening products will

I know, I know, it’s there to sweeten the deal, but hey: it works. Gimme those pearly whites.

Your private health insurance probably won’t cover it

Unfortunately, SmileDirectClub is not covered by private health insurance (although it’s working to get there). There was a bit of a barney with SmileDirectClub and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) earlier this year, with the latter claiming the former misled consumers about being able to be reimbursed for their treatments. SmileDirectClub said it was “disappointed” with the ACCC launching proceedings, and said it was nothing to do with “the safety and efficacy of the treatment”.

But despite the cost, SmileDirectClub is still one of the cheapest options out there for straightening your teeth. And this time around, I might actually wear the retainer.

If you want to find out more and suss if you’re a candidate, get on it right here.