Sporting Smiles Review: Best Online Retainer Replacements out there?



Medically reviewed by Dr. Steve Kim, MD


Our editors independently research, review, and recommend the best products. We may receive commissions on some (not all) purchases made from our chosen links. Learn more.

What’s worse than having to wear a retainer? Um, how bout going to the orthodontist and spending like $700 on your retainers before you’ve even worn them

If you’ve had orthodontic treatment in the past, you get it. Orthodontic retainers are custom-made devices that you get after braces, aligners, and other dental treatments. Essentially, they are used to help ensure your teeth stay straight for good.

Sometimes they’re fixed and permanent. But mostly, retainers are removable. And that’s where the problems can start. 

When I had retainers, I lost and broke them a few times. Depending on what age you get work done, you can also outgrow your set. Getting them replaced was a hassle — and it was super expensive.

Some people think that getting braces is a one-and-done thing. But it’s not. Assuming that once our teeth are aligned, they’ll stay perfect forever is just wishful thinking. You’ve got to stay vigilant!

If you’ve had any type of corrective dental work, retainers are just going to be part of your life. So if that’s the case, why not make it as easy and cost-effective as possible?

Having no choice but to visit an orthodontist in person is a thing of the past. Thanks to direct-to-consumer brands like Sporting Smile, anyone can fix their dental needs from the comfort of their homes (and without breaking the bank).

So, let’s look at Sporting Smiles and find out what type of service they offer. We’ll look at price, turnaround, the quality of materials they use in the retainers, and see what their customers say.

Table of Contents

Who is Sporting Smiles?

Aligners and some teeth whitening gel from Sporting Smiles
Aligners and some teeth whitening gel from Sporting Smiles. Sorry I'm bad at photography.

Sporting Smiles started operating out of a small dental office in Wisconsin back in 2009. Buuuut they were a little too successful, and nowadays they’ve outgrown that office and into a huge 10,000ft facility. In other words: they’re killin’ the game.

The brand’s goal is simple: to provide high-quality orthodontic products at affordable prices.

Quality dental products are expensive. Even if you have dental insurance, it won’t usually cover dental procedures. Sporting Smiles understood that a great smile was out of reach for many people, so they created custom dental and orthodontics that are accessible to everyone.

Creating custom lab-quality dental products at reasonable prices requires eliminating intermediaries, like the dentist. The thinking here is that Sporting Smiles doesn’t need to pay for a dental office, assistants, or an orthodontist’s time as part of their service. Instead, they can pass the savings down to the customers.

In 2011, Sporting Smiles designed a patented dual-arch adjustable dental impression tray. It was the first of its kind in the world and can adjust to any mouth size.

The adjustable tray solved a pressing issue with home impression kits because it made it easy to find the right size every time.

Another plus is that Sporting Smiles will keep your mold on record for a year. So, if you need to reorder, it’s all there and ready to go.

How does getting fitted for clear retainers online work?

Getting fitted for retainers with Sporting Smiles is fairly straightforward.

If you visit an orthodontist to get a retainer, they’ll take an impression of your teeth, send it off to a lab, and call you when it’s ready.

Sporting Smiles cuts out the intermediary by sending you a kit with everything you need to make an impression. The process is pretty simple:

Step 1:

Go to SportingSmiles.com and order an impression kit. It’ll arrive in several days or so.

Step 2:

Make an impression of your teeth using the little kit they include, and send it back.

I, personally, found it straightforward, but it’s super important to remember that this step really is the most important.

Getting an accurate impression as you can is necessary for ensuring your retainers are both effective and comfortable. So if you mess up this part, Sporting Smiles will need to send it back to you, meaning the whole process will take longer. (On the bright side, I’ve read reviews from others customers saying Sporting Smiles hooked ’em up.)

There are a couple of things you can do to ensure your impression is perfect. Sporting Smile encourages users to take a photo of their impressions and send it over so they can highlight any problems before you post them off. 

Sporting Smiles’ mouth tray can adjust to fit anyone, with the ability to be widened, lengthened, narrowed, and shortened depending on the size of your mouth.

Once the mouth tray is fixed, you mix the putty from the kit, roll it into a cylinder shape, and place it into the mouth tray. Bite down on the putty, wait about 4 minutes for it to harden, and you should have a perfect mold to send off to Sporting Smiles.

sporting smiles impression kit
Mix the blue goop with the white goop, spread it in your impression kit, and bite down. EZ Squeezy.

Step 3:

Literally just wait. Sporting Smiles will work their magic and send a custom retainer back to you.

Are Sporting Smiles products safe and effective?

Yep. A common theme you’ll find here is that Sporting Smiles products are the same as you’d get from your dentist. And this includes the ingredients they use in their retainers (and other products).

There’s also no BPA, BPS, DEHP, or Latex. I only know two of those words, but acronyms scare me so that’s refreshing to hear.

As for effectiveness, the retainers are made from Essix. This is very commonly used in clear aligners (source: Colgate). If you get the impression right, they’ll fit snugly and help you maintain the work that you’ve done to straighten or align your teeth.

Who is Sporting Smiles a good fit for?

Everyone’s situation is different, but I wear a Sporting Smiles retainer and love it. So maybe a few fun facts about me will help narrow things down:

  1. I’m sorrrrrta lazy, don’t own a car, and would rather not go to the orthodontist (if I can reasonably help it).
  2. If I can save money without sacrificing quality, I’ll do it. (duh)
  3. My dog ate my original metal retainer, so I needed a replacement one. Aaand with points #1 and #2 in mind, Sporting Smiles made the most sense.

Sporting Smiles makes great products for people who want the convenience of getting a replacement retainer online, but don’t want to pay crazy prices. Like specifically, you can save up to 70% off what you’d normally pay for retainers at the orthodontist/dentist. Fr.

And honestly, as great as the cost savings are, the convenience is next-level, too. Because the instructions in the box are so clear and straightforward, there’s really no reason why you can’t just get fitted at home. And I’m not the most clever guy out there. For my people out there who also hate the ortho office, 🤝.

As for the product itself, if you’re the type of person who prefers a clear retainer over a metal one, Sportings Smiles products will be right up your alley. They’re effective. Some even say they’re the MOST effective (OrthoCare Orthodontics). 

Sporting Smiles vs ClearRetain vs RetainersDirect

Of course, Sporting Smiles isn’t the only company that offers direct-to-consumer retainers. Two other well-known brands in the space are ClearRetain and RetainersDirect. Each brand has a similar business model. In this case, you send them an impression, they make some custom retainers for you, and you’re off to the races.

Before we move on to the pricing comparisons just yet, a few key differences:

One noticeable difference between the companies is the plastics they use. Sporting Smiles uses Essix “Plus” or Essix Clear. However, ClearRetain uses Invisacryl Ultra, while RetainersDirect uses Zendura. 

It should be noted that Zendura is not BPA-free. BPA is an industrial chemical used in plastic production since the 1950s. The FDA suggests that excess amounts of BPA can seep into foods or drinks and cause health complications. As such, many manufacturers are using this chemical less frequently. Just look at your Nalgene bottle.

Sporting Smiles logo 200x60 Clear Retain logo 200x60 Retainers Direct logo 200x60

Pricing Comparison: Sporting Smiles vs ClearRetain vs RetainersDirect

Sporting SmilesClearRetainRetainersDirect
Material UsedEssix “Plus”Invisacryl UltraZendura
Upper Teeth Retainers$95$8485
Lower Teeth Retainer$95$84$85
Upper AND Lower$135$129$150
Clear retainers
BPA Free
Does your impression stay on record?Free, kept for 1 year. Kept permanently if you re-order$12 for one arch, $20 for bothAvailable with 3-year membership program
Membership program add-onn/an/a$149.99, or $215 with 3D mold
Website

Are Sporting Smiles retainers worth it?

Sporting Smiles offers two different versions of their dental retainers: The Essix Plus and the Essix Clear. 

The main difference between the two is the quality of Essix material used. While they are both transparent plastic, Essix Plus is stronger. As a result, the Sporting Smiles Essix Plus retainers are more durable and long-lasting. 

The main choices that consumers have are:

  1. Essix Plus (Mix and Match) = $135. You’ll get upper and lower retainers or 2 upper or 2 lower retainers.
  2. Essix Plus Single = $95. Choose between 1 upper or one lower retainer.
  3. Essix Clear = $120. Either a pair of upper and lower retainers, or 2 upper, or 2 lower retainers.
  4. Essix Clear Single = $90. Choose between 1 upper or one lower retainer.

Another thing to keep in mind that is that you’re not limited to one of Sporting Smiles’ stock pricing plans. It may make more sense to pick up a one-off extra set of retainers, which does save you a very solid amount of money. 1 extra set will run you $85, 2 costs $165, and three will be $250. 

Two other add ons that might be of interest are a custom teeth whitening set ($35.00) and the expedited order ($35). The expedited order means quicker packaging and priority in the processing lab.

The ordering process can take around 10-15 business days. Customer reports suggest around two weeks is normal. However, alongside the expedited orders, Sporting Smiles also offers an Emergency Retainers option with a 6-7 business day guarantee at the cost of $325.  

As mentioned, the retainers are made from 1mm of clear Essix. Sporting Smiles have designed the material to be transparent and snuggly fit. As a result, they should be barely noticeable. The Essix material is high-quality American-made. 

Customer support can be reached by phone and email. Per customer feedback, Sporting Smiles offers professional, responsive, and caring customer service with the idea of creating customers for life.

When it comes to direct-to-consumer retainers, the most important area is getting the mold right. Sporting Smiles offers consumers a few different ways to get things right. 

They included instructional materials with their kits, but there is also a YouTube tutorial that shows you the whole process. If you’re like me, sometimes you just need to see something done, rather than a step-by-step diagram. So this is worth it.

Pros and Cons of Sporting Smiles retainers

Pros

  • Considerably cheaper than buying retainers through your dentist
  • Responsive customer service
  • High-quality, durable materials
  • 35% discount for return buyers

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than competitors
  • Would be nice if they kept your records for longer than one year

Sporting Smiles Reviews: What are others online saying?

Sporting Smiles has a solid online reputation across sites like Facebook, Trust Pilot, and SiteJabber.

Customers have praised the company for its premium products, quick turnaround, and courteous customer service. Huge money savings is one of the consistent themes of Sporting Smiles reviews. Customers suggest that equivalent products would cost them between $300 to $700 dollars via the dentist. 

Sporting Smiles reports that their impression kits are perfect around 98% of the time. While they do provide simple instructions on how to optimize your chances of getting everything right, there’s always a chance that something gets messed up. Fortunately, their customer support team is super receptive to this sort of thing, and they’ll send over a replacement impression kit if need be.

Another criticism from some customers is that Sporting Smiles only keeps their records on file for one year. However, Sporting Smiles is fairly upfront about this process, so it’s hard to fault them too much for this. 

tldr; Is Sporting Smiles worth it?

Sporting Smiles are legit. Not only have they built up the rep to prove it, but the quality of their retainers, convenience, and great prices just solidify it further. When it comes to turning online for replacement retainers, orthodontists should be shaking rn.

I get it: retainers are a pain. I hate them. But if you’ve been putting this kind of thing off for a while, it might be time to grow up and bite the bullet on a replacement pair of retainers or two. Unless you want to wear braces again at 40, I can’t personally see a reason why getting an affordable pair of clear retainers from Sporting Smiles isn’t a no-brainer. 

High-quality materials, a decent turnaround time, and an excellent price are all waiting for you, ready to put a big ol’ smile on that beautiful face of yours. 🙂