“The first rule of SmileDirect Club is: You do not talk about SmileDirect Club” quipped a popular tweet. Funny but…turns out to be true according to this New York Times article published in late January. Talk about your bad experiences with SmileDirect Club and they could sue you (due to the confidentiality clause in your contract). That’s not stopping more than 1,800 dissatisfied SmileDirect Club customers from complaining to the BBB and speaking out about their horrific experiences.
On Friday, NBC News broke the story wide open. They went undercover and gathered patient tales of misaligned jaws, migraine headaches, and tooth loss due to SmileDirect Club’s unorthodox treatment methods. As a result, the company’s stock is tumbling, along with consumer confidence. SmileDirect Club issued a statement firing back at NBC, alleging that the report was not balanced because it didn’t reference its “more than 750,000 satisfied customers.” It’s just another twist in the road for Smile Direct Club.
Months ago, state regulatory boards took notice of the consumer complaints. California, Alabama and Georgia passed consumer protection laws, and the American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthodontists have denounced SmileDirect Club’s business practices.
In October 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law that changes the rules on ‘teledentistry,” the model used by SmileDirect. The bill includes protections for patients who undergo direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment, and includes a provision that allows them to submit complaints to the state Dental Board.
Since its inception in 2014, SmileDirect Club has aimed to disrupt the competitive space of invisible aligner orthodontics by offering clear plastic aligners by mail. Soon, similar companies popped up, capitalizing on convenience and low cost. After all, who wouldn’t want to get beautiful straight teeth for under $2,000 in less than a year — and never need to see a dentist or orthodontist? It’s all done online — a boon for the internet age! But it turns out, that convenience comes with a price for people who have dental problems beyond the scope of a salesperson’s 3-D scan and quick glance. Although treatment plans are managed remotely by SmileDirect Club’s dentists, many patients never get to talk to them directly, according to the NBC report.
If you’re a patient of SmileDirect Club or other similar mail-order companies and are unhappy with your treatment or result, contact your state dental board and consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
If you’re considering getting mail-order clear plastic aligners to straighten your teeth, read this article from ArchWired about how to assess the risks. At the very least, during your next dental cleaning, you could ask your dentist whether they think you are a candidate for mail-order invisible braces. An in-person professional dental evaluation is always the best way to go.
If you (someone you know) is considering getting dental braces of any type, here are some helpful resources:
- American Association of Orthodontists
- Dental Braces 101
- 12 Things To Know Before Getting Braces
- Products For Braces Pain Relief
- Cleaners And Products For Clear Aligners
Modified image courtesy of authoritydental.org under CreativeCommons (CC 2.0).