SmileDirectClub, the cheap mail order ortho service that’s available in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, is becoming a public company.
Invisalign maker Align Technology once owned 19% of the company, which was valued at $3.2bn in October. Last year it came of age, generating a healthy $432.2m of revenue, up from $147m in 2017.
But if similar growth is to continue it will have to outmanoeuvre its enemies, notably the American Association of Orthodontists, which says its process of encouraging people to skip face to face visits and X-rays is “illegal and creates medical risks”.
It’s filed complaints against SmileDirectClub in 36 US states, alleging violations of statutes and regulations governing the practice of dentistry. Meanwhile 1,066 customers have complained about SmileDirectClub to the the US consumer champion Better Business Bureau, which lists them on its website.
SmileDirectClub acknowledged some of these difficulties in its S-1 filing to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission on August 16: “There is a risk that state authorities may find that our contractual relationships with our doctors violate laws and regulations prohibiting the corporate practice of dentistry, which generally bar the practice of dentistry by entities. Two state dental boards have established new rules or interpreted existing rules in a manner that purports to limit or restrict our ability to conduct our business as currently conducted.”
It also noted that a national dental association recently filed a petition with the US Food and Drug Administration claiming that its manufacturing violates “prescription only” requirements. No laws have been passed that would affect SmileDirectClub in this way, but the spectre remains, and it could devastate the company’s core business.
If you provide orthodontics to your patients, especially specialist orthodontics, it’s worth reporting on this case in your blog or on social media. It’s a handy demonstration of the benefits of proper orthodontic care and shows just how uncertain the marketplace is. Your patients will want to play it safe but will also want to know what’s so bad about cheap at-home teeth straightening. Here’s the AAO’s timeline which says it all.
Meanwhile the orthodontics market continues to explode. Align Technology has just launched its first Invisalign pop-up shop in the EMEA region in London’s Westfield shopping centre, encouraging people to browse, get smile assessments and see what treatment could do with simulations.