A brace to the bottom? Maybe, but online ortho is no joke

by Cosmetic dentistry, News

A brace to the bottom? Maybe, but online ortho is no joke    By Jonathan Fine. March 15, 2017.

An entrepreneur in Ireland has created the ultimate disruptor for the orthodontic market and if you haven’t heard of it you soon will. It’s called Your Smile Direct. Imagine the embodiment of everything Martin Kelleher hates and you’ll be in the right ballpark. Your Smile Direct vastly undercuts conventional orthodontics by taking out the whole dental practice thing.

Founder Graham Byrne says: “If someone were to choose to go through the traditional route of multiple visits to their dental practice, this would typically cost around €4,000. We are much quicker and are approximately one third of the price.” So is this really a race to the bottom, what Kelleher was attacking in his article titled The ‘Uberization of orthodontics’ — or how low can you go?, or is Byrne just doing the inevitable, albeit with vision and scale? The customer is always right, after all, and one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Byrne aims to become the world’s most trusted provider of laboratory-to-consumer dental solutions so formed partnerships with dental laboratories, practices, logistics companies and software specialists. He says: “What we are doing is taking the dental practice out of the equation not the dentist. Everything we do is through a team of qualified dentists.” He has scan centres in Piccadilly Tube Station and Manchester and eight more are on the way in European cities in the next few months. He is doubling his revenue every month, according to Ireland’s Sunday Independent newspaper. Byrne says he got the idea of mail ordering straight teeth from the US and decided to test it out after a varied career in IT sales, cash converter stores and property.

On the simple Your Smile Direct website users are asked to select whether their crowding and spacing is either slight, medium or severe. Interestingly, you receive the same message saying “Congratulations, you have qualified for Your Smile Direct’s at home Treatment!” whatever you choose. At that point you can order a £99 kit and treatment plan immediately. The kit contains a home impression device which the treatment plan is based on, and successive clear aligners are mailed to you.

The £99 kit fee is refunded to customers who are deemed unsuitable for treatment, and treatment costs £1,199 or £35 a month. One price. It really is very simple to grasp the offering, which is where the power of this model lies: the clarity it gives to end users, many of whom do shop on price. At the scan centres, customers get a 3D scan and are emailed a 3D image of their proposed treatment plan so they can flick through the stages of tooth positioning.

Byrne says typical customers are females aged 18 to 35 and the UK is his biggest market so far. So, if you’re in ortho, how many patients in your catchment will have their heads turned by Your Smile Direct do you think? The obvious response to this broadside on the whole market would be develop messaging that sets out your stall as a practice that believes in a different paradigm, one based on a personal relationship with patients, because orthodontic problems are complex and nuanced, and they have just as much to do with occlusion as beautiful looking teeth.

If you are a specialist or you have specialist orthodontists working in your practice I would make much of that too — why not explain a little bit about why it takes so long to become one. You can do this in a blog or a video, both of which can be loaded with key words to catch some of the traffic going to Your Smile Direct. That way you are giving people a balanced picture of their options while frankly acknowledging that yes, another dental disruptor has indeed arrived.

Please don’t step back comforted in the knowledge that what your practice provides is superior care and outcomes. You need to inform the public. The public simply has no idea of the difference.

JJF | [email protected] | 07860 672727


“Don’t step back comforted that you provide superior care and outcomes. You need to inform the public”

Jonathan Fine, MD

Author: Jonathan Fine