Learn from these slick freedom fighters

by Business growth, Communications, Content, Orthodontics

Don’t you just love disrupters? I do. They turn the tables and make life exciting. “Open for a lifestime supply of confidence” are the tantilisating words, written in large white font, on the pretty box that arrives in the post from Smile Direct Club. The US-based company’s minimal website shows home photos of smiling patients holding the purple box.

An attractive, flustered twentysomething darts around her flat, fighting to squeeze her shoes on, eat something, grab her keys and check her phone before exhaling heavily and rushing out the door. This is the intro to a rapid-fire TV ad that Your Smile Direct, based in Dublin, has been using to reach 15 to 45-year-olds. The voiceover begins: “Hectic lifestyle? No problem.”

These two artefacts capture the seismic shift happening in the orthodontics market, a kind of turbo charged, compressed version of the transition that the whole dental industry has been making in the past decade, characterised by a transfer of power from dentist to patient. Having shared them with our clients and asked for feedback, everybody who responded is grudgingly impressed.

It hardly needs to be said that the rewards to businesses for making this transition early are huge, large even by the standards of any industry. The two mail order companies mentioned above, and there are others, have a global strategy and an irrestistible consumer-centric message: we are bringing straight teeth to the masses.

Smile Direct Club has pitched itself as a freedom fighter against the anti-consumer old boys’ club of traditional orthodontics. On Monday it came out fighting (for patients) after enemy forces struck a blow via legislation against teledentistry, saying, quite shockingly (in the spirit of all great PR):

While this bill does not preclude SmileDirectClub’s continued operations in California, it will create unnecessary hurdles and costs to Californians that need care but struggle to afford it. The undebated, clinically unsupported, and ill-advised policy changes that are included in this bill — a bill that was intended to reauthorize the Dental Board of California until last-minute policy additions were added — have created arbitrary barriers to technological innovation. There are no clinical studies or guidelines that affirm the mandatory radiography or other equivalent bone imaging requirement included in AB 1519. Simply put, this bill represents the dental lobby’s thinly-veiled attempt to protect traditional dentistry at the expense of Californians, and Governor Newsom made the correct choice in issuing his strongly-worded rebuke of the tactics and policy that this bill represents.

Stock duly plummeted to its lowest point since the firm’s IPO in September, but pundits expect it to bounce back. There is something in the air. Where is your dental business currently located on the transition to patient-centric dentistry? Can your marketing withstand the onslaught of global consumer-centric brands? Can your dental practice explain, with the sort of punchy and elegant messaging that these brands deploy, why patients are better off with you?

If you’re not sure, contact me to arrange a chat about the power of being a disrupter. I’d be pleased to show you Fine Company’s compelling track record of helping dental practice owners disrupt regional markets in the UK and Ireland.


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“The shift happening in the orthodontics market is a kind of turbo charged, compressed version of the transition that the whole dental industry has been making”


Author: Jonathan Fine