Almost 5 million Americans wear dental braces, and you can bet that almost all of them wish they could pay less for them. Enter Smile Direct Club, a company that bills itself as an orthodontic “disruptor,” aiming to make teeth-straightening more accessible and affordable.
Smile Direct Club offers what appears to be a groundbreakingly cost-effective dental straightening model. For $1,895, payable at $85 a month (a price they say is 60% cheaper than traditional braces), customers can purchase a Smile Direct Club solution. They receive a home mold kit with instructions on how to take a mold of their teeth. The mold is then shipped back to the company, which manufactures a custom-built “aligner” that is designed to gradually bring the teeth into their correct alignment.
It sounds great, but now Smile Direct Club faces at least 60 complaints that its aligners do nothing, or worse, create new problems such as misaligned teeth and jaw pain. That’s what Anne Rosemond, talking to NBC News, and Jessica Shorts, speaking with the New York Times, say happened to them.
Rosemond and Shorts were Smile Direct Club customers who began experiencing jaw pain and migraines, as well as damage to their teeth that required an orthodontist’s intervention. They both found Smile Direct Club’s customer support to be severely lacking.
Another customer, Taylor Weakley, was unable to tell the Times the extent of her experience with Smile Direct Club due to the non-disclosure agreement she had been forced to sign. According to her, the startup refused to provide her with a refund unless she agreed to stay quiet about her experiences on social media, and to not speak to any media outlets.
Smile Direct Club’s credibility has been further eroded by the state of California charging the company’s Chief Clinical Officer, Jeffrey A. Sulitzer, with fraud, negligence, unlicensed dentistry, and other violations. If Sulitzer is convicted of the charges, the state could take away his dental license.
Smile Direct Club is a massive player in the new “self-help” medical care industry that is on the rise in the United States, as more and more people search for cheaper ways to handle basic medical procedures. Founded in 2014, the company has already received more than $440 million in venture capital funding.
The dental field could use a shake-up, but consumers and patients deserve to know what they’re signing up for, and the potential hazards of any products they purchase. Trying to suppress negative statements about a product that can allegedly jeopardize one’s health is a worrying sign, and may indicate further bad news to come.
If you have used Smile Direct Club aligners and have suffered health problems or unforeseen medical costs as a result, we want to hear from you. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review.