SmileDirectClub, a developer and online retailer of invisible teeth aligners, is looking to disrupt the dental profession by making its e-commerce site an alternative to visiting an orthodontist office.
The company isnt saying much about its financials, other than revenues are up 550% over the past six monthsit wont disclose total customers, sales or profits.
But SmileDirectClub is taking new steps to keep growing its business. For example, the company recently moved to a new corporate headquarters in Nashville and has hired more than 150 employees during the past six months. In October, SmileDirectClub, which launched in 2014 as SmileCareClub, rebranded the company name and its e-commerce site as SmileDirectClub and opened a new walk-in clinic in New York. In July the company signed a supplier relationship deal with Align Technology Inc. as its exclusive third-party supplier for its minor tooth movement aligner program.
“This doctor-directed, at-home model follows the trend towards other convenient and more affordable at-home solutions for procedures including contact lenses, hearing aids and diabetes care,” says Align Technology CEO Joe Hogan.
Visitors to SmileDirectClub.com can take an online assessment to learn if they are a candidate for teeth aligners and begin treatment by ordering a starter kit that captures impressions of their teeth at-home or schedule an appointment at one of the companys six locations in New York, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Detroit and Nashville.
Patients can order a starter kit online for $95 that contains mouthpieces consumers form around their teeth to capture an impression. The kit includes written and video instructions on how to capture teeth impressions. The process of capturing impressions takes about 30 minutes, says SmileDirectClub co-founder Alex Fenkell.
Consumers mail their teeth impressions back to SmileDirectClub.com which uses a licensed dental partner to review them and the patients medical history prior to creating a custom treatment plan for the patient. SmileDirectClub next makes custom thermoform aligners using three-dimensional printing, which are then mailed to the patient. Making the aligners takes about three weeks.
Patients with questions about their treatment plan can contact a care specialist by live chat, e-mail or phone. Dental professionals continue to monitor patients progress during the treatment plan, which typically lasts three to 10 months. If a dental specialist determines that a patient is not a candidate for aligners, the patient is refunded the $95 cost of the starter kit.
Cost of a treatment is $1,500, in addition to the starter kit, which is up to 70% less than the costs of competitors aligner, SmileDirectClub claims. SmileDirectClub is able to offer what it says are highly competitive prices because the company cuts out office visits and passes the savings onto customers, Fenkell says.
SmileDirectClub offers a monthly payment plan starting with an initial payment of $250 and $99 for additional monthly payments. The company accepts dental insurance and flexible savings account and health savings account debit cards.
While SmileDirectClub declines to disclose its total number of patients, it does say that it performed more than 300,000 smile assessments during the third quarter of 2016.
SmileDirectClub.com is the hub where customers can follow along with their treatment plans from beginning to end, Fenkell says.
Although Fenkell and co-founder Jordan Katzman view SmileDirectClub.com as a way to disrupt the dental industry by selling aligners direct to consumers at lower prices, other dentists believe there is no substitute for an in-person exam and diagnosis by an orthodontist prior to being fitted for aligners.
Moving teeth is a medical procedure which involves the dissolution of bone and the formation of new bone as teeth are moved to their new location in the bone, says DeWayne McCamish, a dentist and president of the American Association of Orthodontists. Without a thorough diagnosis, which includes a clinical exam and x-rays that will reveal each patients unique problem, consulting the internet for treatment could possibly lead to unintended consequences and less than desired results.
McCamish, who is a practicing orthodontist, says that regular check-ups throughout treatment are necessary to monitor tooth movement and the patients oral health.
Despite the shortcomings of purchasing aligners online, McCamish says that SmileDirectClub can potentially make dental products more accessible to consumers.
SmileDirectClub, which launched in 2014, is backed by Camelot Venture Group, whose portfolio includes 1-800-CONTACTS, Quicken Loans, HearingPlanet, DiabetesCareClub and SongbirdHearing.