SmileDirectClub, a direct-to-consumer manufacturer and marketer of teeth aligners, recently ceased operations, leaving patients with no warning or recourse.
According to a frequently asked questions page on SmileDirectClub.com, “aligner treatment is no longer available,” and “customer care support is no longer available.” The page goes on to explain the company’s “Lifetime Smile Guarantee” no-longer exists and those who wish to continue treatment should consult a local dentist.
Multiple news sources have reported widespread consumer frustration.
“My heart goes out to all the people who were abruptly abandoned due to the closure of SmileDirectClub,” said ADA President, Linda Edgar, D.D.S. “As doctors of oral health, dentists’ highest priorities are quality care and patient safety. I encourage ADA members to welcome these individuals who need professional dental care by offering free evaluations and recommendations regarding ongoing care.”
The ADA is also continuing its outreach efforts to raise public awareness about the importance of oral and overall health and professional dental care provided by dentists. “The ADA has a dual mission to foster the success of a diverse membership and advance the oral health of the public,” said ADA executive director, Raymond Cohlmia, D.D.S. “Direct-to-consumer dentistry poses serious risks to the gums, bone, ligaments that support the teeth, or the teeth themselves. It is our ongoing duty to raise public awareness so that they can make informed oral health care decisions.”
In 2017 and 2018, policies were adopted by the ADA House of Delegates that strongly discourage the practice of do-it-yourself orthodontics and additional types of direct-to-consumer dental products because of the critical need for dentist supervision throughout any dental treatment plan in order to reduce the potential risks to patients.
According to the ADA, direct-to-consumer dentistry has the potential to cause “irreversible harm to individuals, who are treated as ‘customers’ rather than patients.”
“This company’s closure highlights yet another risk of direct-to-consumer dentistry—patient abandonment,” said Dr. Edgar.
The ADA’s outreach efforts on direct-to-consumer dentistry also included federal regulatory agencies. In 2018, ADA communicated to members about how to report adverse events they encountered in patients that had used direct-to-consumer dental products to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration via the MedWatch voluntary reporting form.
In 2019, the ADA filed a citizen petition with the Food & Drug Administration, detailing all the potential health problems consumers could experience with direct-to-consumer orthodontics. That same year, the ADA also filed a complaint letter to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection out of concern for public safety and customer recourse in the event of negative outcomes from SmileDirectClub’s orthodontic “treatment therapy.”
“One of the greatest strengths of our ADA community lies in our compassion for our patients and their safety,” said Dr. Edgar. “Now is the time for our ADA community to step up to support those who need to find dental homes and provide a dentist-supervised ongoing treatment plan.”
To make it easier for those in need of dental care to find you, consider updating your ADA Find-A-Dentist profile.