Understanding the Risks: Smile Direct Club & the Reality of Teledentistry

Smile Direct Club

In December 2023, Smile Direct Club, a teledentistry company with over 2 million customers worldwide, officially announced it would shut down due to bankruptcy.

Their goal was to revolutionize oral health by providing people with straightened teeth entirely online, at a significantly lower cost compared to braces.

Companies like this invest a lot of money in advertising and try their best to convince those unfamiliar with orthodontics that they can achieve a beautiful smile while saving a significant amount of money and time!

The growing list of complaints about Smile Direct Club made us think it’s our duty to inform the community about the risks associated with non-doctors’ practices. Read on to understand the concerns surrounding these issues.

Knowing More About the Company and Why They’re Closing

Smile Direct Club, which started in 2014 and has over 2 million customers worldwide, aimed to change oral care with clear aligners that were quicker and cheaper than traditional braces. They sold these aligners directly to people by mail and at major retailers.

In 2019, when Smile Direct Club went public, its value was around $8.9 billion. But over time, its value dropped as it kept losing money. By 2022, it had lost $86.4 million.

Eric Snyder, from the Wilk Auslander law firm, mentioned that Smile Direct Club had to spend a lot to get new customers and prove it could grow. Also, it faced legal fights with orthodontists, making it hard to compete. They’ve lost a lot of money lately.

In September, Smile Direct Club asked for bankruptcy protection because it had almost $900 million in debt. In September 2023, it confirmed it’s closing because it couldn’t find a partner to bring in enough money to keep running.

Smile Direct Club Bankrupt

A Story of a Patient- Smile Direct Club News

Anna Rosemond from Virginia is one example of a patient who was drawn to the advertisements of Smile Direct Club. The company promised to straighten teeth for just $2,000, roughly a third of the cost of traditional braces, all within 6 months and from the comfort of home. Promising savings in both time and money!

Their ads portrayed the entire teeth-straightening process as simple. Patients like Anna, who knew little about orthodontics but desired a beautiful smile, ordered one of the kits.

To begin, Smile Direct Club offered Anna the option to obtain a 3D image of her teeth at one of their SmileShops and then receive an at-home kit. After a few weeks, Anna received dental aligners and followed instructions to take mouth pictures every 90 days. Smile Direct Club informed her that their 250 orthodontists and dentists would be checked and reviewed for her treatment from afar. As Anna said to NBCNews, all her care was managed through an online channel.

As instructed, Anna sent several photos of her teeth to the Smile Direct Club, but after a year, she felt pain in her teeth. She said, “I really noticed that things didn’t feel right with my bite, and my head was hurting frequently.”

She was promised access to her dentist but couldn’t reach them despite trying many times. Therefore, she sought help from an outside orthodontist. The orthodontist identified a crossbite issue, possibly caused by the aligners. The worst is that the crossbite caused neck and jaw muscle strain, leading to migraines.

According to Anna, she chose Smile Direct Club to save money, but instead, she had to spend thousands on traditional braces to fix her teeth.

Smile Direct Club and similar companies promise to give people healthy, beautiful smiles at home. But now, we found a growing list of complaints from the people who already used the aligners and, after a while, had to deal with painful problems.

According to the NBCNews report, over 1,800 nationwide complaints have been filed. Most of these complaints concern customer service problems, such as broken aligners, delivery delays, and payment problems. Additionally, dozens of complaints mentioned results like broken teeth and nerve damage.

Following numerous complaints, nine Congress members, including five dentists, have asked the FDA and FTC to investigate Smile Direct Club for misleading people or causing harm to patients.

Dr. Chung Kau, an orthodontist professor at the University of Alabama, warns that shifting teeth without in-person supervision can cause permanent damage.

Issues with one’s bite aren’t just cosmetic. According to Kau, “If your bite isn’t right, it affects how your jaw works. You might have migraines, jaw joint troubles, or your joints might weaken.” He continued: “The damage can’t be fixed. It’s serious—things like bone loss, or losing a tooth, once gone, can’t be reversed.”

Lastly, we invite you to watch the video provided by NBCNews. The journalist concealed a camera in her bag and visited one of Smile Direct Club’s SmileShops. Witness the response of their employee and judge for yourself.

Another similar story

Tom Harwood, 40, from Winnemucca, Nevada, shared his story and revealed that his dentist told him Smile Direct Club’s aligners moved his teeth too quickly, causing some of them to detach from the bone.

“I might lose two to three bottom teeth and the same from my front teeth,” Harwood mentioned. He has experienced intense, constant pain every day since stopping treatment.

Based on Harwood’s words, he stopped the treatment after 3 months, before the 90-day photo update. He tried multiple times to contact his assigned dentist but couldn’t.

Due to issues like this, we strongly urge regular dental check-ups, especially during braces and Invisalign Treatment. These visits ensure the bite and overall mouth health are on track. In every visit with patients, every required adjustment would be made to ensure the best care and optimal results.

Smile Direct Club News


Is smile direct legit?

Smile Direct Club, a teledentistry company with numerous branches worldwide, including Canada, provided products and services for at-home teeth straightening. However, amidst some positive reviews, there have been a growing number of complaints regarding their services and products.

Some customers have reported problems related to customer service, such as broken aligners, delivery delays, and payment methods. Others have expressed concerns about treatment results, citing issues like nerve damage or broken teeth.

Smile Direct Club Bankruptcy was officially announced in December 2023, and its global operation has been ceased.

Based on the Smile Direct Club words, new aligners are no longer sent to the new customers, and any orders that have not yet shipped have been cancelled.

Also, existing customers can no longer access customer care support, and the Lifetime Smile Guarantee is no more. Smile Direct Club advises customers seeking further treatment to talk to a local orthodontist for future alignment treatment.

Does smile direct club work?
In December 2023, Smile Direct Club declared bankruptcy officially. The company ceased sending aligners to new customers, and customer care is no longer available for all existing customers.

Bottom Line

At the end, please be aware that orthodontic treatment is a process that should be conducted by an experienced orthodontist, someone who has undergone extensive university studies.

Don’t trust companies, groups, or individuals claiming to provide quick, inexpensive teeth straightening online—they’re not trustworthy.

Throughout Invisalign or braces treatment, regular dental check-ups are necessary for required adjustments and to prevent any orthodontic problems down the road.

At York Orthodontics, we understand our responsibility to inform the community about the risks associated with non-doctors and the potential problems they could cause for you.

Many of these entities invest heavily in advertisements, often trying to persuade people that they can benefit from treatments for just a few dollars.

Unfortunately, numerous patients have later encountered problems requiring payments of thousands of dollars for fixes. Worse of all, some of these issues are irreparable.