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SmileDirectClub closure: How dental professionals can help stranded patients

Dec. 15, 2023
In a press release and comments to DentistryIQ, the American Association of Orthodontics suggests steps for SmileDirectClub patients left in a tough spot after the company's abrupt closing.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

Following the abrupt closure of online at-home orthodontics company SmileDirectClub on Dec. 8, the American Association of Orthodontics has issued guidance to patients left without further treatment, as well as advice for dentists who are in the position of treating patients at various stages of their at-home aligner use.

In a press release of the guidance, association president Myron Guymon, DDS, MS, noted that "The best thing SmileDirectClub patients can do at this point is to book an in-person exam with a licensed orthodontist in their area," sentiments he reiterated in follow-up comments to DentistryIQ.

“Many [SmileDirectClub patients] were not adequately diagnosed, so they need to start from the beginning with an orthodontist,” he said. “Many have not had an x-ray or in-person exam, so they basically need to start over and share all their concerns and get diagnosed.”

SmileDirectClub announced it was closing global operations “effective immediately” following a bankruptcy announcement in late September, saying there is “no other viable path” for the company.

According to the company’s website, customers on the company’s SmilePay Plan are expected to “make all monthly payments until payment has been made in full per the terms of our SmilePay program” despite the cancellation of the company’s lifetime guarantee and loss of any customer support, including access to their treating doctors.

Additional recommendations for patients, dental professionals

Other recommendations for affected patients from the AAO guideline statement include being wary of other mail-order orthodontic companies “feeding on SmileDirectClub's failure”; choosing an orthodontist that offers a complimentary consultation and options for financing treatment; and reaching out to state dental boards that have individual complaint processes for dental treatments.

Filing a complaint with a state board “may not help now, but it can help this from happening again in the future,” Guymon said.

As for dental professionals with patients left at various stages of their at-home treatment, Guymon says to approach such patients with kindness and compassion for their unexpected dilemma and to “be very careful—things may look better than they are.”

As such, he said, “begin from the beginning. Be sure to get x-rays, document, diagnose, and plan,” and make necessary referrals: “Good dentists and orthodontists know what to do with the right information.”

About the Author

Elizabeth S. Leaver | Digital content manager

Elizabeth S. Leaver was the digital content manager for Endeavor Business Media's dental group from 2021-2024. She has a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston and many years of experience working in niche industries specializing in creating content, editing, content marketing, and publishing digital and magazine content. She lives in the Boston area.