Truth in Advertising (TINA.org) listed its concerns with claims made by Smile Direct Club (SDC) in its advertising and on its website. In an article that was updated on July 3, TINA.org primarily focused on two claims.
First, SDC states its service is “three times faster than braces.” They claim their average case takes six months, which means that traditional orthodontics would take 18 months. It isn’t appropriate to make claims about how long orthodontic treatment will take because every case is different. The American Association of Orthodontics correctly addresses this on their website. Direct-to-consumer aligners, doctor-supervised aligners, and traditional braces are significantly different treatment modalities, with different abilities to correct malocclusions and cosmetically straighten teeth. Making a claim that one is faster than another is misleading.
Second, TINA.org investigated SDC’s claim that their system is designed for “minor to moderate teeth correction . . . ” When a TINA.org rep filled out SDC’s online questionnaire pretending to be a patient with severe crowding, the person was told he was “a great candidate” for SDC’s aligners. Since the original publication of TINA.org’s article, SDC has changed its online questionnaire so that the “extreme” category is now called “moderate +.”
I applaud TINA.org for attempting to hold SDC accountable for its advertising claims, but of course there are several other concerns with direct-to-consumer orthodontics. A recent article on Yahoo Finance provides a comprehensive summary of the legal, ethical, and patient safety issues that have yet to be addressed.
We must continue to advocate for patients and for safe and effective orthodontic therapy. If you know of a patient who has been harmed by direct-to-consumer aligners, please encourage the person to file an individual complaint on the FDA’s MedWatch Voluntary Reporting Form.
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