Invisalign’s relationship with SmileDirectClub
Though Align Technology should be commended for creating a successful and responsible direct-to-consumer marketing campaign that has increased demand for orthodontic services, there have been some recent news items that have clouded an otherwise sunny picture.
Align Technology, the company behind Invisalign, has had a record year of growth and profits. There are reports of increased interest from patients (especially teens) and more dentists becoming Invisalign providers, thus we’ve seen the company forge ahead as an S&P leader in 2017. Align Technology should be commended for creating a successful and responsible direct-to-consumer marketing campaign that has increased demand for orthodontic services. However, there have been some recent news items that have clouded an otherwise sunny picture.
Last year Align Technology bought 19% of SmileDirectClub and agreed to become their chief manufacturer. In case you’re not familiar with SDC, they’re an at-home orthodontic supplier. Customers take their own impressions and photos, sign a pledge that they’ve seen a dentist for routine care, and they then receive aligners in the mail. The orthodontic movements are approved by dentists remotely and are unable to use techniques such as interproximal reduction or composite attachments.
Now I have to be very careful here because SmileDirectClub is already suing the Michigan Dental Association over a published journal article that they felt was libelous. They have also attacked the American Association of Orthodontists for attempting to “limit a consumer’s access to a beautiful smile.” Even individual dentists who have publicly raised concerns have been threatened with legal action by SDC. So, I’ll just state for now that dentists do have concerns about the care potentially provided by DIY dentistry.
My real point here is that Align Technology should be careful about how SDC engages the dental community. We’re all interested in bringing affordable, quality dentistry to the masses. Dentists and dental technology companies should work together to disrupt the status quo. This does not have to be an antagonistic relationship.
For example, patients can receive whitening services from my office or they can buy whitening products from their local drugstore. I have no problem with that. Proctor and Gamble was able to market Crest Whitestrips direct to consumers without attacking dentists. I think SmileDirectClub should follow their example. I hope Align Technology can help their partner find a more peaceful path to prosperity.
Note: When asked for comment, an Invisalign representative stated, “ . . . we are not involved in [SDC’s] actions relative to individual doctors or groups.”