NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- SmileDirectClub, the leader in consumer access to teledentistry for straight teeth and healthy smiles, is fighting back after becoming a target of a well-funded lobbying and public relations effort by the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), the largest orthodontist industry group, which is seeking to shut down pioneers of innovative, affordable teledentistry services.
"If industry lobbyists have their way, millions of Americans will be denied access to a healthy smile through teledentistry," said Alex Fenkell, co-founder of SmileDirectClub. "It's important that we stand up for those who, without SmileDirectClub, would not have access to an affordable new smile."
Affordable and Accessible Care is at Stake
By its own statistics, the AAO recognizes that only 1 percent of the population receives orthodontic treatment each year and that nearly 80 percent of the population could benefit from orthodontic treatment. Cost is the biggest barrier for potential consumers, one that has been removed by SmileDirectClub through doctor directed, remotely delivered clear aligner treatment.
SmileDirectClub's market research shows that the vast majority of people are not able to afford the $4,000-8,000 and numerous days off of work and/or school required for traditional orthodontic treatment. According to the company, AAO members and other orthodontists effectively refuse to treat the overwhelming majority of Americans, but also want to prevent anyone else from doing so. "This is much like taxi drivers redlining less affluent neighborhoods while also trying to block Lyft and Uber from providing affordable, convenient service," said Mr. Fenkell.
Industry Efforts to Block Consumer Access
Instead of embracing the power of new technology to enhance customer experience and the success of their business models, some doctors and membership organizations are trying to impose outdated and unaffordable models on consumers. In a recent example, a Buzzfeed article about SmileDirectClub featured a misleading video posted by an AAO doctor unhappy with the teledentistry model. It has since been removed due to its egregious content.
According to Jordan Katzman, co-founder of SmileDirectClub, this is a typical reaction to disruptive innovations by established doctors regardless of their medical specialty, "In hearing aids, contact lenses or dialysis supplies, entrenched providers react badly in defense of their wallets when confronted by innovators who enhance access to care, streamline delivery and decrease patient costs."
The current AAO effort is not the organization's first public attack on clear aligner treatment. When Invisalign launched in 1999, many orthodontists were vocally opposed and claimed that it was not possible to render "quality treatment" without braces. Now, nearly two decades later, Invisalign is the gold standard and considered the domain of orthodontists. "It's the same story – today's medical heresy becomes the accepted standard in 5, 10 or 15 years," said Mr. Katzman.
In another misguided anti-consumer campaign, the South Carolina and the North Carolina Boards of Dentistry several years ago decided to "protect the public" from tooth whitening performed outside a dentist's office. Today it is well recognized that there is no danger in such procedures and that there was obvious collusion among dentists trying to protect their monopoly, which was contested by the FTC and denied by the US Supreme Court.
"I am saddened that organized orthodontics would limit a consumer's access to a beautiful smile and in doing so disregard their patients' autonomous decision-making and right to self-determination. This goes against the American Association of Orthodontists own Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct," states Dr. Marc Ackerman, an orthodontist, former Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School and author of Enhancement Orthodontics.
SmileDirectClub was founded on July 16, 2014 on a simple belief: everyone deserves a smile they love. SmileDirectClub is the first digital brand for straightening your smile, created after the realization that recent trends in 3D printing and telehealth could bring about disruptive change to the invisible aligner market by matching licensed professionals, a quality clear-aligner product, and customers together. By leveraging proprietary, cutting-edge technology, SmileDirectClub affiliated dentists are providing greater access of care to consumers who couldn't otherwise afford orthodontic treatment to get a better smile. SmileDirectClub is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and has dentists that are licensed in the significant majority of the states using its platform. In July 2016 Align Technology (NASDAQ: ALGN), owner of Invisalign, entered into a supply agreement with SmileDirectClub, acquired a 19% stake in SmileDirectClub and gained a seat on its Board.