SmileDirectClub Threatens Dentists for Criticism

November 22, 2017 4:25 pm Published by

Dentists should read this article about SmileDirectClub, aka Smile Direct Club. It is a potential concern for patients, First Amendment rights and the orthodontic profession.

What is SmileDirectClub, aka Smile Direct Club

Since its launch in 2014, Nashville-based SmileDirectClub has promised a cheaper alternative to braces, without the hassle of visiting a dentist. The service allows customers to make bite casts at home, which then get reviewed by a dentist online who approves a series of aligners that SmileDirect will deliver by mail to a customer’s doorstep.

SmileDirectClub sent cease-and-desist letters to at least two dentists in October, threatening a lawsuit if they did not remove YouTube videos they had posted critiquing the company’s plastic teeth “aligners.” On Oct. 23, it sued a large group of New York and New Jersey orthodontists for a similar video, and three days later, it filed suit against the Michigan affiliate of the American Dental Association over four paragraphs that the nonprofit published about the company in its monthly journal. The intensity of SmileDirect’s legal campaign is notable, experts say. “It’s pretty aggressive,” Gabriel Nugent, a law partner at Barclay Damon LLP in New York, told BuzzFeed News.

Legal Filings regarding SmileDirectClub

In April, the American Association of Orthodontists filed complaints in 36 states alleging that SmileDirect was breaking laws governing the practice of dentistry. Meanwhile, as the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) waits for state dental boards to act on its complaints about SmileDirect, the group is hoping to also get the attention of the federal government.

In mid-October, the AAO filed a complaint with the FDA alleging that SmileDirectClub is flouting the terms of its registration with the agency. Although its aligners and retainers do not need to be approved for sale by the FDA, the company is required to give the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health a description of how the products will be used.

Legal experts say the FDA complaint will hinge on the precise role of the dentists affiliated with SmileDirectClub. In its statement to BuzzFeed News, the company said that a state-licensed dentist or orthodontist reviews every customer’s treatment plan, and checks on their progress — by reviewing “extra oral photos and patient comments” — every 90 days. “Patients are able to speak with their treating dentist/orthodontist if requested,” the spokesperson said.

The American Dental Association discourages DIY orthodontics

Dentists should read the position statement from the ADA. The ADA “strongly discourages” the practice of do-it-yourself orthodontics because of the potential for harm to patients, according to a new policy passed by the 2017 ADA House of Delegates.

The resolution states that the Association “believes that supervision by a licensed dentist is necessary for all phase of orthodontic treatment including oral examinations, periodontal examinations, radiographic examinations, study models of scans of the mouth, treatment planning and prescriptions, periodic progress assessments and final assessments with stabilizing measures.”


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This post was written by Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman