Smile Direct Club dentistry aligners firm shuts down


Smile Direct Club, the clear aligners dentistry company, has ceased operations months after filing for bankruptcy in the United States, leaving some customers bewildered and stranded mid-treatment.

Best known for remotely selling clear aligners, the company stated that it had made the “incredibly difficult decision” to wind down operations late on Friday.

The US-based dentistry company was offering aligners for about £1,800 without the need to visit a dentist.

A last-ditch rescue attempt failed, burdened by debt.

Founded in 2014, the orthodontics company positioned itself as a disruptor to the traditional dental industry.

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In conventional dentistry, braces and clear aligners are fitted by dentists or orthodontists after an in-person consultation. Smile Direct Club appealed to customers with its lower price point and the ability to take their aligner molds at home.

Treatment with the company typically takes four to six months, with online check-ins with registered dentists.

In a statement on its website, the company claims to have “improved more than two million smiles and lives.”

However, customers in the US, UK, and elsewhere are left confused, as the firm announced that its customer support line would no longer be available, despite ongoing treatment needs.

The company suggests that those wanting to continue treatment should contact a local dentist.

It has also upset some customers by stating that the previously offered “lifetime smile guarantee” is no longer valid, and those with payment plans are expected to continue making payments.

More information on refunds will be provided as the bankruptcy process continues and “next steps” are determined.

On Facebook, users questioned what to do about their treatment and complained about recent payments.

One wrote, “Disgusting how we have all been treated… I only just signed up for my aligners, made my first payment and now I won’t even be receiving my braces.”

Another said his wife had paid for her treatment in full and needs a new retainer, but she is now unsure whether she will receive it at all.

On Instagram, another customer questioned: “I did six months [of] treatment – and now what? I can’t finish?… This is heart-breaking.”

In the statement on its website, Smile Direct Club apologized for the inconvenience caused.

The firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US in late September, delaying obligations to creditors. However, a last-ditch rescue deal failed on Friday.

Attorney Spencer Winters told a judge in bankruptcy court that a deal for its founders to provide fresh funds and buy Smile Direct Club out of bankruptcy had not come through after it could not get its most important lender to agree.

“We pushed very, very hard this week, and it just didn’t come together,” he said.

It had once been valued at as much as $8.9 billion (£7 billion) but failed to turn a profit and had nearly $900 million worth of debt at the time it filed for bankruptcy, according to Fortune magazine.

The firm, boosted by selfies and positive reviews online, had also faced issues with patent clashes and dentists’ concerns ranging from aligners fitting poorly to claims of permanent nerve damage and tooth loss.

It vigorously defended its practices throughout and consistently stated that customers’ treatments are reviewed by licensed professionals, while risks were listed as well.