Tele-Orthodontics… Too Good To Be True?
At first glance, ‘tele-orthodontics' might appear as a safe, convenient alternative for patients. A quick search online shows somewhat neutral to positive reviews. However, when you dig deeper, you realize this ‘too-good-to-be-true' option most certainly is for some consumers.
A recent article highlighted how a major tele-orthodontics producer is able to keep a positive online reputation. According to the New York Times article “This Company Says It Will Fix Your Smile. It May Shush You if It Doesn't.”. SmileDirectClub's refund agreement has unique requirements. They require their consumers receiving refunds to agree that they “will not make, publish, or communicate any statements or opinions that would disparage, create a negative impression of, or in any way be harmful to the business or business reputation of SDC or its affiliates or their respective employees, officers, directors, products, or services.”¹
After witnessing many of their patients being harmed by this ‘at-home' orthodontic appliance, both the ADA (dentists)² and the AAO (orthodontists)³ have expressed to the FDA and FTC the dangers in “misleading consumers” and “causing patient harm”. In November of 2019, the Dental Board of California completed a two-year investigation of the CCO of SmileDirect, Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer. The Board recommended revocation or suspension of Dr. Sulitzer's dental license for eight separate violations.
The FDA has received multiple injury reports, with more than 60 complaints filed in 2019 alone. The latest complaint states: “Patient treatment from Smile Direct Club without supervision of a dental professional. Movement of tooth #9 was done too quickly and resulted in killing the tooth. This would not have happened if the treatment use of a Class II medical device was overseen by a dental professional.” 
As they say, you cannot judge a book by its cover. Or, by todays standards, you cannot judge a product based on their effective marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, SmileDirectClub is still in operation and now has had more than 750,000 consumers.
1.https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/21/technology/smiledirectclub-smile-nda.html 2.https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Advocacy/Files/190627_ftc_smiledirect_nosig.pdf?la=en 3.https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1082153/Smile_Direct_Club_Letter_to_the_FDA_and_FTC.pdf 4.https://search.dca.ca.gov/details/4401/DDS/51841/d260ec1509b39dc102c0aad391b609b3 5.https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/medical-device-safety