Is Smile Direct Club Dangerous? | A Dentist’s Opinion

“I keep seeing advertisements from Smile Direct Club. It looks like an awesome product! Does it actually work? Should I trust it?”

The quick answer is: sometimes, but be careful. I believe it is a great product to correct minor crowding of the lower front teeth. Anything more advanced I would not recommend. But, be aware, using an aligner to straighten your teeth without a dentist’s supervision could cause more harm than good. The best thing is to consult with your local dentist first. Or just call me.

Smile Direct Club (SDC)

is a company that provides a clear aligner to straighten your teeth. They are a business and like any business the goal is a financially positive outcome. Their model is to provide straight teeth without the look of braces AND at a reduced cost.

Straight teeth without the look of braces has been dominated by another company titled Invisalign.

They have treated over 2 million people! They are the gold standard in this field.  So what is the difference between them and SDC? From the consumer the only apparent difference between them and SDC is that SDC is a fraction of the cost.

How can two companies providing the same product have such a difference on price?

The difference is the doctor. SDC utilizes virtual doctors to analyze the teeth as opposed to a doctor actually seeing the patient. So is having the hands on doctor worth the price difference? My answer is….yes most of the time

 Now, I am biased, but typically the answer is yes; Not always though. You have to understand the risk and reward and make your own decision.

Having a dentist manage your case with Invisalign eliminates many risk factors. SDC is actually going through a few lawsuits due to poor outcomes. If you have gum disease, cavities, or TMJ disorder then moving the teeth could cause more harm than good.  Also, some people’s teeth move faster or slower than others. With SDC they are guessing how fast your teeth will move. If they move them too fast or too far then this could cause damage to the bone holding the teeth in.

Something to note: Invisalign has recently come out with a program that offers discounted treatment for patients who need retreatment after failed treatment using “do it yourself” aligners (this includes SDC). This shows there is an issue with poor treatment outcomes using do it yourself aligners.

Some dentists, including myself and Dr. Sebastien Murphy, have created our own systems to straighten teeth using clear aligners without having to use either company. This way the dentist does not have to pay the high cost to use the Invisalign products and therefore saves the patient money.  Second, it still has a hands-on dentist guiding the treatment. These treatments are only recommended for minor tooth movements but could be an alternative to Smile Direct Club and you could still have the dentist managing the case.

I would like to last leave some information released by the American Dental Association:

“The ADA filed a citizens petition with the US Food and Drug Administration stating that Smile Direct Club is placing the public at risk by knowingly evading the FDA’s ‘prescription only’ restriction. That the agency has placed on teeth aligning materials.

– ADA President Dr Jeffery Cole states,

“Orthodontic treatment, if not done properly, could lead to potential bone loss, teeth loss, receding gums, bite problems, jaw pain and other issues.”

In summary, there are two sides to every opinion. Smile Direct Club is innovative. It has created a product to straighten teeth at a lower cost. I personally respect this capitalistic business plan. I want to emphasize my concern that patients need to be aware of what exactly they are purchasing and the risks involved. This is not just a product.

It is a medical treatment.

Happy Slacking,

Kane Sears DMD

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