Business » Corporate

How SmileDirectClub is Making Orthodontics Accessible & Affordable

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jun 1, 2018

Gone are the days of a mouthful of metal brackets, elastic bands, and foodstuff stuck in your teeth. SmileDirectClub's invisible aligners offer a low-maintenance opportunity to obtain the perfect smile by combining 21st-century technology with a passionately conceived business model from co-founders Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman.

EDGE had the opportunity to chat with Fenkell about how SmileDirectClub is innovatively redefining the orthodontics industry and some surprising benefits in choosing invisible aligners.

What was your inspiration for launching SmileDirectClub?

Jordan and I, after being friends and business partners for years, started thinking about what pain points we could solve for. We remembered meeting at summer camp when we were full metal-mouths and how that felt. We truly founded SmileDirectClub on the idea that everyone should have access to a smile they'll love.

Research shows that the majority of people who need orthodontic care aren't able to afford it. In fact, nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population could benefit from orthodontic treatment, but only 1 percent actually receives it each year. Cost is the most significant barrier for most patients. So, we created SmileDirectClub as an affordable, convenient teeth straightening option for customers needing orthodontic care.

We work with a network of 225 affiliated, licensed dentists and orthodontists through a teledentistry model. Teledentistry allows dental professionals to provide invisible aligner therapy to patients remotely, eliminating much of the overhead that makes traditional solutions so costly, while still providing quality care.

What kind of research did you and your business partner Jordan Katzman do to evaluate the feasibility of launching an at-home, subscription-based orthodontic solution? And did you discover any surprises regarding evolutions in the industry?

As someone who wore braces when I was younger, I began to recognize the need for a more convenient teeth-straightening solution in my adult years. Once we learned more about the industry, Jordan and I quickly became aware of the gap between those in the U.S. who need orthodontic treatment and those who actually have the time, funds, and resources to get it.

We realized there was an opportunity to make quality orthodontic care available to the people who really need it, so we teamed up with an orthodontist who brought his expertise in technology and clinical care to make SmileDirectClub come to life.

Why are SmileDirectClub's SmileShops a good option for customers wanting to get started?

One of the things that makes SmileDirectClub unique is that we have located across the U.S. where customers can get started on their smile journey. During the 30-minute SmileShop visit, a SmileGuide takes a 3D scan of the customer's smile using innovative technology that takes 6,000 images of their teeth per second.

The scan is then uploaded into our system, where an affiliated, state-licensed dentist or orthodontist uses it to build the customer's custom smile plan. SmileShops are bright, modern boutique spaces -- a far cry from dreary office settings customers might associate with orthodontics.

SmileShops are an excellent option for customers who would rather visit a physical SmileDirectClub location than complete impressions using an at-home impression kit, but either option will kick-start their journey toward a smile they'll love. SmileDirectClub currently has more than 80 SmileShops located across the U.S. and plans to open at least 40 more by the end of 2018. Having locations in so many cities across the country allows us to increase access to quality care even more.

How is SmileDirectClub changing the orthodontic industry?

Founded in 2014, SmileDirectClub pioneered teledentistry and brought never-before-seen innovation to the orthodontic industry. Now, just four years later, SmileDirectClub represents more than 90 percent of the doctor-directed, at-home invisible aligner market.

Through the teledentistry model, we have helped our network of more than 225 licensed dentists and orthodontists provide more than 200,000 of their patients with straighter, brighter smiles. We've revolutionized an industry that hadn't seen a significant change in centuries by creating a model that allows customers to receive needed dental care conveniently, quickly, and affordably.

Are there any other benefits from invisible aligners besides beautifully straightened teeth?

Based on a customer survey conducted in October 2017, there are a number of additional benefits of invisible aligners that many may find surprising. Many people say they snack less often when they're straightening their teeth with invisible aligners, and they also quit other bad habits, too, like smoking, nail-biting, and gum chewing.

More than half of our customers reported improved dental hygiene after starting invisible aligner treatment. Most impressive of all, 15 percent of customers who completed their SmileDirectClub plans said they lost weight during treatment -- an average of 7 pounds!

How do you see SmileDirectClub growing in the future? Are there other ancillary products or services that might become part of your offerings?

We are committed to increasing access to care and making it easier for people to get a smile they love at a price they can afford. We're very excited for what is coming next for SmileDirectClub -- stay tuned!

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Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Senior Editor of Travel, Lifestyle, Health & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.


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