Online Dental Work? AL Officials Don’t Smile, Get Sued

Alabama is one of only two states whose dental boards have challenged SmileDirectClub, the fast-growing e-commerce upstart that sells tooth-straightening procedures by way of the internet.

Dental boards in Alabama and Georgia are taking steps to bar the company from a key component of its business plan — scanning a patient’s teeth without a dentist present, according to a story published by Bloomberg on August 22.

Both boards have been sued by SmileDirectClub, says Bloomberg. “This spring, federal judges in both cases dismissed many of the company’s claims, though they allowed others to proceed. SmileDirect is appealing the orders.”

Business Alabama was unable to immediately contact anyone authorized to comment at the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama, in Birmingham, but expects a call back and an update.

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SmileDirectClub’s dental scans are made at retail shops, “SmileShops,” and sent for analysis to a dentist licensed in the customer’s state. If the dentist gives the ok for treatment based on the scan, his recommendation is sent to SmileDirect, which makes a set of aligners for the buyer. Costs average about 60 percent less than traditional orthodontics, says Bloomberg.

In two years, SmileDirect has established 342 retail locations in the U.S. and in Canada, including 94 kiosks located in CVS stores, reports Bloomberg.

Co-founder Alex Fenkell told Bloomberg he was inspired to pinpoint “the next multibillion-dollar industry that we could disrupt, one which had that medically regulated component.”

SmileDirectClub filed for an initial public offering on August 16.

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