Smile Direct Club has made the “"incredibly difficult decision" to shut down months after filing for bankruptcy in the US, which has left customers in the lurch mid treatment.
The company styled itself as a disruptor to the bricks-and-mortar dental industry (surely there was a better dentist pun available -brace yourself for the newsroom’s offerings) offered aligners for sale to customers without the need to visit a dentist in person.
With appointments as rare as hen’s teeth and many people afraid of visiting a dentist, this seemed a business plan full of wisdom. Treatment via Smile Direct Club typically took four to six months with customers completing a mould at home whilst also having online consultations with registered dentists.
The decision to stop (ful)filling orders was made late on Friday after a last-ditch rescue attempt failed, with the root cause of failure being the reported debts of $900m. The company had once been valued at as much as $8.9bn (£7bn), but failed to turn a profit according to Fortune magazine.
Attorney Spencer Winters told a judge in a US 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.
However, customers in the US, UK and elsewhere are angered as Smile Direct have reneged on their “lifetime smile guarantee” and trying to brush matters under the carpet by advising customers wish to carry on with their treatment, they should get in touch with a local dentist.
Meanwhile, the British Dental Association (BDA) said that it had raised concerns about the company with regulators. "Dentists are left to pick up the pieces when these providers offer wholly inappropriate treatment," said BDA chair Eddie Crouch. "It shouldn't take a bankruptcy to protect patients from harm. It requires decent laws and effective regulation."