SmileDirectClub (SDC) has been enjoying a good 2020. The stock price is up 85% year-to-date. New oral care products are entering 3,800 Walmart stores amid a new exclusive deal.
Then came NBC News.
The news organization released an investigative report on Thursday night looking at customer complaints from using SmileDirectClub’s clear aligners. Shares of SmileDirectClub fell 3% in pre-market trading Friday, as investors worry over how the report will shape customer perception of the upstart teledentistry brand.
SmileDirectClub responded to the NBC News report via a statement to Yahoo Finance:
“We are disappointed that though we provided NBC with the opportunity to obtain all relevant facts as to the safety and efficacy of teledentistry for the provision of clear aligner therapy, NBC failed to provide its viewers with a balanced and fair news story reflecting those facts. The piece misrepresents SmileDirectClub and the quality of care provided by the over 250 state-licensed dentists and orthodontists across the country who use our platform to treat their patients.
We are surprised by the journalist’s blatant disregard for the facts and failure to include all of the accurate information we provided. Notably, the almost five-minute report and online story does not include one interview or statement from the more than 750,000 satisfied customers who have used our products to improve their lives, nor does it include a single interview with any of the hundreds of dentists who have publicly supported our technology.
In fact, though NBC conducted interviews with these doctors and customers under the guise of providing a fair and balanced story, their statements were not included or referenced in this story. SmileDirectClub made customers, doctors and team members available for hours of in-person interviews, phone calls and email correspondence. The Company provided a tremendous amount of critical information that would have allowed NBC to report a more accurate and balanced story. NBC owes it to its viewers and the public to correct these errors immediately:
Just like other telemedicine platforms, SmileDirectClub customers interact with their treating dentists or orthodontists via our med tech platform. Each patient’s treatment is supervised by a state licensed dentist or orthodontist from start to finish, including the patients interviewed by NBC. Our SmileShops and those employed at our SmileShops are not engaged in the practice of dentistry; they simply provide a convenient option for gathering information from customers for subsequent review by one of the more than 250 state-licensed dentists and orthodontists in our affiliated network. Each case is reviewed and approved, where appropriate, by the treating doctor, who is available to connect directly with customers at any time before, during and after treatment. With over 350 SmileShops staffed by over 1,000 team members, across the country, the fact that NBC was able to find one or two SmileDirectClub team members who failed to follow SmileDirectClub protocols in informing customers of the importance and requirement of seeing their regular dentist before commencing treatment, is not surprising. In a company our size and given our tremendous and rapid growth, this can be expected and is something we work to correct every day. Dentists are an integral part of our business model and we take our commitment to oral care seriously.
NBC was provided the opportunity to connect with customers who either had no concerns with their treatment through the SmileDirectClub platform, or who did and were able to resolve their issues with their treating doctor. NBC also conducted interviews with SmileDirectClub’s Chief Clinical Officer and a dentist who treats patients through our med tech platform. NBC neglected to provide its viewers with any of the personal experiences provided by these customers or commentary delivered by these medical experts on the safety of remote clear aligner therapy.
SmileDirectClub has successfully serviced more than 750,000 customers through our network and platform. Less than 1% of these customers have had any clinical concerns during treatment, a statistic that is lower than the dissatisfaction recorded from patients of traditional orthodontics. SmileDirectClub provided these statistics to NBC, but NBC failed to provide that information to its viewers.
There is no investigation into SmileDirectClub by the Federal Drug Administration or the FTC, and SmileDirectClub is in full compliance with FDA regulations, including its 510K manufacturing certification. The letter referenced from members of Congress to the FDA is based on misinformation originated by dental trade organizations and is nothing more than the latest in a series of anti-competitive publicity tactics designed to attempt to limit our success, which is a direct threat to traditional orthodontia. Of the nine congressmen who signed this letter, five are dentists, an interest that should be noted by an organization such as NBC Nightly News
When customers request a refund outside of our published refund policy, we ask that they sign a general release that contains a confidentiality provision, similar to the recommendations set forth by the American Association of Orthodontists and standard business practice.
Lastly, the reporter mischaracterized the California law despite us correcting her as to what it requires during our interviews. The California law states that dentists should review the “…patient’s most recent diagnostic digital or conventional radiographs or other equivalent bone imaging suitable for orthodontia. New radiographs or other equivalent bone imaging shall be ordered if deemed appropriate by the treating dentist.” The doctors who use our platform are required to comply with the laws in every state in which they practice when using our platform, including the laws of the State of California. While SmileDirectClub disagrees that the legislature should be setting clinical standards, we ensure that our model requires compliance with all laws.”
Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Watch The First Trade each day here at 9:00 a.m. ET or on Verizon FIOS channel 604. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.