Billionaire founders’ firm begins rapid UK expansion
Start-up plans to employ more than 300 dentists, orthodontists and dental nurses
News of the British Orthodontic Society and Oral Health Foundation campaign came just two weeks after the leading direct-to-consumer orthodontics company, SmileDirectClub, floated on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
The Nashville-based company priced its shares at $23 each, implying a market capitalisation of $8.9bn, but they closed at $16.67, valuing the company at less than $6.5bn, though that was still twice the $3.2bn SmileDirectClub achieved in private markets. Although it reported a loss of $75m last year, revenues had almost tripled to $423m.
we are the industry pioneer and the first direct-to-consumer medtech platform for transforming smiles
Smile Direct Club
Floating on the stock exchange also made co-founders Alex Fenkell and Jordan Katzman billionaires.
According to the company’s website: “Everyone deserves a smile they love. We are the industry pioneer and the first direct-to-consumer medtech platform for transforming smiles. Through our cutting-edge teledentistry technology and vertically integrated model, we are revolutionising the oral care industry. The company’s regulatory filing to the Stock Exchange Commission ahead of its initial public offering describes the process by which someone can bypass seeing a clinician. “Our member journey starts with two convenient options,’ it says. “A member books an appointment to take a free, in-person 3D oral image at any of our over 300 SmileShops across the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia, and the UK, or orders an easy-to-use doctor prescribed impression kit online, which we mail directly to their door.
“Using the image or impression, we create a draft custom treatment plan that demonstrates how the member’s teeth will move during treatment. Next, via SmileCheck, a state licensed doctor within our network reviews and approves the member’s clinical information and treatment plan.
“If the member is a good candidate for clear aligners, the treating doctor then prescribes custom-made clear aligners, the member has the opportunity to review a 3D rendering of how their teeth will move over time and, if the member decides to purchase, we then manufacture and ship the aligners directly to the member. SmileCheck is also used by the treating doctor to monitor the member’s progress and enables seamless communication with the member over the course of treatment. Upon completion of treatment, a majority of our members purchase retainers every six months to prevent their teeth from relapsing to their original position.
“We also offer a growing suite of ancillary oral care products, such as whitening kits, to maintain a perfect smile,” it says. The company claims that “because of this innovative model” it is able to charge $1,895 for its services and “high-quality clear aligners versus the $5,000 to $8,000 that a dentist may charge”.
However, the company has faced pushback from the American Association of Orthodontists, which has claimed in complaints to state attorneys-general and dental boards that the service is “illegal and creates medical risks”. The company denies those suggestions.
SmileDirectClub launched in the UK in July at 16 locations, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is investing $380m in its UK operations and plans to employ more than 300 people, including dentists, orthodontists, and dental nurses.
According to a press release companying the launch, the company has “pioneered a unique teledentistry platform to connect customers with an affiliated network of UK-based registered dentists or orthodontists who direct all aspects of clinical care using SmileDirectClub’s platform.
“These licensed dentists and orthodontists customise each patient’s treatment plan and manage their patients’ care from initial diagnosis through the conclusion of treatment, monitoring care along the way with remote check-ins every 90 days to allow patients to avoid the hassle of scheduling frequent visits to a doctor’s office.” It says the clear aligners are “doctor-prescribed and custom-made from BPA-free plastic thermo-formed on to personalised 3D-printed mouth molds, powered by a ground-breaking fleet of industrial 3D printers.
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