SmileDirectClub is Pissed at NBC

Published on February 17, 2020

SmileDirectClub has been ruffling feathers ever since they’ve opened their doors. Dentists and orthodontists, in particular, are outraged by the idea of affordable, do-it-yourself braces. Most recently, NBC took aim at SmileDirectClub with an investigative report causing the company’s stock to drop significantly. Orthodontists everywhere, as a result, rejoiced. 

The NBC Report 

NBC ran a report questioning the safety of SmileDirectClub’s aligners. For those of you unaware, Smile Direct Club performs a skan of a patient’s teeth, weeks later sends a box of a dozen or so aligners, and it’s up to the responsible patient to stay on schedule and swap out aligners. Depending on which option the customer selects, they usually have to wear the aligners 22 hours a day to be effective. It’s a drag, but some days, like at a wedding or a night out at the bar, a consumer can keep them off longer. Only once in a while, though, to be safe. 

1,800 Complaints in Total 

After NBC ran their report, SmileDirectClub’s stock took a 16.3% nosedive. For $2,000, which is a third of the price of regular braces, customers can buy one of those boxes of aligners. One customer, in particular, had a very painful experience. The aligners left the customer with a messed up jaw and neck, causing serious migrances. Ultimately, she had to buy conventional braces. 

NBC added there’s been 1,800 complaints nationwide about SmileDirectClub, although mostly about their poor customer service, shipment delays, and broken aligners. All fair criticisms. When people do file complaints or request refunds, apparently the company asks customers to sign confidentiality agreements. Not a good look, SmileDirectClub.

Even worse, last month nine members of Congress asked the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company “to ensure that it is not misleading consumers or causing patient harm.” According to Dr. Chung Kau, who’s professor of orthodontics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the aligners could lead to “migraines, jaw joint problems, disintegration of your joints.” Like most orthodontics, Kau stresses the importance of tracking progress when teeth are shifting. 

Smile Direct Club’s Response

According to the company, they’ve been successful with over 750,000 cases. They claim cases-gone-wrong might’ve been patients not following all of their treatment instructions, which is probably true for some but not all complaints. SmileDirectClub’s head honcho has released a strongly worded letter, as corporations do, claiming the NBC report makes major omissions. The letter also questions the customers talked to for the piece. SmileDirectClub is demanding a retraction, but NBC spokesperson says they’re standing by the story. 

Needless to say, SmileDirectClub Chairman and CEO, David Katzman, isn’t pleased with the story:

NBC Nightly News ran an incredibly one-sided and distorted report on SmileDirectClub. Given the way in which it portrayed the company, I want to address this story directly. We cannot stand for one-sided, biased journalism that stems from a coordinated attack by trade organizations to limit our success. We also won’t stand by when efforts are being made to limit consumers’ ability to have a real alternative in getting a safe and affordable smile they deserve. 

SmileDirectClub hasn’t decided whether to pursue legal action against NBC yet. 

Speaking From Personal Experience 

SmileDirectClub doesn’t work for everybody, but speaking for myself, it worked like gangbusters. Exactly what was paid for and promised and on schedule. It is a great option for most people looking to fix their crooked teeth without paying an arm and a leg. Yes, it’s still pricey, but the payment plans are fantastic. The only downside is occasional discomfort and, yes, the aligners can drive patients nuts some days. When they come off, however, what a glorious feeling. 

One of SmileDirectClub’s mottos is buying confidence, and that’s a part of what they’re selling. Everyone who’s had a successful experiences with SmileDirectClub smiles brighter and feels better as a result. For most people who’ve tried it, it’s been successful, but as the NBC report uncovers, it doesn’t work for everybody. Take caution, hope for the best, and maybe expect the worst. Personally, it was a life-changing experience signing up for SmileDirectClub, but look no further than the company’s Instagram page to see a lot of unhappy customers.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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