SmileDirectClub abruptly closing global operations, abandoning customers mid-treatment

With SmileDirectClub shuttering operations immediately, California dentists should prepare for influx of patients needing orthodontic treatment

December 14, 2023
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Quick Summary:
In the aftermath of SmileDirectClub’s abrupt closure in early December, dentists may experience an uptick in patients needing orthodontic treatment. CDA has published frequently asked questions to help members manage anticipated questions and concerns from past SmileDirectClub customers.

On Dec. 8, SmileDirectClub announced to its customers through its website that it would be shutting down operations after filing for bankruptcy in September.

In its official statement, SmileDirectClub expressed regret for the inconvenience caused by its immediate global shutdown and encouraged customers to seek guidance from local dentists for future orthodontic treatment.

While it is unknown how many California customers the direct-to-consumer orthodontic company had, SmileDirectClub claims to have served over 2 million customers worldwide. With the company’s sudden closure this month, dentists throughout the state will likely be approached by SmileDirectClub customers for a variety of reasons including incomplete treatment plans, maintenance of completed treatment plans or corrective treatment. 

CDA was proud to support successful legislation in 2019 that addressed the proliferation of direct-to- consumer orthodontic companies by establishing fundamental consumer protections for patients receiving care through teledentistry. Assembly Bill 1519 (1)  added transparency requirements for dentists to disclose basic identifying information prior to treatment, (2) preserved patients’ ability to report problematic care to the dental board rather than being held hostage by non-disclosure agreements and (3) created explicit parity in the standard of care for patients undergoing orthodontic care, including reviewing recent X-rays. 

CDA’s frequently asked questions addressing treatment concerns 

CDA is disturbed by SmileDirectClub’s announcement of abrupt shutdown, which raises concerns about potential patient abandonment and serious financial implications for patients. CDA has created this FAQ to address the most pressing concerns of SmileDirectClub customers who are navigating the future of their dental treatment as your new and prospective patients. 

Q: How can I receive a refund for care if I am either unsatisfied with my orthodontic care or was unable to complete my treatment plan?

It is currently unknown how a refund process will work. SmileDirectClub stated it will provide more information as the bankruptcy proceedings unfold.

Q: What are the risks of failing to continue payments on my SmilePay Plan?

Failure to continue payments per your original treatment payment plan may have consequences, including legal action and potential damage to your credit score. SmileDirectClub has directed customers to contact Healthcare Finance Direct (HFD) at 877.874.3877 or [email protected] with any questions.

Q: What should I do if I am unable to contact my SmileDirectClub dentist or believe I received substandard care?

Any dentist providing care to a person residing in California must be licensed by the Dental Board of California, regardless of where the dentist is physically located. If you believed you were abandoned or received substandard care, you can file a complaint with the Dental Board of California for further investigation.

Q: How can I find a local dentist or orthodontist to continue my orthodontic treatment?

You can use CDA’s Find a Dentist directory and Medi-Cal’s Smile, California directory or you can contact your community’s local dental society for help locating a new dentist in your area. It is crucial to choose a dentist who can provide or facilitate both emergent and ongoing care. This ensures that your dental health is consistently monitored and any issues can be addressed promptly to prevent complications in the long run. With the collapse of the SmileDirectClub platform, your local dentist or orthodontist will likely need to restart your treatment. 

Q: How can I get a copy of my dental records for future treatment?

California law requires that a treating dentist provide their contact information to all patients and mandates that patients receive a copy of their dental records if requested. Customers can contact SmileDirectClub and their treating dentist to request a copy of those records. In addition to contacting SmileDirectClub directly, look at any past communications or packaging on aligners you received that might have the name, license number or other contact information about your treating dentist to request dental records directly from the provider. It is unclear if SmileDirectClub has established a process for customers to request and receive their health records. The inability to receive records should not prevent customers from seeking the care of a dentist for corrective or continued treatment.

Q: How can I stay informed about updates and developments in this situation, including participating in collective legal action?

Due to the terms established by SmileDirectClub, it is likely that any collective action will be pursued via mass arbitration by affected customers. You should regularly check SmileDirectClub’s website for updates. Additionally, consider joining relevant online forums or communities where affected individuals may share information and experiences. CDA will continue to share in the newsroom any major developments in how the winding down of SmileDirectClub’s operations impacts customers. 

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