SmileDirectClub to compete with Invisalign by selling aligners to dentists, orthodontists – USA TODAY
The options for getting your teeth straightened through a dentist or orthodontist just expanded.
As the nation’s boom in clear aligners continues, teeth straightening company SmileDirectClub announced Tuesday that it will compete directly with rival Align Technology, which owns Invisalign, by starting to sell its aligners to dentists and orthodontists. The treatment usually takes about five to 10 months with costs starting at $1,895.
SmileDirectClub, which went public in September, had previously sold its braces alternative only directly to patients online and through outlets like CVS stores. Its model has come under fire from orthodontists who say that an on-site doctor should oversee a patient’s progress. SmileDirectClub says its treatment, which is typically thousands of dollars cheaper than braces, is safe and allows more people to afford teeth straightening.
Invisalign had largely cornered the market of selling removable aligners to patients through dentists and orthodontists, who then administer and monitor the treatment plan. Invisalign has not sold its products directly to consumers.
Clear aligners are an increasingly popular alternative to metal-wire braces because they can be temporarily removed for eating and drinking.
As SmileDirectClub begins partnering with orthodontists and dentists, the price won’t increase in the “initial pilot program,” said SmileDirectClub spokesperson Kirby Franzese.
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The company’s announcement follows the Dec. 31 expiration of what amounted to a non-compete agreement between Align and SmileDirectClub. That deal included an exclusive supply agreement in which Align made aligners for SmileDirectClub, but the companies agreed not to infringe on each other’s territory.
The companies have sparred before over their arrangement, with Align being forced to shut down a dozen newly opened stores last year after losing an arbitration case.
With their deal over, any semblance of a detente between the two companies is history.
SmileDirectClub will also continue to sell its products directly to customers through what it calls teledentistry, in which patients send a series of photos of their teeth to remote doctors who monitor progress and can adjust the treatment plan accordingly.
“We have seen increasing demand from the dentists and orthodontists in our network who wish to provide SmileDirectClub clear aligners to their in-office patients,” SmileDirectClub co-founder Alex Fenkell said in a statement.
SmileDirectClub’s stock jumped 13% to $11.53 at 2:16 p.m. Tuesday. Align’s stock fell 2.8% to $289.61.
Align said having treated more than 7.5 million patients with Invisalign makes its service “unrivaled” and has ”helped us create a global brand that millions of consumers and thousands of doctors ask for by name.”
“As the company that virtually invented the clear aligner business more than 20 years ago, Align Technology has seen its fair share of competition in the marketplace,” it said.
SmileDirectClub aligners can typically straighten mildly crooked teeth. Invisalign aligners can handle more complex cases because they are often paired with attachments to the teeth.
It was not immediately clear whether SmileDirectClub is aiming to treat more complex cases through its new partnership with on-site dentists and orthodontists.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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January 14, 2020 at 02:57PM