Who’s Smiling Now? Smile Direct Club Files for Bankruptcy

Dec 28, 2023 | Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

There’s nothing better than a smile.

Really. When you think about it, what’s better? What’s more positively contagious? When someone smiles at you, it’s tough not to smile back (unless they are trying to sell you a car). Even when you are in a bad mood, someone else’s smile can lift you up. It’s an incredible thing.


With most things in life, there is a big “but.” The above scenario addresses the confident smile – the one that people are excited to display to others. There’s another scenario. The one where the one smiled at, or the one doing the smiling, lacks confidence because they are insecure about their dental prowess – or lack thereof.

All kinds of studies have shown that smile insecurity has an effect on mental health. A quick internet search will show how the lack of confidence in one’s smile can cause issues like social anxiety, which in turn can cause depression and anxiety.

On the flip side, any dental website will extoll the virtues of a smile that is considered “attractive” by our current standards. When someone flashes those pearly whites and they feel good about them, they exude confidence from the inside out. Your dentist will tell you how this increases mood, and how it may even elevate your social standing.

We can see that there is a lot associated with a smile, both for the good and for the bad. As with anything that can boost confidence and affect your social standing, we run into the “keeping up with the Joneses” effect. Let’s see what this does to our ideas about what we do to our teeth.

In this time of so called, “body positivity,” there’s has been an unstated but glaringly obvious move towards something that could be viewed as “face negativity.” To be sure, body positivity at its core is a positive thing. The pressure to conform to unattainable, physical standards that used to be promoted in magazines and that is now promoted through influencers, leads to things like, anorexia, bulimia, and even suicide. Our idols present an image of themselves that is impossible for anyone to attain, considering that the idols themselves are incapable of doing so. The use of filters, lighting, clothing, makeup, poses and the like create an artificial image of themselves that the impressionable among us are unable to comprehend as a false reality.

The outgrowth of this has led us in the direction of “face negativity.” There has been an obvious shift towards the use of heavier makeup and medical aesthetics like botox to make our faces look in person more like they do in a filtered, adulterated digital world. While we talk about the courage of people embracing body positivity, we simultaneously move away from accepting a natural view of one’s visage. When many used to starve themselves in hopes of having bodies that match those that they saw in magazines, we now inject our faces with toxic chemicals and spend countless hours coating our faces in heavy layers of makeup (many of which likely contain toxins as well), in hopes of obliterating the face with which we were born.

If we couple this “face negativity” with the power of one’s smile, it shouldn’t surprise us that teeth would be a large part of this shift towards facial artificiality. Human teeth are not naturally, perfectly, symmetrical, nor are they perfectly white. The healthiest, most picture-perfect, unmolested human smile still possesses some imperfections. Maybe one canine is shorter than the other. Maybe the gap between a bicuspid and a molar is a bit larger than its neighbors. And of course, teeth aren’t perfectly white without some unnatural intervention.

But the Joneses’ smile is always a bit whiter and straighter than yours. At least until you spend thousands of dollars to rectify the situation. When you become the new Mr. Jones, then the old one follows suit. This creates the subtle back and forth battle, like padding one’s resume just to keep up, until the new standard for teeth becomes a gleaming white mouthful of giant, gap-free, denture-like white picket fence posts in one’s mouth. It would be even more distracting if it weren’t for the fact that these spearmint chiclets are surrounded by colored, glossed, and medically inflated lips that look like they were transplanted from Mr.s Potato Head.

Lest you think we are saying there isn’t a place for cosmetic dentistry, that is not the case. There are obvious health situations that can be remedied through the correction of one’s smile. Additionally, if we can improve our self-confidence and even our social standing by improving our smile, then it’s something we should thoughtfully consider. However, we should all be able to agree that there is a difference between self improvement and keeping up with the Joneses. One is a healthy endeavor to better oneself, the other is an obsession that can take us to unhealthy extremes.

This leads us to our bankruptcy story. We now have one less option for correcting our smiles. It was presented as an affordable option for dental correction that would put straighter teeth within the grasp of more people. Was it? Let’s take a look.

SmileDirectClub came onto the scene not too long ago. They offered something different than the traditional orthodontic treatment we’re used to. It utilized a system where most of what was needed to improve your teeth could be handled remotely. This allowed them to offer their services at a large discount compared to a traditional orthodontist.

It sounded too good to be true. Unfortunately, it probably was.

It was reported by the Associated Press that SmileDirectClub filed for bankruptcy in September. Typically, when you are in the middle of ongoing medical treatment, the one thing you don’t want to hear is that the company providing your treatment is filing for bankruptcy. That can’t be good, can it?

Obviously if you are looking to improve your smile, you aren’t going to consider SmileDirectClub since they are no longer available to use, but you may reconsider trying to save money through an alternate treatment altogether. After all, the prospect that a company might fold in the middle of your unconventional oral treatment is disconcerting at the least.

But what about current customers who are in the midst of receiving their treatment? Are they going to at least be able to follow their dental treatment plan to its conclusion so they can get what they paid for?

The Associated Press reports that SmileDirectClub has advised that ongoing treatment is no longer available, nor is any form of customer care. Additionally, current patients are urged to consult an orthodontist about their future treatment. That sounds like the very definition of “high and dry,” (not to mention the very definition of “expensive”). We can only imagine customers regretting that they didn’t consult a traditional orthodontist in the first place.

The same report also mentioned that if you are a customer with an order that has yet to ship, you will not receive it. Also, their “Lifetime Smile Guarantee” has also been terminated. As with any lifetime guarantee, it’s not your lifetime we’re talking about, but the lifetime of the company. Unfortunately for the customer, SmileDirectClub died an early death.

According to the Associated Press, SmileDirectClub stated that they still expect customers to continue to make payments to them through their deferred payment plan called “Smile Pay.” It’s interesting to note that SmileDirect has no problem asking their customers to continue to pay while simultaneously refusing to send out pending orders or provide any customer support.

Why did SmileDirectClub File for Bankruptcy?

The whole concept sounds like a brilliant way to find a niche in the medical field while providing a service that many of us wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. What a slam dunk of an idea!

Apparently, the problem was in the execution of the concept. It was reported that the attorney general in D.C. sued for unfair and deceptive business practices. It was argued that SmileDirectClub manipulated customers so that they would not publicly share negative reviews nor report bad experiences to regulators. Though they denied these allegations, they did in fact engage in a financial settlement to legally address the situation. Additionally, it was reported that the British Dental Association has been critical of SmileDirectClub and similar remote orthodontic treatments for increasing the chance of gum disease and the misdiagnosis of dental issues.

At this point, we are left to wonder if the whole concept of remote, corrective “dentistry” is a dead concept, or if the only flaw was in the execution. It would seem that there is a great need for a budget-friendly option, considering the pressure for the “perfect smile” that has only intensified over the years thanks to social media. Only time will tell for sure.

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