When I published an article about SmileDirectClub (SDC) filing for bankruptcy back in October, things didn’t look good.
Despite all the warning signs, the direct-to-consumer ortho provider reassured UK patients that it was business as usual, and founders were confident they could pull off a plan to raise $60M to pull SDC from the brink of its Chapter 11 filing.
However, on Friday, December 8, news broke that the lenders and creditors couldn’t be persuaded to get on board with the plan.
“When it came to the founder-led bid, it was really a Hail Mary,” SDC’s attorney Spencer Winters told US Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez. “We pushed very, very hard this week, and it just didn’t come together.”
As a result, SDC is closed for business in the US and UK, and it looks likely that the worst-case scenario outlined in my original article is now a reality as thousands of patients who shelled out for treatment are left high and dry.
Smile Direct Club – What We Know
SDC is Closed.
A notice on Smile Direct Club’s now-defunct website informs patients: “SmileDirectClub has made the incredibly difficult decision to wind down its global operations, effective immediately…Aligner treatment is no longer available through our telehealth platform. For existing customers, we apologize for the inconvenience, but customer care support is no longer available.”
It adds that SDC dentists can no longer perform 60-day check-ins and advises patients to seek advice from another dentist if they want to continue treatment.
New Orders Won’t Be Shipped
The closure notice on SDC’s website informs patients that treatment is no longer available and any orders that have not already been shipped have been cancelled.
Payment Plan Patients Must Still Pay Up
Patients who took out Smile Direct Club’s monthly SmilePay plan are still expected to keep up with payments. Customers are directed to a US helpline (handily inaccessible from the UK) and email address.
There are No Such Things as Lifetime Guarantees
Smile Direct Club offered a lifetime guarantee on treatment. Obviously, the company can no longer honour this agreement, which just goes to show— a proper cast-iron lifetime guarantee is as rare as rocking horse poop.
More Info to Come on Refunds
The closure notice states it will release more information about refunds as the bankruptcy proceeding proceeds. It seems likely that patients will be added to SDC’s list of creditors—a common practice when winding up companies. If I were an SDC patient, I wouldn’t hold my breath right now…
SDC Was Accepting Patients Right Up to D-Day
I was able to kick off treatment at Smile Direct by purchasing an impression kit as late as October 6.
Despite expressing concerns when booking my appointment in the name of research, I was told by their advisor Lewis that the Chapter 11 filing was a simple US financial restructuring that wouldn’t affect UK patients.
My Impression Kit? Never Came.
My Appointment Confirmation for October 6.
If you’re reading this, Lewis, I’m still waiting on my impression kit. Call me…
Within days of the news breaking, stories of patients who signed up after the October bankruptcy filing losing their outlay on treatment are already emerging. This patient told the BBC he lost £800 on a half-price offer with SDC on treatment purchased while the company was fighting for its future.
Tons of Ortho Patients Have Nowhere to Go
The story above is one of many now flooding the media about patients who’ve either paid for treatment but not started or are mid-way through with no prospect of receiving more aligners.
What You Can Do
Some of my savvy clients are already running campaigns to support SDC patients in getting what they paid for through significantly discounted clear aligner treatment.
Take a look at my original article for more ideas and strategies to help the thousands who’ve been let down.