Align Tech-backed SmileDirectClub levies lawsuits against critical dentists, orthodontists

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Smile Direct Club

The Align Technology (NSDQ:ALGN) backed SmileDirectClub is reportedly sending cease-and-desist letters to dentists who criticize its products, according to a BuzzFeed report.

The company sent at least 2 cease-and-desist letters last month, threatening lawsuits if dentists did not remove videos they’d posted criticizing the practice of do-it-yourself clear teeth aligners, according to the report.

The cease-and-desist letters join a lawsuit from late October that the company levied against a group of New York and New Jersey orthodontists who posted a similar video, and a suit against a Michigan affiliate of the American Dental Association over a publication the group published in a monthly journal, BuzzFeed reports.

The claims vary but centrally argue that the dentists are part of a “well-funded lobbying and public relations effort” trying to shut it down, according to the report.

“Several dentists and orthodontists have made publicly false, disparaging and misleading statements on various social media websites regarding SmileDirectClub all in an effort to protect their traditional business model and to limit access of care to keep prices for orthodontic care artificially inflated. SmileDirectClub has pursued legal remedies to prevent these dentists and orthodontists from making false, disparaging and misleading statements regarding SmileDirectClub,” a Smile Direct Club spokesperson said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed.

According to the report, the dentists claim to be merely expressing their professional opinions on the clear orthodontic devices.

BuzzFeed originally broke the story on the cease-and-desist letters in mid-October, detailing the story of orthodontist Jeffrey Miller. Miller also received a cease-and-desist letter, which he ignored, and was followed by a letter declaring the company’s intent to sue him and his practice for damages of more than $34 million, “plus punitive damages of not less than three times that amount,” according to the report.

The report detailed a number of other groups and private practices that received cease-and-desist letters, as well as organizations which have presented opposition to SmileDirectClub.

Earlier this month, the ADA released its own resolution which “strongly discourages” the practice of do-it-yourself orthodontics, referencing potential harm to patients from delayed and reduced visits to dentists.

In the resolution, the ADA states that it “believes that supervision by a licensed dentist is necessary for all phase of orthodontic treatment including oral examinations, periodontal examinations, radiographic examinations, study models of scans of the mouth, treatment planning and prescriptions, periodic progress assessments and final assessments with stabilizing measures.”

“Patients are being inundated with direct marketing campaigns encouraging them to initiate and manage their own orthodontic treatment. These campaigns are operating in multiple media outlets, including online, billboards and television ads. This year’s ADA House of Delegates recognized the need for the ADA, as America’s leading advocate for oral health, to take steps to educate patients about the potential pitfalls of self-managed orthodontic treatment. This new policy supports the importance of dentists being in charge of diagnosing and treating patients to ensure the safe delivery of appropriate care,” ADA council on dental practice chair Dr. Craig Ratner said in an ADA release.

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