SmileDirectClub IPO

SmileDirectClub and it’s initial public offering is in the news. The numbers cited are astounding: revenue of $423.2 million in 2018; 700,000 customers since 2014; $945 million addressable market; $393 million in funding (Shen, 2019).

Legal and regulatory hurdles remain. SmileDirectClub is suing the state dental boards of Alabama and Georgia to remove the requirement that a licensed dentist be present for the 3D scan of the patient. Arkansas has a law, co-written by a state representative who is also a dentist, that requires in-person exams before a doctor can treat a patient remotely.  If the attorney general of that state takes action, expect a lobbying effort by SmileDirectClub (Mandelbaum, 2019).

The question remains: can you collect enough data to make a treatment decision (for example, start clear aligners or referral to a local orthodontist) remotely? If it’s really not possible, then more innovation is needed to make it so. Teledentistry provides a way to bring better oral health to under-served regions. The technology and infrastructure built to disrupt the orthodontic industry should have a side benefit.

Align Technology Inc.’s 17% stake is looking pretty good. What other disruptive startups have backing by industry leaders? Tell me about it in the comments!


Shen, Lucinda. Fortune (August, 16, 2019) Brace Yourself: SmileDirectClub Is the Latest Unicorn to File for an IPO Accessed August 23, 2019.

Mandelbaum, Robb. Bloomberg Businessweek (August, 22, 2019)  A Tooth-Straightening Startup Runs Into Resistance Accessed August 23, 2019.

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