SmileDirectClub, a telehealth dental company that sold teeth-straightening products by mail, has shut down "effective immediately," leaving existing customers in limbo about refunds and future payments.
The company announced the closure on its website, a couple of months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September.
Customers who have ordered teeth aligners but haven’t received them yet will not get their orders, the company said. They won’t have a plan for refunds until the bankruptcy process is further along.
Aligners sold by the company are no longer covered under the "Lifetime Smile Guarantee," but customers under a payment plan are still expected to make payments, SmileDirectClub said on its website.
SmileDirectClub LLC logo is seen on a smartphone screen. The company shut down effectively immediately after filing for bankruptcy in September (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
The company launched in 2014 and offered clear teeth aligners often at lower cost than traditional braces offered by orthodontists. At one time it employed some 2,000 people in Tennessee, and it was valued at $8.9 billion when it went public in 2019.
Customers could get cheaper teeth aligners by making a mold of their teeth at home with a kit sent by the company – or by getting their teeth scanned at a retail location. According to The New York Times, the scans were reviewed by dentists and orthodontists in SmileDirectClub’s network, but the company faced outside criticism from dental and orthodontist groups because the teeth-straightening treatments didn’t require in-person visits.
Reports say despite its 2 million customers, SmileDirectClub never turned a profit. It racked up $900 million in debt by the time it filed for Chapter 11.
SmileDirectClub also faced lawsuits in 2022 accusing the company of misusing nondisclosure agreements to stop customers from leaving bad reviews online.
"SmileDirectClub’s ‘Lifetime Smile Guarantee’ was a sham," Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement in December 2022. "Far from providing promised refunds with no strings attached, the company forced consumers to sign NDAs to get any money back after the first 30 days. These consumers were promised perfect smiles, but many suffered pain or didn’t see improvements. Forcing consumers to be silent about shoddy products and services in this way is illegal, and that’s why we’re going to make SmileDirectClub pay."
FOX 5 DC contributed to this report.