SmileDirectClub's activity in 2020: A timeline

SmileDirectClub, a Nashville, Tenn.-based teledentistry company that specializes in clear aligner therapy, has had an eventful year so far — complete with lawsuits, patents, new partnerships and more.

Below is a timeline of the company's moves in 2020, as reported by Becker's Dental Review.

Jan. 6: SmileDirectClub announced that it will roll out a suite of products exclusively in Walmart stores and on the retailer's website. The company now offers Walmart consumers an electric toothbrush, whitening system, toothpaste, water flosser and ultrasonic UV cleaner at 3,800 U.S. locations.

On the same day, nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including five dentists, three physicians and one pharmacist, sent the FDA and Federal Trade Commission a letter "to express [their] concern regarding SmileDirectClub." The letter asks the FDA and FTC to investigate claims that SmileDirectClub misled consumers.

Jan. 7: SmileDirectClub announced its move into Asia, opening two new locations in Hong Kong.

Jan. 10: The Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that the allegations against SmileDirectClub that it illegally practiced dentistry brought on by the New Jersey Dental Association were without merit.

On the same day, The Florida Board of Dentistry decided to close its investigation into SmileDirectClub. Florida became the 18th state to end investigations into SmileDirectClub.

Jan. 14: SmileDirectClub announced plans to sell its clear aligners directly to dentists and orthodontists through a wholesale channel. The company became eligible to sell its products directly to providers since its exclusive supply agreement with Align Technology ended Dec. 31, 2019.

Jan. 15: SmileDirectClub shares jumped 17 percent after the company announced plans to sell its clear aligners directly to dentists and orthodontists.

Jan. 21: The New York Times published an article saying that SmileDirectClub attempts to limit information about customer dissatisfaction. Seven SmileDirectClub customers told the NYT that their aligners didn't fix their teeth, and four said the product created new problems. When they sought refunds, SmileDirectClub asked them to sign an agreement requiring negative social media reviews to be deleted and their refunds to never be discussed.

Feb. 13: NBC News released a report in which it placed hidden cameras at SmileDirectClub shops in Ohio, New Jersey and Alabama and recorded employees misguiding patients. When confronted with the videos, SmileDirectClub Chief Legal Officer Susan Greenspon-Rammelt, said it was the employees' lack of training or personal opinions, which do not reflect the company's policy.

Feb. 14: SmileDirectClub issued a statement saying that NBC's investigation into its employee practices misrepresents the teledentistry company. The company said NBC owes it to the public to correct its errors and offered five clarifications.

Feb. 18: The last remaining consumer class-action case filed in New York against SmileDirectClub was dropped.

Feb. 19: SmileDirectClub responded to the complaint filed by California's Dental Board against its chief clinical officer and company dentist, Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD, calling it "a retaliatory accusation."

Feb. 27: SmileDirectClub shares plunged 24 percent as the teledentistry company reported a net loss of $97 million for the last quarter of 2019. Despite its increased net revenue — $197 million compared to the $68 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 — the company still missed analyst expectations for 2019's final quarter.

March 4: SmileDirectClub announced its approval of the American Association of Dental Boards' state-level examples of teledentistry regulations. The suggested provisions include ensuring the consumer has information about a treating dentist, access to clear aligner therapy via remote platforms, and access to care without office visits and mandatory radiographs.

March 12: SmileDirectClub announced that it has made several updates to its consumer experience model to bring greater transparency to club members and provide effective training to staff. Some changes included simplified refunds, automated manufacturing and updated pre-screening requirements.

April 6: As many dental offices throughout the country had postponed all non-essential appointments due to the pandemic, SmileDirectClub announced that it will open its teledentistry platform to all licensed dentists and orthodontists.

April 29: SmileDirectClub filed a complaint for patent infringement against New York City-based Candid, alleging the teledentistry company copied their model. The complaint came immediately after SmileDirectClub announced it was granted a patent for its production and marketing process for clear dental aligners.

May 6: SmileDirectClub partnered with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to expand in-network coverage. The move means the company now offers coverage for its clear aligner therapy to patients under three major insurance providers, as it partnered with UnitedHealthcare and Aetna in April 2019.

May 12: Dental industry veteran Chris Thompon was appointed to the newly created position of vice president of sales for SmileDirectClub. He leads the company's efforts to build its Office Direct program, which allows dentists and orthodontists to offer its clear aligner therapy in-office with the option to continue treatment via its telehealth platform.

May 18: SmileDirectClub filed a $2.8 billion lawsuit against NBCUniversal Media, claiming the news publication ignored facts and broadcast a story with over 40 errors in it. SmileDirectClub said its market cap dropped $950 million after NBC's hidden camera report was published.

June 30: SmileDirectClub filed lawsuits against Delta Dental Plans Association, Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation and Delta Dental of California. The teledentistry company alleges that the insurance providers denied patients teledentistry coverage by refusing to cover clear aligner therapy prescribed by SmileDirectClub-affiliated dentists.

July 8: Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Antitrust Division, argued in favor of SmileDirectClub during a lawsuit against members of the Alabama Dental Board. He asked the appeals court not to expand a defense protecting dental boards charged with limiting competition.

July 17: Judge George Wu ruled that SmileDirectClub can't move forward with its antitrust challenge to the Dental Board of California's efforts to classify its storefronts as illegal dentistry. The company claimed California's dental board targeted its business to shut down a competitive threat, but Mr. Wu found the board's actions consistent with its proper regulatory purpose and dismissed the case.

Aug. 11: SmileDirectClub partnered with Irvine, Calif.-based Smile Brands as part of its direct-to-office treatment model. The move allows SmileBrands dentists to offer SmileDirectClub clear aligner treatment, with a 3D scan or physical impression performed in the office and treatment completed using the SmileDirectClub telehealth platform.

Aug. 12: SmileDirectClub released its financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, reporting a 45 percent year-over-year revenue loss. The report showed the company earned revenue of $107 million in the second quarter, beating average analysts' forecasts of $84.2 million.

Aug. 19: SmileDirectClub appointed Riddhi Gangolli, BDS, PhD, as its first senior director of professional education and key opinion leader strategy. Dr. Gangolli helps inform industry professionals about SmileDirectClub's telehealth platform as the company expands its direct-to-office offering and SmileDirectClub Partner Network.

Sept. 1: Austin American-Statesman reported that SmileDirectClub pulled the plug on a $37 million manufacturing plant in Kyle, Texas, that was expected to employ 850 people. The company said it was impractical for employees based at its Nashville, Tenn., headquarters to oversee the plant development amid travel restrictions and health concerns related to the pandemic.

Sept. 4: The Alabama Dental Board sued the Federal Trade Commission, seeking to halt the agency's investigation into whether it is violating antitrust laws by enforcing teledentistry restrictions against SmileDirectClub.

Sept. 17: SmileDirectClub said it will be developing a $34 million manufacturing facility in Columbia, Tenn., along with 600 new jobs. The plant is the company's third expansion in Tennessee in the last three years.

Oct. 6: SmileDirectClub received patents for its electric toothbrush and Bluetooth-powered aligner case. The electric toothbrush features interchangeable aligner heads that can clean invisible aligners, and the case uses Bluetooth location technology to ensure aligners are never lost.

Oct. 22: SmileDirectClub partnered with Dallas-based Deca Dental, integrating the DSO's more than 100 affiliated practices into its network. The partnership will give patients at Deca Dental-affiliated practices the opportunity to begin treatment using SmileDirectClub's clear aligner therapy and teledentistry platform.

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