- Published: Friday, 02 February 2024 09:46
- Written by Peter Ingle
- Hits: 1405
It was always unlikely that the appeal of direct to consumer (DTC) orthodontics would end with the demise of its highest profile promoters, Smile Direct Club (SDC).
The collapse of SDC left behind many patients mid treatment with no support, immediately terminated “lifetime guarantees” and even found some unfortunate consumers committed to paying in full for a set of aligners that they will never receive. But DTC orthodontics remains alive and well as a recent experience shows, with many similarities to the SDC model, as well as some potentially important differences.
One company’s misfortune has been another’s opportunity and Diamond Whites Aligners (DWA) have raised their profile since the demise of SDC. They describe themselves as “Europes leading tooth straightening and whitening company.” GDPUK readers may have seen a thread where contributors took the up the online challenge to find out if they were suitable candidates for treatment. It may come as no shock to find that they were, even when disclosing that they had problems with both crowding and spacing.
After such an enquiry, a not quite as slick as SDC machine, kicks in. Regular emails arrive, encouraging the recipient to take the plunge. Eight came in the first 14 days following completion of the online suitability test. Some set out the choice of entry routes, via a scan at one of 50+ clinics or with a home impression kit. Others focused on the choice in payments, with finance available, at 9.9% APR over 60 months. This is incentivised with a free whitening kit and £100 discount. These emails were followed by ones with before and after cases, and information on the App used to monitor progress.
And then at around the two week mark came the next offer: “FREE Consultation with an Aligner Advisor...” They would, “answer any questions that you have so you can start your aligner plan with confidence!” The email did go on to add: Please note that this is not a consultation therefore no specific dental advice will be provided. Confusingly, the word consultation was used both to describe the offer, and then again in the note to clarify what was not being offered.
Having arranged a consultation (or not) it was duly confirmed. The appointed time came and went with no call or email. An email to the company did not get a response, but DWA do have a phone number, and it was answered. The consultation was rescheduled and this time a DW representative did call.
He was keen to talk about the available deal, for a limited time there was £500 to be saved and a free scan or home impression kit. A “3D visual” would then be prepared for approval. All treatments were signed off by one of two named dentists, and when asked, the adviser said one was an orthodontist.
Once the visuals are approved there is a phone call with one of the dentists, which presumably completes the consent process. An assurance was provided that things were “all GDC compliant.” Monitoring is via the app and a weekly self-scan.
When asked about SDC, the adviser said that they were “helping out” some former customers of the failed company. In answer to a question about the need for a recent dental examination, this was up to the consumer, however there was the option of seeing a hygienist at the scan centre for a fee of £95. With the special offer ending this month the adviser would call before then to see if I wished to proceed.
In terms of guarantees there is the offer of further aligners if the 3D visuals shown are not achieved. Asked about the company’s stability and resilience, it had been purchased late last year by a large operator also active in Germany and Spain. There may another story here.
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