I’m flying at 37,000 feet back from JFK to Burbank from a family event on the East Coast. Jet Blue also has many channels to watch and everyone has their own selection to make. The screen across the aisle had an ad for Candid which is a do-it-yourself orthodontic aligner company that cuts out the need for an orthodontist or a dentist for treatment. It is a competitor to Smile Direct Club and they are battling it out for the do-it-yourself orthodontic market. Am I upset? Am I fighting them? Do I view them as my competitor? Not really!
Candid and Smile Direct Club are straightening teeth which have become a commodity. This is as I predicted over 20 years ago when Invisalign was conceived in Silicon Valley. Why would a patient need a dentist I pondered? Will UPS someday be delivering aligners I asked? The answer to me was obvious then, and only the timeline was a variable. For $1,850 Smile Direct Club will straighten your teeth. I don’t know what Candid charges, but there will be a race to the bottom on cost. Smile Direct Club has 49 HP 3D printers cranking out 50,000 aligners per day with the capacity to do 2 million per year. I have no desire to compete! I know I can’t win…..but then my goal isn’t straight teeth like theirs is.
My goal is to help everyone have the best facial balance and airway possible. I’m very comprehensive in the questions I ask patients and know that crooked teeth for the vast majority are but one small symptom of many other things going on. Many patients have pain patterns they are unaware may be related to their teeth. Many have tongue-tie issues which are affecting their ability to have proper rest oral posture and grow properly. Many are clenching and grinding their teeth because of the tongue tie. Many suffer from OSA – even young children who are suffering from brain damage every night they are having apneic events. Malocclusion is almost always part of a whole-body phenomenon which aligners won’t change!
Many of my patients have already had orthodontic treatment which was retractive in nature. They dislike their faces and their smiles and want a change back to the way they were before treatment. Many are willing to fly multiple times from anywhere in the world to have treatment to address those problems. The fact is that millions of people suffer from these issues but won’t find the personalized treatment needed to address all their issues. Many need a team of professionals to help. Sadly, I’m just one person and cannot hope to treat the demand of people all over the world for services that go way beyond straight teeth.
For the orthodontist whose goal is to straighten teeth Candid and Smile Direct Club represent an existential threat. To an orthodontist who has figured out that the teeth are actually part of the body and knows how it all comes together, Candid and Smile Direct Club won’t be a threat at all. In fact, orthodontists and dentists who view the mouth and teeth as part of the whole person won’t be able to keep up with the demand for treatment.
It will be a fun game to watch the Battle of DIY orthodontics. I have a perfect seat here at 37,000 feet.