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For Alex Fenkell, Co-Founder of SmileDirectClub, the Future Is International

Alex Fenkell On The Beginnings of SDC | SmileDirectClub from SmileDirectClub on Vimeo.

Up until this year, getting your hands on SmileDirectClub’s clear teeth straightening aligners was something that you could only do if you lived in certain parts of the world. The biggest market was in the United States, but aligners were also available in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Ireland, and Australia.

Thanks to SmileDirectClub, and the team at the growing company, people in Singapore, Austria, and Germany can now get straighter smiles using the company’s telehealth platform for teeth straightening.

The move into Austria and Singapore, as well as the reboot in Germany, marks the SDC’s team’s significant expansion into many other parts of the world ripe for teeth straightening options. Unlike so many companies that are shrinking due to COVID-19, SmileDirectClub is growing its audience of more than one million users by delivering aligners that cost 60 percent less than traditional braces in the United States and thousands of dollars cheaper in the new countries into which SmileDirectClub has expanded.

“We have built a robust international infrastructure and will continue to seek opportunities to reach consumers around the world. Markets outside of the U.S. present a great opportunity for our business, and we look forward to helping people in Austria and Singapore get a smile they love,” said Kay Oswald, the president of international at SmileDirectClub, about the expansion.

“Our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable, and convenient access to care to as many people as possible. We are pleased to extend this to people in these markets, as well as invest in these local economies.”

The key to SmileDirectClub’s expansion is the convenience of its process. Before the pandemic, prospective SmileDirectClub users would typically visit one of the company’s SmileShops to get a 3D rendering of their teeth. This rendering not only let SmileDirectClub know if the user was a good fit for the aligners program, but it also served as the first step in the process of creating a plastic mold for teeth.

These SmileShops are part of SmileDirectClub’s expansion into new areas. The company has announced that SmileShops have opened in Singapore and Vienna, Austria. These two shops will be key in getting customers assessed for SmileDirectClub’s offering.

Unfortunately, with the pandemic taking place, many of the company’s SmileShops are temporarily closed, and SmileDirectClub plans to open them back up according to mandated state and country guidelines. SmileDirectClub are sending out home kits for creating teeth molds, which has helped fill the gap caused by the closed SmileShops.

Previously, the home kits for creating teeth molds were commonly used by those in rural areas or places where a SmileShop wasn’t available. Now, these home kits, which include impression trays and a Smile Stretcher to help take quality photos of teeth, can help serve as an important first step toward a better smile for people based in countries outside of the U.S.

After it’s determined that a user is a good candidate for SmileDirectClub’s program, a dentist or orthodontist is assigned to help usher the user through the teeth straightening process, which uses a series of clear plastic aligners to move teeth gradually to where they should be. Two options are available to users: the company’s traditional aligners, which deliver a better smile in 4–6 months, and the company’s nighttime option, which straightens teeth in around 10 months.

The difference is in how they are worn. A user that has traditional aligners should wear them 22 hours per day, but they can be taken out for meals. A user of the nighttime aligners should wear them for 10 hours continuously, at night only.

The reduced price for clear aligners is also a big draw. With traditional braces in the United States, users can expect to pay between $6,000 and $8,000 for a teeth straightening procedure that is usually painful and requires a number of in-office visits for maintenance. With SmileDirectClub teeth aligners costing less than $2,000 total or less than $90 per month, users all over the world are hopping on the SmileDirectClub bandwagon.

The company also recently began offering its clear plastic aligners to teens, a major new program for SmileDirectClub. The teen program, which includes a patented case for aligners that uses Tile’s Bluetooth technology for tracking, could make a huge difference to parents abroad who want their kids to have straight teeth but don’t want to go bankrupt to get the job done.

“As an orthodontist and father of two teenagers – one teen who is undergoing clear aligner therapy and another in traditional metal braces – I can speak firsthand about the efficacy and versatility of this product,” said SmileDirectClub-affiliated provider Dr. Gary Moore. “Clear aligners bolster confidence and self-esteem that may be lost with traditional metal braces and offer the ability to engage in a wide range of activities and sports with an adjustable mouthguard. Teens can feel more confident in showing their [smiles] when wearing clear aligners, something that is even more important to them in a day and age [when] social media is a primary source of their interactions.”

This year and next, SmileDirectClub plans to continue to expand into other areas, including Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America. While the world continues to open up slowly as the pandemic winds down, Alex Fenkell and SmileDirectClub will be ready with international services to deliver better smiles.


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