NAD has released its third case evaluating teeth aligner claims this year (its second against advertiser SmileDirectClub LLC ("SDC")). Previously, in a challenge brought by Align Technologies, NAD recommended SDC discontinue certain comparative claims such as "60% less than other brands, "60% less than braces," and "our average smile plans gets you a smile you will love 3x sooner." This time, the American Association of Orthodontists challenged SDC over some similar claims, including "SDC's prices are 60% lower than other teeth straightening options" and "we're 3x faster than braces" as well as some new claims such as "SDC customers receive 'the same level of care from a treating dentist or orthodontist as an individual visiting a traditional orthodontist or dentist for treatment'" and "getting started is risk-free."
While SDC argued that NAD should administratively close the portion of the challenge related to the "3x faster than braces" claim because it had permanently discontinued the claim, NAD noted that SDC was still running a modified claim of "3x sooner than braces," and chose to evaluate the modified claim because "the words 'fast' and 'soon' are synonyms." Ultimately, NAD determined that SDC had not provided substantiation for the reasonable consumer takeaway that the "'typical' SDC consumer would obtain the same results for a similar level of treatment in one third of the time it would take for a 'typical' braces patient to obtain the same results." NAD found that the evidence provided (internal data from SDC's customer data base and a New Zealand study of orthodontic treatment) was insufficient to substantiate the claim because SDC's data regarding its own treatment times was unreliable since it was based on how long a customer was listed as "active" in SDC's database and did not take into account whether they had actually completed their treatment or achieved the results they were promise during the treatment time. NAD recommended SDC discontinue the claim.
NAD also recommended SDC discontinue its claim that SDC customers (who are treated via teledentistry) receive "the same level of care from a treating dentist or orthodontist as an individual visiting a traditional orthodontist or dentist for treatment" because SDC did not provide sufficient evidence to support the takeaway that "physical separation does not inhibit its providers from delivering the same level of care as would be experienced through in-person treatment." SDC submitted evidence regarding certain time periods for care, and cited to news articles discussing telemedicine generally, but NAD determined it could not draw any conclusions about the advertiser's claim or the level of care provided through in-person orthodontic treatment from these materials.
NAD did find that SDC's "risk-free" claims were properly supported. The advertiser established that in the U.S., the "risk-free" claim actually reads in full "Getting started is risk-free. A registered dentist will assess your smile and determine if SmileDirectClub aligners are the best fir for you. If they determine they're not, the cost of your impression kit is fully refundable." NAD found that the limitations on the "risk-free" claim were clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
NAD also addressed a few pricing claims. While SDC represented its "60% lower" claim was voluntarily discontinued, NAD did evaluate its "$1895 or $85 month" claim, which the challenger alleged failed to include the price of seeing a regular dentist before, during and after treatment, which is required for SDC treatment. NAD noted that "it is commonly known that orthodontists do not provide routine dental care," and determined that the claim was truthful.
SDC stated that it will appeal portions of NAD's decision to NARB.
SmileDirectClub, LLC (Smile Direct Club Clear Aligners), Report #6382, NAD/CARU Case (June 2020).
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