EXCLUSIVE: Nearly Half of Americans Say They Have Not Considered Mail-Order Orthodontics

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December 19, 2019

The Direct to Consumer (or DTC) trend has made it possible for people to get everything from new brands of bedsheets to specialty dog food delivered straight to their door. But perhaps one of the most surprising services or products to cut out the middle man this decade has been the home teeth-straightening industry.

SmileDirectClub, founded just four years ago, went public this year on high hopes that more people will adopt the practice of correcting their own teeth. The company on Monday announced plans to expand to Germany in early 2020 — another international foray on top of its existing availability in Canada, Australia, UK, and New Zealand. Earlier this month a new startup competitor Uniform Teeth raised $10 million, while new reviews for companies such as Candid and Smilelove are popping up more frequently.

But investors have some concerns. The stock is currently trading at $8.36, down 65 percent from its IPO price of $23 a share. And an exclusive YouGov study conducted for Cheddar found 46 percent of Americans have never considered buying mail-order orthodontics for themselves or immediate family, and only 5 percent of those surveyed said they have tried any kind of service.

“What we’re seeing here is opportunity for a company like Smile Direct,” Andrew Greiner, US Editor of YouGov told Cheddar. “There’s good awareness of their brand and folks are considering their product category more and more. The next hurdle is to get the consumers to pull the trigger.”

Brand awareness / YouGov

Since the introduction of Invisalign in the late 90s, the brand has become synonymous with clear teeth straighteners. (Parent company Align Technology ALGN stock has been up 30 percent year-to-date). That strength reflected in a now-defunct partnership with SmileDirect and the in terms of awareness of orthodontics brands Invisalign saw the highest level of awareness according to the survey:

  • 50% of respondents said they’re aware of Invisalign
  • 35% said they’re aware of SmileDirectClub
  • 36% said they were not aware of other brands (SureSmile, Candid, ClearCorrect)

Despite the lack of awareness and participation in the at-home practice, of those who have tried mail-order orthodontics 86 percent said it was effective. What does that mean for the growing concerns around its safety?

“The data seems to be saying that most people who have tried mail order orthodontics like it,” said Greiner. “That might speak to some alleviation of safety fears, or just a better self-image overall. But there is still a portion above 10 percent that’s not super happy, so the industry might want to learn more about its not-so-satisfied customers.”

A lot of money is at stake for the orthodontics industry. In 2018 the industry brought in an estimated $12 billion, according to IBISWorld research. The majority of growth was attributed to the rise in braces for adults.

YouGov’s exclusive survey was conducted between Nov. 22 to December 5, 2019, with 2,620 adults in the U.S.

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