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NAD Recommends AAO Discontinue SmileDirectClub Claims

Posted on March 2, 2021

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) supported its implied claim that SmileDirectClub, LLC’s retail stores lack on-site medical professionals. However, NAD has recommended that AAO discontinue implied claims, and certain videos containing such claims, that SmileDirectClub’s direct-to-consumer:

-Teledentistry platform is risky, dangerous and ineffective, and that medical professionals are not involved throughout SmileDirectClub’s treatment process.

-At-home dentistry kit is difficult to use.

-Aligner product is ineffective.

The claims were challenged by SmileDirectClub, LLC, which provides orthodontic services through its direct-to-consumer teledentistry platform enabling consumers to straighten their teeth using clear plastic aligners from home.

The advertising campaign under review was launched by AAO, the world’s oldest and largest dental specialty organization representing nearly 19,000 orthodontists in the United States, Canada, and abroad. AAO’s Happy Mouth Now advertising campaign, consisting of 4 videos and a related microsite, was created to raise public awareness of the dangers posed by direct-to-consumer and do-it-yourself orthodontics.

The issue before NAD was whether the Happy Mouth campaign falsely conveys disparaging messages about SmileDirectClub’s direct-to-consumer teledentistry platform. NAD reviewed AAO’s videos, each of which ends with AAO’s name and logo as well as the tagline “some things are best left to the professionals,” and the microsite to determine the messages reasonably conveyed and whether such messages were properly supported.

NAD determined that the video titled “Original Advertisement” communicated the unsupported messages that SmileDirectClub’s direct-to-consumer teledentistry platform is risky due to the absence of in-person medical oversight, and that the at-home impression kit is difficult for consumers to use on their own. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertisement be discontinued, along with such claims.

Regarding the “Store Advertisement” video, NAD concluded that the evidence in the record supported the claim that SmileDirectClub’s retail shops lack on-site medical professionals, but cautioned the advertiser against making the unsupported, broad claim that medical professionals are generally not involved throughout SmileDirectClub’s entire treatment process.

NAD determined that video “Testimonial Advertisement” communicated the unsupported message that SmileDirectClub’s direct-to-consumer aligner product is ineffective and recommended that the advertiser discontinue this claim, but otherwise determined that this advertisement is puffery.

Further, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the “Happy Eyes Now and Happy Bones Now Advertisement” video, as well as the unsupported claims that SmileDirectClub’s direct-to-consumer teledentistry platform is dangerous and ineffective.

Finally, NAD determined that the microsite reasonably communicates the messages that medical professionals are generally not involved throughout SmileDirectClub’s direct-to-consumer teledentistry treatment process, and that using SmileDirectClub’s teledentistry platform is risky. The evidence in the record did not reliably support either of these messages, therefore NAD recommended that such claims be discontinued.

In its advertiser statement, AAO stated that although it “respectfully disagrees with many of NAD’s conclusions, AAO will comply with the NAD’s recommendations.”

About BBB National Programs: 

BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.

About the National Advertising Division: 

The National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.      







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