Medical & Dental

Dental 3D printing stock soars 63% after Walmart deal and lifting of trading restrictions

Walmart has partnered with SmileDirectClub, a Nashville-based teledentistry company that uses 3D printing to make aligners, to exclusively offer its line of oral care products. 

The news, announced on January 6th, was well received by the stock market as trading raised SmileDirectClub’s stock price (NASDAQ: SDC) by 21% three days prior.

Then on January 14th, SmileDirectClub announced the distribution of its clear aligner solutions through a wholesale channel via dentists and orthodontists in-office. Taking the gain from 21% to 34%. This follows the expiration of the company’s supply agreement with Align Technology Inc, the Californian company behind Invisalign which ended on December 31, 2019.

During this period shares of Align Technologies fell by approximately 3%. The overall increase in the stock price during this announcement period (January 3rd-15th) stood at 63.72%. The SmileDirectClubs stock price has now closed at $13.69.

Alex Fenkell, a co-founder of SmileDirectClub, stated, “We’re excited to expand our offering and welcome new providers to add an important and needed offering to their suite of services.”

“We have seen increasing demand from the dentists and orthodontists in our network who wish to provide SmileDirectClub clear aligners to their in-office patients, and with our agreement with Align Technology now expired, we are no longer obligated to stay in the direct-to-consumer channel.”   

A custom clear aligner is delivered to a customer's home and the teeth-straightening process can be tracked via SmileClubDirect's app. Photo via SmileDirectClub.
Custom clear aligners created using 3D printed molds. Photo via SmileDirectClub.

A clearly aligned path 

Founded in 2014, SmileDirectClub creates personalized clear aligners in collaboration with its digital network of state-licensed dentists and orthodontists. The company has said to have helped over 750,000 people correct their smiles through remote doctor-directed clear aligner therapy, whereas Align Technology has states that it has treated more than 2.5 million patients with Invisalign in over 45 countries.

In 2016, Align Technologies entered into a supply agreement to manufacture for SmileDirectClub which saw the company acquire a 17% stake in SmileDirectClub for $46.7 million. This is no longer upheld and the two companies are now in direct competition.

Last year, at RAPID + TCT, SmileDirectClub announced a partnership with HP to increase the production of its clear aligners with the deployment of 49 Multi Jet Fusion systems at the company’s Antioch, Tennessee facility. SmileDirectClub claims that this is the “largest 3D printing facility in the United States,” unfortunately the claim is not supported by facts whether defined by the number of printers, floor space or output.

That’s not to say the volumes involved are not impressive. The Antioch factory produces more than 50,000 unique 3D printed mouth molds a day. In contrast, Joseph Hogan, CEO of Align Technology, has stated that over 500,000 unique 3D printed parts for Invisalign clear aligners are produced per day using 3D Systems technology.

SmileDirectClub's manufacturing facility in Antioch, Tennessee. Photo via HP
SmileDirectClub’s manufacturing facility in Antioch, Tennessee. Photo via HP.

Opening a new dental network

SmileDirectClub’s retail debut through Walmart will see its line of oral care products available at all U.S locations as well as its online store. The range includes an electric toothbrush ($24.98), a teeth whitening system complete with LED light ($39.98), toothpaste, a water flosser, and a UV cleaner that sanitizes toothbrush heads, aligners, retainers, and dentures. This launch intends to support consumers in tandem with the teeth-straightening process.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, SmileDirectClub Chief Clinical Officer, within the estimated figure of 200,000 licensed dentists and orthodontists in the U.S, only an estimated 30% offer clear aligner therapy in their offices. Therefore, opening a network to these providers would enable more customized and affordable patients treatment plans. Most recently, the company came under criticism after it asked unsatisfied customers to sign restrictive nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that stop them from expressing any negative opinions or reviews on SmileDirectClub, according to The New York Times.

In the continuing theme of competitor comparison, it has received over 1670 Better Business Bureau complaints since 2014, while Align Technology has received five since 2000, The New York Times article states. This may have some questioning the quality of services and products from an open dental network from fresher companies.

SmileDirectClub's line of oral care products available at Walmart. Photo via SmileDirectClub.
SmileDirectClub’s line of oral care products available at Walmart. Photo via SmileDirectClub.

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Featured image shows personalized clear aligners. Photo via SmileDirectClub.