SmileDirectClub is suing NBC over what it alleges was a “factually inaccurate” story about the company’s teeth-straightening treatments that ran in February on the network’s “Nightly News” show.
The direct-to-consumer oral-care company is seeking $2.8 billion. The lawsuit, filed Monday in Nashville, Tenn., where SmileDirectClub is based, claims that a Feb. 13 news story on NBC Nightly News, featuring complaints from some SmileDirectClub customers and dental providers, was riddled with factual inaccuracies and “misleading” and “defamatory” statements.
The NBC news story highlighted patients who complained of feeling pain due to SmileDirect’s teeth-straightening aligners. One patient said an orthodontist diagnosed her with a crossbite “possibly” caused by the company’s aligners, while another said his teeth were moved “so fast that it caused some of them to detach from the bone.”
SmileDirectClub alleges that those claims were fabricated, and that its reputation was “sullied” and business “unjustly harmed” because of them.
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SmileDirectClub went public in September at $23 a share. On Monday, the stock closed at $6.76.
It’s not just claims from patients and doctors that SmileDirect Club contends NBC got wrong — the company is alleging that “nearly everything” NBC reported on regarding SmileDirect Club was “factually inaccurate,” and what’s more, “knew it was not telling the truth to its viewers and readers.”
The lawsuit claims that SmileDirectClub provided NBC with “hundreds of documents demonstrating the safety and effectiveness, and benefits, of the treatment patients” as well as access to doctors who treat patients using the platform.
NBC told news outlets that it stands by its initial reporting.
SmileDirectClub promises to straighten teeth for a significantly lower price — up to 60 percent less — than the cost of traditional orthodonture. Customers use at-home kits to create impressions — which would normally be fit by a dental professional in a dental office — and then communicate with a dental care provider via SmileDirectClub’s telehealth platform. The company also operates hundreds of Smile Shop retail locations.
NBC’s story featured commentary from a Chung Kau, chairman and professor of orthodontics at the University of Alabama, who said moving teeth without in-person care could potentially cause permanent harm. A SmileDirect-contracted dentist, Gary Moore, said he thinks dentists and orthodontists opposed to the company were concerned about losing money.
SmileDirectClub uses influencers such as The Bachelor’s Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici to promote its product. It also sells in retail locations across the country, including Macy’s.