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SmileDirectClub: 5 dentists responsible for care of 65,000

The British Dental Association has told dental regulators that urgent reform is needed to stop the next SmileDirectClub putting patients at risk.

The BDA understands the remote orthodontic giant had just five UK-registered dentists overseeing cases. It is unknown if these clinicians were UK-based or covered by appropriate professional indemnity. The professional body has asked both the General Dental Council and Care Quality Commission what expectations are on them to finish incomplete courses of treatment.

The BBC have reported the company had 65,000 patients. As SmileDirectClub only launched in the UK in 2019, the BDA have expressed fundamental concern over its ability to maintain basic clinical standards based on these numbers.

The company has signed off telling its patients not only to maintain payment plans, but to find a ‘local dentist’ to take responsibility for future treatment. The BDA warns this could prove a minefield given potential cases of inappropriate treatment. The professional body has urged the dental regulator to ensure any dentists who step in to correct damage or complete treatments will not be liable for mistakes made by the company.

The BDA have stressed that historic guidance from regulators must reflect good practice – requiring a full assessment by a dentist working within their competence, informed consent, continuing care and putting patients’ interests first.

Dentist leaders have warned the GDC that the profession and patients rely on it to prosecute the illegal practice of dentistry and that it must now look into the business practices of any providers operating under similar business models currently or in the future.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“It beggars belief that five dentists would be enough to provide continuing care for the company’s reported 65,000 UK patients.

“It shows why change is needed, so that the public are protected, and corners are not cut.

“This could prove a minefield for any dentist stepping up to help. We need assurances that any clinicians attempting to undo damage will not be liable for mistakes made by this company.

“A full clinical assessment isn’t a nice to have or an optional extra – it should be required no matter what. If we’re going to protect patients the basics of decent care must be in place for all.”