AAO “respectfully disagrees” with many of the National Advertising Division’s conclusions, but will comply with its recommendations.

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; the at-home dentistry kit is difficult to use; and the aligner product is ineffective.

The claims were challenged by SmileDirectClub, 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. AAO’s Happy Mouth Now advertising campaign, consisting of four 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 AAO 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 AAO discontinue this claim, but otherwise determined that this advertisement is puffery.

Further, NAD recommended that the AAO 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 AAO 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.”