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The Battle for Better Teeth Heats Up; What You Can Learn About Disruption from The SmileDirectClub

Why Independent and Assisted living, Memory Care, Active Adult and Continuing Care Retirement Communities Must Work ON, Not Just IN the Business; Disruption is On Its Way and Leaders Are Not Prepared

I’ve spent at least $10,000 on braces for my two children Paris and Noah in the last few years and it was money well spent for sure! Yet if I had known I could have spent under $4,000 for the same outcome, I would have been a very happy customer.

SmileDirectClub, which went public in September, has sold its alternative to braces only through outlets and direct to customers online; you’ve probably seen advertisements in your social media feeds or even purchased a set yourself.

Invisalign, which I’ve used in the past myself, had cornered the market of selling removable aligners to patients through dentists and orthodontists, who then administer and monitor the treatment plan. Invisalign has not sold its products directly to consumers like SmileDirectClub.


If you had to choose, as an awkward teenager or adult, clear aligners or metal-wire braces (despite their popularity with teens which blows my mind), which would you pick?


More and more consumers are opting for clear aligners which has put a strain on those dentists and orthodontists who have yet to offer them and who have counted on revenue from standard braces for decades. Those who have failed to adapt aligners into their practice are in for a rude awakening over the course of the next few years and in some cases, may no longer be in practice at all!


While SmileDirectClub was able to test its viability in its direct to consumer model and hit it out of the ballpark, they are making their next move; partnering with orthodontists and dentists which means moving into Invisalign’s customer base. Unlike Invisalign, SmileDirectClub will continue to sell directly to consumers through teledentistry but also in the doctor’s office, allowing for an aggressive scale up of an already booming business.


Clearly consumers like the option of ordering aligners online and having their teeth straightened from home. Now, they will have the option to do both.

SmileDirectClub’s stock jumped 13% to $11.53 at 2:16 p.m. Tuesday 1/15/20. Invisalign’s stock fell 2.8% to $289.61. Having treated more than 7.5 million patients with Invisalign, it considered itself unrivaled with a global brand that customers ask for by name. They pretty much invented the clear aligner business over two decades ago. This will be an interesting competition to watch for sure. In fact, my bet is on SmileDirectClub, but only time will tell. What I’m certain of is that Invisalign was caught off guard and is no doubt scrambling to compete for future market share of the teeth straightening business.


It means you need to “always be thinking!” Disruption is top of mind for investors and operators globally due to the incredible demand that’s ahead. The biggest problem we need to solve is reducing the cost of seniors housing and care. While the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation were savers, Boomers are not. They may want all the bells and whistles and people are for sure delivering on that but at the end of the day, when Boomers begin to move in mass, I can’t help but wonder how they will pay for it.

Disruption will come, the question is when. Questions that need answers are things like:

  • How do we address the massive amount of care givers that are needed?
  • How do we make senior living and care more affordable, particularly memory care which can run upwards of $10,000 per month!
  • How do we contain operational costs that continue to rise due to increases in everything from wages and insurance to the cost of construction/renovation?
  • How do we make the buyer experience more consumer friendly and overall easier to digest?

Change will come as smart people continue to ask these questions and deliver answers that generate real solutions. I imagine that not only will the delivery of seniors housing and care change but the entire sales and marketing experience; including how people make decisions. My challenge to you is to consider the single question that is presenting the greatest challenge to your company right now. Write it down, soak on it, request that your leadership team, mid-level managers and even site level employees strategize ideas. The more brains you have working on the problem the sooner the answers will come. Disruption is everywhere, including here, in the senior living space. It’s an exciting time and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

If you are looking to evolve, consider a Bild Executive Retreat, facilitated by Traci Bild or Jennifer Saxman, who will challenge the status quo within your organization and help you shift into a growth mindset culture where innovation is at the forefront of everything you do. Curious? Email Revenue@Bildandco.com or call Traci direct at 1.800.640.0688 to discuss your own Executive Retreat.


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