April 15, 2020 Last updated April 15th, 2020 661 Reads share

How Alex Fenkell and SmileDirectClub are Giving Back in a Time of Crisis

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

It’s almost as if SmileDirectClub and co-founder Alex Fenkell were uniquely prepared to handle this challenging moment in history. All across the world, the coronavirus pandemic has rocked the landscape for citizens and businesses alike, with hospitals struggling to keep up with the need for treatment options, social distancing necessitating the shutdown of all “non-essential” workplaces, and requests from state governments for medical practitioners of all kinds to avoid in-person visits unless absolutely necessary. This, of course, extends to the dental community as well, with many offices shuttered for all non-emergency treatments, including teeth cleanings, routine checkups, and screenings for orthodontic appliances.

SmileDirectClub, the industry leader in direct-to-consumer medical technology for teeth aligners, has stepped in at this pivotal time to give back and help out. Over the last six years, SmileDirectClub has built out a massive teledentistry platform and network of licensed orthodontists to remotely provide patients with screenings and consultations as they created affordable invisible aligning devices and treatment plans that spared them the misery of metal braces or the high costs associated with repeated visits to the orthodontists’ office. Though critics once deemed teledentistry as an unviable solution, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven many of SmileDirectClub’s detractors wrong as they now offer remote services of their own using technology like video conferencing.

Now, with the world in greater need of their tools than ever before, Fenkell has opened up SmileDirectClub’s proprietary platform. Any licensed orthodontist or dentist in the United States can now use the company’s tools to handle and facilitate visits as their offices sit closed or limited, making it easy for dental practitioners – even those who have a limited background in technology and no experience with video conferencing – to see patients in a comfortable and straightforward remote setting.

When asked about these decisions, Fenkell explained: “Despite the fact that many dentistry practices have been classified as ‘non-essential,’ dental and orthodontic work isn’t just important – it’s life-changing. Our experience building Smile Direct Club has taught us that better than anything else. Many patients need to communicate with dentists and orthodontists, especially after major procedures or while they cannot be seen in person, to reduce their risk of worsening conditions. Using these resources, it’s possible for dentists to operate to the best of their ability to see patients in a comfortable and sustainable way while we work together through these once in a lifetime challenges.”

Additionally, SmileDirectClub has also made the decision to open up its referral network. Dentists can now connect to new patients who need ongoing dental care while receiving aligner therapy, creating vital business opportunities at a time when many Americans are hurting. These contributions and open doors are helping the dental and orthodontic communities weather the storm and adapt to fast-moving, fast-changing times.

SmileDirectClub hasn’t just given back by opening up their software platform, however. Fenkell has moved the company to 3D print medical grade face shields using their fleet of ultra high end, high speed production tools, which they are distributing free of charge to dentists and orthodontists at risk of exposure while providing emergency dental and orthodontic services to patients in dire need.

Alex Fenkell at the HP Senior Leadership Conference | SmileDirectClub from SmileDirectClub on Vimeo.

Beyond that, the company has also recently announced its partnership with SickKids Foundation, located in Toronto, to provide much needed personal protective equipment to the Hospital for Sick Children, Canada’s largest hospital dedicated exclusively to improving the health of children. On March 27, the company donated 250 face shields to the hospital’s doctors, providing them with greater protection from exposure to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus as they work with children in need of medical care.

In order to give back at this massive scale, SmileDirectClub is relying on one of their biggest and greatest partnerships – that between them and HP. In 2019, the company built the largest 3D printing facility in the United States, with 49 HP Jet Fusion 3D printing systems operating around the clock in order to produce mouth molds. This massive leap in production quality and quantity gave SmileDirectClub the power to make over 50,000 mouth molds by printing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and put the company on track to deliver 20 million of their very best products by 2019’s end.

In the face of a global pandemic and massive changes in our economy in what felt like a matter of days, Fenkell helped SmileDirectClub shift production and create tools needed to support the medical and dental industries without negatively impacting their core business – one of the many benefits of being a lean, fast-growing business fueled by groundbreaking technology with the ability to make rapid pivots when needed.

Fenkell added, “SmileDirectClub is able to give back in a powerful way – and make this giving part of our story for years to come.”

These aren’t the only things that SmileDirectClub has shifted its operation to produce. Since shifting operations at its 3D printing facilities to create personal protective equipment, the company has rapidly ramped up capacity and production on face shields, test kit swabs, and mask operators. With the ability to print, assemble, and ship as many as 7,500 face shields a day, they are working directly with hospitals and health organizations in need of supplies, and inquiries and orders can be sent directly to resilience@smiledirectclub.com.

David Katzman, SmileDirectClub’s Chief Executive Officer, stated that the company is doing this to help helpers whenever and however possible, and that now is a time in history for everyone who can to do their part and make the vital contributions to get us through this crisis and back on our feet as soon as we can. With a deep appreciation for the medical and dental professionals on the front lines of this crisis, SmileDirectClub is endlessly grateful for their help and support – and will continue to do everything in its power to enable and empower providers in the weeks and months to come as our battle against the virus continues.

In the coming months, expect to hear more from SmileDirectClub as they work with the dental and medical communities around the world.

Click here to learn more about SmileDirectClub and co-founder Alex Fenkell.

3d printer -DepositPhotos

David Fournier

David Fournier

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