The Smile Direct club closed months after filing for bankruptcy in the U.S., leaving some customers confused and stranded as their treatment continues.
The company, best known for selling remote clear conditioners, said late Friday it had made the “incredibly difficult decision” to cease operations.
A US-based dental company offered aligners for around £1,800 without the need to visit a dentist.
Burdened by debt, a last-ditch rescue attempt failed.
Founded in 2014, Orthodontics has positioned itself to disrupt the “bricks and mortar” dental industry.
In traditional dentistry, “rail-rail” braces and clear aligners are fitted after an in-person consultation by dentists and orthodontists or a trained orthodontic therapist.
Many customers are drawn to Smile Direct Club because of the low price point and the fact that they can take molds for their aligners at home.
Treatment with the company usually lasts four to six months, and customers must check-in online with registered dentists.
In a statement on its website, the company says it has “improved more than two million smiles and lives.”
However, customers in the US, UK and elsewhere are confused, with the company saying its customer support line is no longer available, although customers may need check-ins or fixes for their adjusters.
It recommends that people contact their local dentist if they wish to continue their treatment.
This has angered some customers by saying that the “lifetime smile guarantee” it previously offered is no longer valid, while those who set up payment plans are expected to continue paying.
It said it would have more information about the refund as the bankruptcy process continues and “next steps” are determined.
On Facebook, many users questioned what to do about their treatment and complained of recent payments.
One wrote: “Disgusting how we’ve all been treated… I just signed up for my aligners, paid my first payment and now I won’t get my braces”.
Another said his wife had paid for her therapy in full and needed a new therapist, but was now unsure whether she would get one.
On Instagram, another customer questioned: “I did six months [of] Treatment – Now What? I can’t finish?… It’s heartbreaking.”
In a statement on its website, Smile Direct Club apologized for the inconvenience.
The company was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. in late September, which defers obligations to a company’s creditors, giving it time to restructure its debts or sell off parts of the business.
But on Friday, a last-ditch rescue deal failed.
Attorney Spencer Winters told a judge in bankruptcy court that a deal for its founders to provide new financing and buy Smile Direct Club out of bankruptcy fell through because its most important creditor could not agree.
“We pushed really hard this week and it just didn’t come together,” he said.
It was once valued at $8.9bn (£7bn), according to Fortune magazine, but failed to turn a profit and was almost $900m worth of debt.
Throughout it strictly safeguards its practices, clients’ treatments are reviewed by licensed professionals, while the risks are listed.