CVS enters dental care with a stretch of teeth

CVS Health ventures into dental care with plans to offer a relatively new dental care service.

The pharmacy chain said Thursday that it will add SmileDirectClub sites to hundreds of stores where customers can get their teeth straight without a visit to a dentist or orthodontist. This lack of an office visit has drawn criticism from orthodontists.

In recent years, CVS Health and other pharmacies have been pushing to add more services to their retail premises, among other things to help their customers stay healthy. They also try to attract customers for profitable beauty products and stave off competition like the online store giant, which delivers the same day for many of the products that pharmacy sells outside of their pharmacies.

Under the CVS plan, customers receive a 3D image of their mouth made by a SmileDirect employee at one of the pharmacy's sites. The image is sent to a dentist or orthodontist who approves the patient's treatment plan. Patients are delivered clear, removable adjustments designed to straighten their teeth.

They check in remotely at a dentist or orthodontist, often after smartphone. The service costs $ 1,850 before insurance.

The American association for orthodontists has criticized the service, and a warning that visits to persons are important in this type of care. Dentists can detect gum disease during these visits, and X-rays can detect flaws that are not seen in a picture, says group lawyer Sean Murphy.

"Our concern is the patient's health and safety," Murphy said.

CVS Pharmacy President Kevin Hourican said he has no safety concerns with SmileDirect, which he said provides a "high quality" product and limits the care of patients who do not have complex dental needs.

SmileDirect spokeswoman Carrie Moore said the company, which started in 2014, has earned more than half a million people. She said in an e-mail that it is common for "traditional industry representatives to delete" when a new business model receives acceptance.

CVS Health will also add the SmileDirect service as a covered option in the dental care network of the newly acquired Aetna Health Insurance business. Another insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, announced a similar coverage expansion on Thursday.

The SmileDirect sites will appear in only a small percentage of CVS Health's 9,800 retail locations nationwide. But the company's officials say they can possibly expand to more than a thousand places. The company started testing the approach in a few stores last year.

In his pilot, CVS Health found that the SmileDirect sites attracted younger new customers.

"People want to improve their smile and they feel better about themselves," Hourican said.

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