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Straight Teeth Direct history: 6 years of smile transformations with clear teeth aligners

Straight Teeth Direct through the years

If you’ve been following us for a while now, then you’ll know that we love to celebrate our anniversary. It’s our 6th anniversary this year and we thought it was high time to give you a detailed account of what (and who!) makes Straight Teeth Direct™ what it is: what drives us to bring you the best, most affordable and accessible clear teeth aligners treatment!

Table of contents

#1 Meet our founders

#2 What about the team?

#3 Straight Teeth Direct through the years

#4 What makes us different? Our customer centric culture!

#5 From the first e-consultation to the Uplift Health Group

#6 Teledentistry the obvious alternative to traditional dentistry

#7 What’s next with clear teeth aligners?

#1 Meet our founders

Over the last 6 years, we have transformed thousands of smiles. But none of that would have been possible without our founder couple! Their vision and motivation for an accessible, affordable, remote clear aligners company are the building blocks of everything we do, so let’s meet them:

Straight Teeth Direct founders

Dr. Aalok Y Shukla co-founder and CEO and Lucie Marchelot Shukla, co-founder and Managing Director of Straight Teeth Direct

1.1 Meet Aalok:

After initially signing up for medicine, Aalok found that it was better to apply his interests in business and technology in dentistry. Soon after his graduation as a dentist, he began working at a top-tier clinic, which provided him with new, first-hand insights into the roadblocks of standard cosmetic dentistry: few could afford the procedures that they wanted for their smile, and irreversible, invasive measures were the go-to treatment method. Determined to democratise access to healthy, beautiful smiles, Aalok knew there were more gentle options equally effective.

1.2 Meet Lucie:

Lucie studied law and art history, and is now co-founder and Managing Director of Straight Teeth Direct. After training as a lawyer in the South of France, she was offered a coveted place on Christie’s degree programme and landed her dream job at a leading auction house after graduating. However, Lucie felt her work didn’t have the impact and purpose she strived for. When she met Aalok, she saw an opportunity to apply her entrepreneurial drive and know-how in a different field where she could genuinely help people and make a real difference to their lives.

1.3 Partners in life and business:

Together, they combine 29 years of deep industry experience, giving them a very unique edge when it comes to the foundation of our remote aligner company. In fact, after joining forces at their London clinic, they created the first online consultation system in 2012 through their brand I Love Straight Teeth. They also had a marketing agency to help other dentists reach more patients, but the core issues of affordability and accessibility continued to deter patients from achieving their dream smile. 

To finally democratise access to cosmetic orthodontics once and for all, Lucie and Aalok founded Straight Teeth Direct, the first remote aligner company in Europe. But how exactly did they go from a two-person team to Europe’s most trusted online aligner solution?

#2 What about the team?

Straight Teeth Direct team members

This clear aligner company would’ve not been alive today without the vision of our founders, that’s for sure! However, none of what we’ve accomplished so far would have been possible without our hardworking and ever growing team, either.
Here are a few words from some of our valued team members:

People and organisation member

“To deliver this complete end to end solution, we focus on recruiting the very best people; people who care deeply about delivering excellence through every aspect of the customer journey.”

People and organisation member

“It is incredibly gratifying to work at Straight Teeth Direct. Here, your personal input and proactive work is constantly taken into account. A place where you’re not expected to simply fit the basic standard of your role description but encouraged to bring your own personality and individual assets to help every team grow and evolve. I believe this is at the core of what makes Straight Teeth Direct such a special company to work with and what has allowed it to grow at such an unbelievable pace without ever compromising its values or quality.”

People and organisation member

“Working at Straight Teeth Direct is challenging, engaging and rewarding. I feel motivated to always learn more and the best part of it is having an amazing team.”

People and organisation member

“Working with Straight Teeth Direct has cleared my doubts of preconceived limitations of digital dentistry. The results/outcome of remote digital alignment has broadened my thinking to other aspects of dentistry. This model can be successfully applied and most importantly my capacity to manage cases remotely and digitally has significantly improved.”

People and organisation member

“Every Straight Teeth journey includes so much more than just aligners! We work hard to offer our customers a comprehensive treatment experience that they fully understand, creating educational and inspiring content every day. It’s so fulfilling to work in a team that has the customer’s best interest at heart every step of the way.”

People and organisation member

“I’ve been with Straight Teeth Direct for several years now and I’m so proud to be a part of such a dynamic, creative and innovative company with an honest commitment in providing a truly personalised service that transforms the lives of others.  In a world of one-size-fits-all, quick fixes and life hacks, I enjoy being part of a diverse team sharing a genuine spirit of cooperation and goals, ultimately providing our users with a unique treatment and experience they deserve.”

 

#3 Straight Teeth Direct through the years

After years of running their own private dental practice, it became evident to Lucie and Aalok that it was time for a new solution. One that would open up access to a beautiful smile by making teeth straightening more affordable and convenient for everyone, a solution that fits into people’s busy lifestyles. Getting straight teeth should not be painful, costly or inconvenient, which is how Straight Teeth Direct came to be.

3.1 Bringing teeth straightening into the 21st century

Our founders saw the possibility to integrate their system with state of the art 3D printing technologies, creating a comprehensive teledentistry platform and enabling at home cosmetic teeth straightening for a 1/3 of the cost of in clinic solutions. That’s when they began working with top dentists and experts in cosmetic orthodontics to create a comprehensive platform that delivers world-class teeth-straightening to your door, at a fraction of in-clinic prices. 

What also quickly became apparent is that Straight Teeth Direct was exactly what dentists wanted, too: through their marketing agency, Lucie and Aalok realised that dentists were looking for a more flexible way to work and reduce their days working in the clinic, focusing on the work they love doing and providing better care for more patients. By giving them access to the Straight Teeth Direct virtual clinic platform, this demand was also met.

3.2 Shifting the paradigm around cosmetic orthodontics

As with many groundbreaking ideas, their passion and innovation were initially met with industry pushbacks: as a married couple, they faced sceptical investors, and the industry itself labelled their unique approach as too innovative to succeed. Determined to overturn the “cheaper means lesser” paradigm, Straight Teeth Direct invested heavily in recruiting the best people, designing a fully personalised and monitored treatment, developing in-house manufactured and hand-finished orthodontic devices, and launching a dedicated teleorthodontic platform.

We received the first e-consultations in April 2016 and we started shipping impression kits a year later after putting the final touches to the first version of the app and receiving a pouring amount of inquiries from around the world. Now, we have delivered smiles to 60+ countries, have set up a team of 20 nationalities with over 50 members and counting, and have now set new standards for the booming clear aligners market across the UK, Europe and beyond.

Straight Teeth Direct how it started - how it's going

3.3 Time to make the world smile, too!

As time passed by, we were becoming more conscious of our impact on the planet and wanted to be more responsible. So, we decided to step up our game. 

Environmental impact

Plastic bags don’t break down completely: they turn into toxin absorbing microplastics that can take up to 450 years to degrade in landfills. Clear aligners are made of plastic, and every smile transformation requires up to more than two handfuls of individually packaged trays. Can you imagine how much waste aligner companies produce yearly?

We are proud to have taken conscious steps in recent years to actively become more sustainable from the start of 2021:

  • our biodegradable pouches can be decomposed by microorganisms in residual waste bins⁠ or bio waste
  • all our invisible aligners are made of BPA-free (and recyclable!) material⁠s
  • our grip-seal bags are eco-friendly and the return envelopes are 100% biodegradable, recyclable, compostable and plastic-free
  • Our SmileBox and StraightBox are made out of cardboard so that they can be reused as storage boxes⁠ – for your old aligners for instance!

 

Social impact

Aside from adopting an eco-friendly purchasing mindset, we have established sustainability campaigns and events within our company and donated to several charities. Doing good and working with purpose matters to us; we are proud to have been able to support great causes over the years, including:

  • Paint Our World, a humanitarian project dedicated to making a positive difference to the lives of underserved children in India.
  • The Starting Over Fund in London, a charity whose mission is to support and help integrate those who are socially excluded.
  • The Buddy Bag Foundation, in support of children in emergency care in the UK after fleeing violent situations at home.
  • International Committee of the Red Cross, helping their efforts with the Ukraine conflict.
  • Wells on Wheels, giving young girls in rural India a chance at a better childhood by improving the way they collect water for their families.

Doing good matters to Straight Teeth Direct

We are highly committed to making a positive environmental and social impact and are excited to keep expanding this work in progress, while continuing to conduct more sustainable practices in the orthodontic field.

#4 What makes us different? Our customer centric culture!

People mainly want three things: straight, healthy and whiter teeth. It shouldn’t be expensive, confusing or an inconvenience to get professional support, but for a long time it was! Procedures were incentivised for dentists, not patients, so we put our customers at the centre of our work and strive to be the highest quality orthodontic and dental health platform in Europe providing convenient and affordable mobile solutions. 

We give people who feel unhappy and self-conscious about their smile a world-class quality solution that’s also convenient and affordable. It’s important to us to positively impact the lives of our customers, as we know that getting a smile they love more can boost their self-esteem, confidence and many other aspects of their life. 

Here are some of the heart-warming comments we have received from customers recently that remind us again and again how important and valued our work is:

Straight Teeth Direct users aligners reviews

#5 From the first e-consultation to the Uplift Health Group

Straight Teeth Direct milestones

2009

The foundation

Our founders were looking to create the type of dental practice experience they wanted for ourselves. High tech clinic with TVs in the ceiling offering state of the art smile enhancement using the latest cosmetic and dental braces technologies.

2014

Going Digital

To help more people access their dream smile they created an online assessment system and also helped more clinics do the same using the latest digital education booking and automation systems to grow their orthodontic practices.

2015

Going Direct to Consumer

Lucie and Aalok saw the possibility to integrate their online assessment systems with state of the art 3D printing technologies to create a comprehensive teledentistry platform enabling at-home cosmetic teeth straightening for a 1/3 of the cost of in clinic solutions.

2016 

First e-consultation completed

Straight Teeth Direct launched in April 2016 as part of the Uplift Health Group, whose mission is to reduce cost and increase access to oral health through technology, and started getting enquiries from around the world.

2017

Fully Mobile and Global Solution

Straight Teeth Direct went live and global with iOS and Android apps, starting the journey to data driven smiles delivered in 60+ countries. This was just the beginning!

2018

Founders Factory

Straight Teeth Direct joined the Founders Factory world class accelerator programme to take the service to the next level. 

2019

Straight Teeth Direct in the London Tube & Selfridges

To spread more awareness for our innovative smile solution, we launched a campaign in the London tube and began a 1 year pop-up at the Selfridges flagship store on Oxford Street.

2020

Instant Dentist™ & news features

It became apparent that not only are people looking for an easy, modern way to straighten teeth, the same goes for oral care in general. That’s when we launched Instant Dentist, the first teledentistry service to be covered by Bupa insurance.

Following countless features in leading publications, Vogue magazine honoured us by mentioning Straight Teeth Direct in one of its publications.

2021

500 amazing Trustpilot reviews

This was the year we cracked the 500 mark in Trustpilot reviews, with over 97% reporting a fantastic experience! 

2022

Virtuoso Aligners by Instant Dentist 

We’re still going strong in 2022 with the launch of Virtuoso Aligners! Created for those who want the best of both worlds, Virtuoso provides the benefits of affordable clear aligners and the reassurance from your trusted local dentist. Receive quality clear aligners at a fair price with a flexible monitoring system that combines physically visits with online support from your trusted local dentist⁠.

 

#6 The rising demand of Teledentistry

The last couple of years have been challenging all around the globe and have changed the way we interact with services, both online and in-person – including teledentistry. These changes have led more and more people to accept online solutions as a real alternative to traditional dentistry, giving rise to new advancements to meet this demand and continue providing high-quality treatment remotely.

6.1 The Covid pandemic

With the pandemic outbreak, most industries had to shift their practices in order to adapt to the new reality. People needed a rapid evolution of telemedicine and telehealth, so that’s what they got – consequently accelerating telehealth solutions.

The remote aligner model existed prior to the pandemic, but the new, global stay-at-home reality caused it to really boom. Demand for remote treatment grew steadily, with many seemingly similar solutions popping up to profit from the growing market. Unfortunately, new coming, profit-oriented companies often cut corners. Replacing dentist-checked suitability assessments by automated online forms, outsourcing aligner production to the cheapest provider (meaning they have no control over quality and consistency), sending all aligners in one shipment instead of in stages to ensure safe tooth movement, and removing vital ongoing progress reviews with a dentist, all to keep costs low while maximising profits.  

At Straight Teeth Direct, on the other hand, we have remained true to our mission and user-centric approach to ensure the highest standards despite the situation. We understand that teeth straightening is complex, and embrace the fact that each individual smile is unique. Customised treatment is not easy to deliver on a large scale, but it is precisely what drives us to provide an outstanding service, including monthly digital reviews, aligner shipments in stages, and refinement aligners where necessary. All in all: a positive teeth straightening experience backed by guarantees and world class dentists.

6.2 Brexit

It’s no secret that Brexit put a spanner in the works for many companies in ways that were certainly frustrating for both users, CEOs and employees, as well as entirely out of their control. Being internationally active, Straight Teeth Direct was no exception. 

To continue providing the same level of high-quality treatment to all our valued existing and new customers, we worked hard to put in place new location-specific shipping arrangements and even customise our procedures to suit our users. 

 

#7 What’s next with clear teeth aligners?

What started out as a small, two-person dental clinic with big dreams has now evolved into 3 groundbreaking companies with over 50 employees and thousands of customers, leading the way into the future of dentistry and oral care. The sky’s the limit, but whatever comes next, one thing will always be certain: our mission will always be to deliver democratised access to your best smile.

Thank you Straight Teeth Direct

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