Sporting Smiles — Custom Dental Products at a Professional Level

Sporting Smiles — Custom Dental Products at a Professional Level

SportingSmiles is the leader in online dental products, crafting teeth retainers, night guards, sports mouthguards, and custom whitening trays for over one million people across the United States. Established in 2009, SportingSmiles has grown significantly over the years patenting an impression kit in 2013 and moving into new facilities in 2018. By ordering an impression kit, customers will receive it and take impressions of their teeth before shipping it back to SportingSmiles. From there, the lab team at SportingSmiles will craft your custom product and ship it back to you. It’s a process that has saved hundreds of dollars for each customer who no longer needs to make expensive dental visits. The long journey of SportingSmiles started when the owner was struck by inspiration. Literally.

Evan McCarthy was an 8th-grader enjoying his favorite class of the day. It was gym, and today they would be playing baseball, but it would be one game that he’d never forget. Another student was warming up with an aluminum baseball bat when she swung for the fences and connected with Evan’s mouth. She knocked it out of the park, or at least his front four teeth that required complete replacements and emergency surgery. 

It might not have seemed like it then, but a brilliant idea struck Evan in the head that fateful afternoon. Years later, Evan would be required to wear custom sports mouthguards to protect his $10,000 replacement smile. The guards did the trick, but they were uncomfortable and bulky. It seemed that over-the-counter mouthguards had easy access but were much more prone to poor conditions and wear.

As his father was a dentist, Evan had plenty of access to orthodontic and dentistry tools. He began to play around with making his own custom mouthguards that were more comfortable, offered better protection, and were simply cooler than the standards ones at the store. This hobby soon turned profitable as he began to sell them on eBay.

The custom mouthguards soon began taking up all of Evan’s time, and in 2009 he decided to create SportingSmiles and make it his full-time career. He moved into the basement of his father’s office and begin crafting the mouth guards for various athletes. The mouthguards stood out from others with their graphics of fangs, flags, and other slogans. It became so popular that McCarthy began to create other dental products and began hiring staff for his business.

The move paid off, as SportingSmiles has grown into a multi-million dollar international business and has since incorporated new products like mouth guards for teeth grinding, clear retainers, whitening trays, and of course the sports mouthguards that Evan first created. 

Today, the dental production company continues to thrive on the frontlines of dental technology incorporating 3D printing into their practice. It’s a new tool that separates SportingSmiles from other dental companies. 3D printing allows for exact molds to be printed giving the lab technicians at SportingSmiles the most accurate molds to craft with. 

“We really made a commitment to ramp up the way we craft our dental products,” McCarthy said. “Some dental labs still use the stone grinding method which is very messy and can be less accurate. With the 3D printers, we have cut down on processing time while keeping the lab cleaner. I always knew that 3D Printers would come into play and we wanted to be out in front of everyone else with incorporating them.” 

Customers can now keep their impressions on file for life with the 3D digital molds. The move helped clear much-needed warehouse space at SportingSmiles where old impressions of customers were kept. Previously, customers had a year to reorder or their impressions would be recycled to create space for new smiles but with the 3D printers, customers can elect to keep their impressions on file for life digitally which has nearly doubled the retention rate of previous customers.

While the year 2020 was a stressful time for many, Sporting Smiles safely provided customers dental products when all dentistry and orthodontic offices were closed due to the pandemic. By using the impression kit, customers were able to receive premium dental products at a fraction of the cost that their dentist would charge and all from the safety and comfort of their home.

“The last few years we’ve become very efficient in how we handle the entire process of sending out our impression kits, quality control, and we’ve made some huge advancements with our technology,” McCarthy said. “During 2020, we grew rapidly because everyone else was shut down. It was a difficult time for many but because our office was different and we were able to space out the workstations, we could continue to craft the products. We were already disinfecting all the impression kits previously so it wasn’t a big deal for us. We gained a lot of lifetime customers during that year.”

One of the challenges that SportingSmiles and many other companies face is figuring out a marketing strategy for social media outlets and other forms of marketing. It’s one that Evan and Director of Marketing Seth Newman routinely meet to discuss new ideas and strategies. With the ever-changing landscape of social media, SportingSmiles has managed to evolve with the platforms. 

“At first we were doing the basics for marketing,” McCarthy said. “Google is king, and so you need to have a grasp of Google Ads and make sure that you’re visible to potential customers who are searching for your products but after that, we’re on almost every social media platform you can think of including TikTok. We’ve had influencers reach out to us for collaborations both on YouTube and TikTok and we’re doing marketing on all the other platforms. You never know which one is going to take off, so we make sure we’re visible on each one.” 

One of the biggest issues facing SportingSmiles in the current market is the supply chain. With ports backed up and supply prices shooting up, it’s a delicate situation but one that McCarthy has prepared for. SportingSmiles uses impression putty, cardboard boxes, and essix materials to keep running but all of these have become more expensive during the last two years. 

“We do our best to keep things stocked in case of an emergency,” McCarthy said. “I keep a strict schedule of reordering supplies and I’m always planning ahead. You need to take into account how long it takes for the supplies to get to your facilities too. Longer delivery times means ordering supplies sooner rather than later. It’s important to understand your inventory and to create a smooth flow that can be adjusted in emergencies or have enough supplies to last for a few months when the vendors are behind on shipping.” 

The covid pandemic put stress on many businesses, some were shut down, others moved to remote work. Though SportingSmiles flourished during the pandemic, it wasn’t without the precaution and safety measurements that are still in place. In the office, workers were already spaced six feet apart with large desks but in the lab, workstations were together. McCarthy redesigned the lab for the safety of workers who now had their individual workstations. Flexible hours also helped keep workers safe at SportingSmiles. Lab technicians could come in at any time to reduce the risk of coming into contact with the virus.

“We had workers coming in at all times of the day who were spread out in the dental lab,” McCarthy said. “They created their own schedules and were able to continue working because of it. We had some early risers who were in at the crack of dawn and then some night owls who would arrive in the afternoon and work into the night. It helped keep the lab spaced out and the workflow going.” 

While there are hardships facing many businesses, it’s an exciting time to be an online retailer. Shoppers continue to buy more and more things online including cars, groceries, and now their dental products. SportingSmiles sees this as an opportunity to continue to grow with the surge and trend of shopping from home. 

“Any online retailers have to be feeling good about the industry,” McCarthy said. “So many things have changed in the last 20 years with online shopping and it keeps continuing to grow. It’s easy to see why so many companies are having online stores because people simply prefer getting their stuff online and having it shipped to them. There’s no need to visit a dentist, pay extreme costs and take valuable time out of your day when you can order the exact same products from home.” 

As the dental industry continues to increase in revenue with an expected increase of up to $140 billion in 2022, SportingSmiles will continue to be a leader in the field both in technology and at-home products. Nearly 30 years ago, McCarthy lost his four front teeth in a baseball accident in gym, but it’s easy to see that that event placed him on a path to provide affordable dental products to all.

“At the time, I didn’t see any silver lining to having my teeth knocked out,” McCarthy said. “Turns out, dental care is extremely important and now anyone can afford it.”

Marie Salbuvik

Dietician MS, Lund University, Sweden Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.

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