Many people want a straighter smile, and they want it fast, discreetly, and easy. Over the past decade, orthodontic treatment has evolved quickly, and today discreet options like clear braces and clear aligner therapy are increasing in popularity. Aligners quickly rose in popularity in most orthodontic offices. However, there is another side to clear aligner therapy outside of the orthodontist office that is causing concern among orthodontists and the American Dental Association (ADA) – mail order aligners.
What Are Mail Order Aligners?
Since aligner products can be costly, some companies have started offering cheaper alternatives through mail order businesses (often referred to as teledentistry). Instead of going into the orthodontist and dentist, these direct-to-consumer companies will supply you with an at-home impression kit to take impressions of your teeth. Once you mail them in, they’re reviewed by one of their technicians (usually someone living in a foreign country with a high school or less level of education), who determines if the patient is a candidate for these aligners. If so, aligners are made and sent back to the patient and they are instructed to wear them for a specific amount of time to begin correcting teeth. Since some of these mail order aligners are significantly cheaper, the price is very appealing to consumers. The criteria for being accepted is very loose we literally see pictures every day of patients approved for aligner treatment with active dental decay and/or gum disease or conditions that aligners would never actually work for. These companies have a goal to make money selling people something that really needs to be supervised by a professional, and are willing to severely compromise the standard of orthodontic and dental care in order to sell their product.
Smile Direct Club started the market for mail order aligners, and they continue to be the most popular option. Smile Direct Club is extremely heavily marketed, and they can make you think that they have many satisfied customers. The reality is there are literally hundreds of active lawsuits against Smile Direct Club by dental boards and unsatisfied patients. However, other companies are jumping into the mix after seeing their success. Some of the options available include Smile Direct Club, Candid Co. Clear Aligners, and Byte Aligners. As a consumer just know that any “do it yourself” orthodontics carries many potential risks and is more likely than not to give an unsatisfactory result and possibly make your teeth worse than they started.
The Hidden Dangers of Mail Order Aligners
Most dentists, orthodontists, and even the ADA are speaking out against the use of mail order aligners from Smile Direct Club and other similar companies. Why? Because they pose several dangers to patients. Like most things, you get what you pay for, and offering such a discounted service has its downfall. Flaws in the mail order aligner system include:
No Comprehensive Exam Before Treatment
An orthodontist does far more than just help straighten teeth. They identify and treat serious oral health concerns before they even consider offering their patients orthodontic treatment. This is why they do a comprehensive exam before recommending orthodontic treatment. Serious oral health problems, like gum disease or cavities, can be overlooked with home kits because there’s not a whole lot that can be seen from a few photos or putty impressions. An orthodontist typically has many years of post college education to learn to identify oral health problems and best manage them. To do any sort of tooth movement without the supervision of a dentist or orthodontist is extremely risky.
There’s No Real Supervision During Your Treatment
Another danger of mail order aligners is the lack of supervision during treatment. When you are treated with clear aligner therapy in an orthodontist’s office, they require routine appointments to make sure your teeth are moving at the safest, most efficient rate. An orthodontist will adjust your treatment plan as needed along the way, but you won’t get this when you go with DIY, home aligners. With mail order aligners, teeth may move slower or faster than anticipated. You may develop gum disease or cavities during your treatment, with no orthodontist or dentist being able to treat you because they can’t see your teeth. These are both real concerns that a lack of supervision during orthodontic treatment brings to light. I see daily pictures of patients teeth who were damaged and bite ruined by poorly designed mail order aligners that were done at home with no supervision. I would suggest to anyone that no treatment is much safer than unsupervised treatment.
You Risk Your Teeth Being Worse Than Before Your Treatment
Imagine paying for mail order aligners and going through with the treatment, only to have to see an orthodontist in person for more treatment due to the severe damage caused by your mail order aligners. Moving teeth too fast with mail order aligners or poorly fitted aligners can result in serious problems. There have been hundreds of reported Smile Direct Club horror stories that have emerged over time, with some people complaining of poorly fitting aligners that resulted in their teeth falling out, cuts to the gums, an inability to close their mouth or chew properly, and overall claims that their teeth were worse off after going through treatment. Smile Direct Club will have you sign a form before treatment letting you know that all these problems are your responsibility and not theirs, thus, when their aligners don’t work for you there is not much recourse that you have.
The NC Dental Association is Filing Lawsuits Against These Products
The NC Dental Association plans to file lawsuits against these products, and dental associations in other states, the ADA, and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) have voiced their distaste or have already lodged complaints against companies offering services like Smile Direct Club, alleging that the company is engaged in an unlawful practice of dentistry.
Aligners Aren’t for Everyone
It’s also important to note that aligners aren’t the right choice for everyone. There are different types of orthodontic treatments on the market, and an orthodontist can decide which one works best for your unique needs. Some patients can wear aligners just fine, and others will need braces or other orthodontic treatment to get their perfect smile. For example, some orthodontists might recommend braces over aligners for younger patients. Mail order kits only provide clear aligners, and cannot cater to everyone’s needs, and they may not be able to determine if you’re a suitable candidate for aligners.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, orthodontic treatment is a medical service – not a device or product. They recommend that consumers only receive clear aligner therapy from an experienced, licensed orthodontist to ensure that they receive the quality, safe treatment they need. Although going with mail order aligners may seem to save money in the short term, it’s a dangerous option that can prove very costly in the long run. If you’re in North Carolina and are ready to enjoy a straight, beautiful smile, contact Laster Orthodontics today to learn more about our orthodontic services.
At Laster Orthodontics, we help families develop healthy, life-changing smiles using customized treatments, cutting-edge technologies, and caring relationships. Our individualized treatment plans help our patients achieve their perfect smile in the quickest, most painless way possible by utilizing a wide range of options from traditional braces to Propel accelerated treatment to Dr. Laster's in-house aligner program, Laster Perfect Smile. With three locations throughout the Triangle Area, we create life-changing smiles every day.