Risky Business

Do-it-Yourself Dental Aligners

Straightening Teeth, No Dentist Needed

I have many patients who are currently correcting their misaligned teeth or are interested in correcting their misaligned teeth. They want straighter teeth for aesthetics mostly, but when teeth are straight, they are easier to keep clean and help optimize facial structure and chewing habits. As a hygienist I completely support orthodontic work for all these reasons. In our office we offer Invisalign® for mild to moderate cases and for more complex cases, we refer to an orthodontist who is specialized in this type of treatment.

Last week, one of my patients interested in getting her teeth aligned asked me what I thought about “at-home braces”. At first I had no idea what she was referring to but after further conversation, we discovered she was talking about the Smile Direct Club.

I had heard of the Smile Direct Club previously but didn’t think much of it until now. The main attraction for treatment with the Smile Direct Club is the cost. It’s about a third of the cost of traditional braces or Invisalign. This is very attractive to the money conscious consumer and why my patient had asked about it.

The Smile Direct Club eliminates the need to see a dentist while going through orthodontic treatment. That is why they state it is so inexpensive. They send you a kit to take your own impressions and then they prepare a treatment plan based off of the impressions. After you agree to the terms of the treatment plan, they start sending you trays that slowly move teeth into position. When you are finished with treatment, a retainer is recommended for life. This sounds great, but is it?

Based off the information at hand, and although the product will work for some, it worries me that the patient has no or very limited access to a dentist if they need one while going through treatment. I feel all dental treatment needs to have a dentist or dental specialist overseeing the process and progress. And although these companies have some locations for people who need extra help, they are few and far between.

This is an issue due to the lack of communication, attention, and access. Refinements, revisions and adjustments during orthodontic treatment is expected and very common. Who will help with these needs or how long will it take to get the course of treatment corrected when there is no one to go to? Do you make a phone call? Do you wait longer for new aligners postponing the completion of treatment? What if the company doesn’t respond to your emails in a timely manner? These are all things that happen and to consider.

With that being said, and although I think it’s still a risk, there are some ortho cases that have a lower probability of complications. These are relapse cases. Meaning the patient already had braces in the years prior and the teeth have shifted out of place since then. In these situations, the aligners only need to move the teeth back to where an orthodontist had once put them.

Now, this doesn’t mean things still can’t go wrong  causing delays and other frustrations. Aligners can break, get lost, not fit, etc. . . .where will the patient go and what will they do? It is because of this I don’t feel comfortable recommending the Smile Direct Club or any other at-home orthodontic program. It is a much better play to do your ortho treatment at a dental office or orthodontic office with people you know and who care. To actually have a place to go for immediate attention in the event of something not going right is worth every cent.

Do-it-Yourself Dental Aligners

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I have many patients who are currently correcting their misaligned teeth or are interested in correcting their misaligned teeth. They want straighter teeth for aesthetics mostly, but when teeth are straight, they are easier to keep clean and help optimize facial structure and chewing habits. As a hygienist I completely support orthodontic work for all […]

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The Dangers of Using Itinerant Dentists “Traveling Dentist”

It’s not unusual for dental patients to need treatment beyond the scope of practice offered by a general dentist. A general dentist does many things but are not typically specialized in oral surgery, periodontics or endodontics (root canals). When a  patient needs specialized care, dental offices usually refer the patient to another office for their dental disease. Lately, […]

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