Do-It-Yourself Orthodontics

A frequent topic that I discuss is do-it-yourself orthodontic aligner companies. Their usual claim is that their product is quicker and more affordable than “traditional” methods to improve your smile. They often advertise that your smile can be corrected within 4-6 months.  My goal with this article is to give you my thoughts regarding this type of treatment, as well as provide you with some things to think about when you are considering orthodontic treatment, no matter what you want improved.

Now as a disclaimer, I have not used any of the direct to consumer orthodontic appliances that are on the market today.  Most of my comments are not directed to specific companies, but rather on the concept of remote orthodontics, in general.

Another disclaimer: I am an orthodontic specialist and I have 2 years of specialty training in the diagnosis and treatment of orthodontic problems, in addition to the 4 years of training as a dental professional. Now, in order to properly diagnosis and treatment plan for an individual, we look at not just crooked teeth, but also your oral health, gum tissue, jaw relationships, jaw discomfort, biting issues and any potential growth considerations. If there are any dental issues that would affect the success of orthodontic treatment, it is important that you have an orthodontic professional that explains these issues to you and why it is important to have them corrected before orthodontic treatment has started.

Additionally, orthodontists are more cognizant of what can, and more importantly, can’t be accomplished in treatment.  With the increase in clear aligners, the use of computer-generated tooth movement and predictions for treatment are becoming more common.  While these predictive models are useful visual aids, they still do not take an individual’s biology and the biomechanics of tooth movement into account.  Therefore, these computer predictions also cannot guarantee your result will be ideal and the companies may not tell you that.  When you are considering orthodontic treatment and are looking into the direct-to-consumer companies, please be cautious and ask questions.  Here are a few things to consider before beginning treatment:

-Do they diagnose oral health issues?  Moving teeth in a comprised oral environment can lead to detrimental effects.  I require that all of my patients be up-to-date on their cleanings and dental check-ups before beginning treatment.  All dental concerns need to be addressed prior to initiating orthodontic treatment.  What does the company do if any oral health problems arise? Do they tell you?

-Who is treatment planning your case?  There needs to be someone that is trained in orthodontics, not just someone who is trained to use software.  If they claim to have orthodontists that treatment plan your case, do you know the name of them?  Can you contact them directly with your concerns during treatment?

-As part of the fees that you pay, do you receive any in-person visits? How many? Do you receive retainers after treatment is done?

-What happens if there is a problem with your case?  Cases do not always go accordingly to plan for various reasons.  An orthodontist is trained to expect and adapt to that.  Aligners do not always fit properly on your teeth and teeth do not move according to what is prescribed on a computer. We may need to add rubberbands or change the fit of the aligner or order a new set to make sure that your treatment is progressing.  Adaptation is essential in orthodontic treatment, regardless if we are using braces or aligners. You need to be sure that they give you an idea of what happens if something goes wrong with your treatment.

-What happens after treatment has concluded? What happens if there are teeth that still need to be moved?  Do they continue working on your case until it has corrected or do they ask for more money to re-start your treatment? 

-Do they tell you if your treatment is too severe or if your case cannot be completed by their system? 

Lastly, can you trust that someone that you’ve never met you has your best interests in mind when they are planning your case? Again, you want to work with someone that is open and honest with you. I try to treatment plan and oversee every case as if they were an immediate relative of mine. 

I know that some people usually just say, “I know all that, but I just want to straighten my lower teeth”.  I really do understand that, but your oral health is just as important to me as correcting your smile.  I know that in this day and age of everyone wanting things quick and easy, orthodontics seems like a lifetime process for just realigning some teeth, but it is essential that treatment is carried out effectively, not just quickly.  I think that most everyone would agree with me that you want your teeth straighten the right way on the first try and not the quick way that may result in more time and money later down the road.  Orthodontic treatment is a complex dental process and, just like any other medical or dental procedure, I need an experienced doctor that has the skills and training that I trust with my health.  A local orthodontist will evaluate your oral health, create a personalized treatment plan and then regularly monitor your progress, adapt to any problems and try their best to get to your ideal outcome.  The last thing that I want from any patient, not just my own, is that you get done with your DIY treatment and then you have to spend more time and money to get your treatment re-done.  Please, for your own health and benefit, do your research and ask questions before beginning your orthodontic treatment with a direct-to-consumer company.