We have all seen the trendy mail-order aligner ads that claim to get your teeth straightened at a fraction of the cost compared to seeing a specialist. Do they work? Are they safe? Let's take a closer look at do-it-yourself aligners, the potential dangers, and why you should want to be treated by a certified orthodontist.
Do mail-order companies use Invisalign?
NO. Mail-order DIY brands use limited, generic plastics for their aligners, are not clinically overseen by a doctor, and do not utilize custom bonded attachments to assist tooth movement.
Can DIY aligners treat the same conditions as an orthodontist?
NO. Mail-order aligners are very limited. Without direct supervision by an orthodontist, they can only treat mild conditions where the teeth do not require complex movements. DIY aligners offer a limited number of trays, and do not use custom "attachments" that give aligners better grip and allow an orthodontist to treat and stabilize complex movements.
Are mail-order aligners overseen by an orthodontist?
NOT always, and NOT properly. Generic aligner companies have several remote dentists or orthodontists approving cases, often flippantly from their cell phones. You don’t get to discuss treatment with a specialist. And you don't receive a comprehensive exam to ensure your teeth are healthy enough to undergo movement, thus you face the real risk of problems such as gum recession, bone loss, tooth mobility, tooth loss, uneven bite, jaw pain, and a poor outcome. These have happened. Orthodontists are specialists that understand biomechanics and customize treatment for each patient, taking into account your unique smile goals and needs, to create the best outcome and long-term stability.
Are DIY aligners cheaper than seeing an orthodontist?
Not always. Though the DIY price tag seems appealing - patients often end up paying MORE in the long run. The price for these generic aligners does NOT include certain important parts of treatment - diagnostic x-rays, additional aligners if needed, and final retainers. These companies forgo x-rays altogether or require customers to pay out-of-pocket for x-rays at a dentist’s office. They also offer a very limited number of trays, tack on extra fees for refinements (additional aligners), and often don't even include final retainers. In addition to all of these extra fees - many patients will need to get retreated by an orthodontist after a failed DIY aligner treatment. In contrast - patients being treated properly at an orthodontist’s office typically receive x-rays, potential refinements, and retainers included in their treatment costs. Going to an orthodontist in the first place could not only give you a better result, but save you money in the long run.
3 BIG REASONS TO AVOID DIY AND SEE AN ORTHODONTIST:
SUPERVISION. With DIY aligners you never get to consult with an orthodontist and ask questions. Most often, you do not even know who the doctor is who approves your case. This means your treatment was not customized and your progress is not supervised properly to ensure everything is going according to plan, your oral health is cared for, and your smile goals are met.
ORAL HEALTH. Your teeth and/or occlusion (bite) could end up even worse than when you started (we know, because we have seen more and more of these patients over the years and had to retreat these cases).
INVESTMENT. Going to an orthodontist in the first place could save you money in the long run. Many generic DIY aligner companies have additional fees for things typically covered by an orthodontist, and many patients will need retreated by an orthodontist after a failed DIY aligner treatment.
Trust your smile to a specialist!
The AAO has also issued an advisory warning regarding mail-order aligners, due to thousands of complaints filed against a leading brand of mail-order aligners for ineffective or damaging results.
To generic aligner companies you are simply a “consumer," unlike at an orthodontist’s office, where you are treated like family and a number one priority.
Did You Know?
It can take 11 years to become an orthodontic specialist. Four years of college with pre-dental education and admission exams. Three to four years of dental school and rigorous testing to first become a dentist, then another 2 to 3 years of specialty training to become an Orthodontist. That is 11 years of advanced education and exams. Having that level of experience and dedicated care in every step of your treatment leads to positive outcomes that contribute to life long oral health!
It’s important to be informed before seeking orthodontic treatment. We hope this has helped you understand the differences between general mail-oder aligners and being cared for by a specialist.