We live in a world of convenience these days, which is often cause for celebration. Even in the middle of a pandemic, you can order just about anything you need online and have it delivered to your door within a few days! Having easy access to scores of popular products has plenty of obvious benefits, but it can come with some unintended side effects as well. We see the results of this even in the orthodontic world with an increase in the number of direct-to-consumer treatments available. This is particularly true in the case of clear aligners! That’s why we’re taking a look at the benefits of choosing an orthodontist over direct-to-consumer aligners.
We often see DTC aligners advertised as an easier and cheaper way to straighten the teeth without an orthodontist’s direct supervision. We certainly understand why this would seem appealing to some consumers. After all, who wouldn’t want to save time and money by carrying out their orthodontic treatment from the comfort of their own home? It’s not hard to see why the idea is compelling, but the truth is that there’s a whole lot more to treatment than the appliance used.
Most dentists and orthodontists won’t recommend DTC aligners, and with good reason. Let’s take a look at what direct-to-consumer treatments are, how they work, and why you shouldn’t trust your smile to anyone but an expert. Keep reading to learn more!
What are direct-to-consumer treatments? What does that actually mean?
The name explains it pretty well, but when it comes to orthodontics specifically, we’re referring to companies that mainly market at-home aligners as an alternative to traditional treatment. Byte, Candid and SmileDirectClub are a few examples. Those who are interested are supplied with an in-home impression kit they complete and send back. Additionally, consumers can go to a scanning center overseen by dental assistants or salespersons to begin their treatment. The company has a dentist or technician look over the impression or scan and determine if the person is a good fit for their product. If so, aligners will be mailed to them along with instructions on how to wear them.
Generally speaking, It doesn’t take much to be approved for the aligners from these companies as dentists are incentivized to accept every patient. Therefore, the bar tends to be set incredibly low in most cases! This may sound good in theory, but unfortunately, it means that a lot of people are approved even if they aren’t actually good candidates for treatment with aligners. This matters because there are a number of important treatment components that are missing from the direct-to-consumer model. We’ll explore some of those below.
Customized treatment plans
We tend to associate orthodontic treatment with straight smiles, but in reality, it’s so much more. Experienced orthodontists spend years learning how to identify and correct orthodontic issues safely and successfully. That’s why the first step for any patient should always be a consultation that includes a thorough oral examination!
At Brodsky Orthodontics, the first visit with us is free. This appointment includes a thorough oral exam as well as digital photographs and 3D x-rays of the teeth. We also go over the patient’s medical and dental history and discuss any concerns they have about their smile. The information and images collected give our doctors what they need to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses that patient’s specific orthodontic needs.
In contrast, DTC aligner companies are forced to rely on nothing more than the basic information the consumer (the patient) provides. Unfortunately, this can lead to overlooking important oral health issues. For example, it’s hard to see cavities, gum disease, and other related problems from a few photos or impressions. Since the teeth and gums should always be in good condition before attempting any orthodontic treatment, this has the potential to be problematic. When aligners are provided and supervised by a trained orthodontist, it eliminates these risks! Treatment plans are built around a patient’s unique needs, including any dental work that’s needed.
Recommendations that work best for you and your smile
While clear aligner therapy like Invisalign is an excellent option for many patients, it isn’t always an appropriate choice. Some cases are too complex or severe to treat with an aligner alone. For these patients, traditional metal or clear braces may be a better option.
Unlike orthodontists, direct-to-consumer aligner companies do not have ready access to patients for in-person exams, clear digital photographs, or x-rays. As such, they may not be able to accurately determine if someone will be a good fit for aligners or not.
Expert supervision throughout the treatment process
Whether they’re in braces or aligners, all orthodontic patients will have regular check-ups. These are usually scheduled for every 8-10 weeks or so, depending on the treatment plan. During these visits, the orthodontist will check that the teeth are moving safely and make any necessary adjustments to the appliance.
DTC aligner companies don’t really provide any meaningful supervision. This leaves patients in charge of their own orthodontic journey, which is obviously less than ideal. For example, the delivered aligners may fit poorly, causing irritation and pain. An improper fit may also move the teeth too quickly or more slowly than expected. As we noted above, cavities or gum disease can develop or worsen without the patient knowing.
When no orthodontist is directly involved in a patient’s orthodontic journey, problems like this may go unnoticed and thus untreated. Over time, this can actually cause damage to a patient’s overall oral health and bite.
Comparable pricing and treatment times already exist
Let’s be honest: you really do get what you pay for when it comes to your smile. Achieving a healthy and functional smile through orthodontics requires an investment of your time and funds. DTC aligners can be attractive because they seem like an affordable shortcut to a straighter smile. However, they could actually end up costing more in the long run when you consider all the potential risks they come with! For the most part, these companies just aren’t able to provide patients with the same level of supervised care that an expert orthodontist can.
The good news is, most orthodontists can compete with the cost and treatment times that DTC companies claim to provide! Brodsky Orthodontics is proud to offer a variety of affordable treatment options for patients of all ages, including Invisalign clear aligners. We also have interest-free monthly payments available, along with flexible payment plans to fit every budget. We accept most insurance plans and will be happy to file the necessary papers to your insurance company.
Trust your smile to the experts at Brodsky Orthodontics
Most direct-to-consumer companies do claim to have qualified staff overseeing their approval process. Even so, nothing compares to working with an experienced orthodontist—and we have three of them! Our doctors have the education, training, and skill necessary to move teeth safely. In fact, our team has been creating beautifully aligned smiles in Lakewood and the surrounding area since 1976! When you choose our practice, you’re putting your smile into the best possible hands. Are you ready to learn more about how you can safely achieve the smile you’ve always wanted? Get in touch today to schedule your free virtual or in-person consultation!