People will do anything for a perfect smile, even if it means skipping the dentist altogether. (“What did I just read?”)
That’s right, mail order orthodontic solutions, which claim to mitigate the need for supervision by a dentist, are noticeably popular these days. Many consumers are taking the bait, sold on the concept of ultra-convenience and minimal cost.
Driving the mail-order aligners craze is an aggressive advertising blitz using traditional and social media, the primary target being instant-gratification-oriented, budget-minded younger folk.
Customers choose an aligner company and either visit one of their retail locations for a mouth scan or receive an impression kit by mail. Based on the results of these tests, customers are shipped a series of clear plastic aligners, similar to the ones a real dentist might have made for them.
Following a set of detailed instructions, customers wear the aligners, which gradually guide teeth toward their desired position. Each succeeding aligner moves teeth further, until they are in the target position. On the surface, the whole process appears to be very convenient and effective, but…
As great as it may sound, dental experts are very concerned about mail order orthodontics and the lack of monitoring by a qualified dentist. Turns out, healthy teeth and gums are a prime requirement for treatment with clear aligners. Moving teeth around are a particularly risky business when there are mitigating issues, like severe gaps, swollen or decaying gum tissue or tooth decay, to name a few.
To be fair, mail order aligner companies claim to offer proper qualification for treatment, as well as monitoring and supervision during treatment – but for a variety of reasons, customers don’t always receive these necessities.
When it comes to doing what the doctor ordered, we are often our own worst enemy. Use of clear braces requires strict adherence to a number of behaviors.
For example, eating and drinking while wearing aligners is a real no-no because it can cause serious tooth decay – and sporadic wearing of aligners can loosen teeth or even cause them to fall out after treatment. That is why careful monitoring by a dentist helps patients stay on course and avoid the pitfalls they might fall into on their own.
You might just assume that dental professionals are angry at aligner companies because they are taking away their business – but as doctors, they know there is a reason these services are cheaper and more convenient, and may result in compromising the health of dental patients.
With so many risks, it’s no wonder that the American Dental Association has condemned mail order orthodontics, citing that “supervision by a licensed dentist is necessary for all phases of orthodontic treatment.” Period.
Quality one-on-one attention, a knowledge of the patient’s medical history, and the ability to notice troubling symptoms or patterns and correct them are not typically offered by mail-order companies, and can only be sought out through the help of a licensed professional.
By example, listen to video blogger Darlene Green‘s experience with mail order aligners.
Note: This is not to say that all mail order aligner customers have been dissatisfied with results. Nor is it to say that these companies do not disqualify customers when appropriate. The issue is, customers may not be aware that treatment results may not be what they want, or that treatment could actually create other serious issues in the future.
The Bottom Line on Clear Aligners by Mail
Mail order braces may seem to be more cost-effective and convenient than traditional methods, but anyone who chooses to neglect in-person care in exchange for lowered prices is playing a dangerous game with their dental health. For proper treatment of cosmetic and bite issues, dentists remain the most reliable resource.
Contributed by: Bryan Armetta