If you’ve been near anything with a screen lately—and who hasn’t!—you’ve probably seen ads for direct-to-consumer (DTC) clear aligners. These companies market a “cheaper” method for straightening your teeth, bypassing the traditional orthodontic office with aligners delivered directly to your door. We can certainly understand why this would be appealing to some consumers, but most dental and orthodontic professionals are warning patients to avoid these companies. That includes Dr. Johnson! Keep reading below to learn what DTC aligners are and the benefits of an orthodontist vs. DTC aligners.
What are direct-to-consumer aligners?
Direct-to-consumer aligner companies claim to be an alternative to professional orthodontic treatment. Instead of being treated in an office under the supervision of a trained orthodontist, customers are supplied with an in-home impression kit for clear aligners. Once the impression has been taken and mailed back in, a dentist or technician will review it and determine if the patient is a good candidate for their aligners. If they’re approved for the process, aligners will be made from the impression provided. They will then be sent to the patient at home with instructions on how to wear them.
The bar for using DTC aligners is set disappointingly low, which means many people are okayed for aligner treatments even if they aren’t necessarily good candidates. There are several important components of the orthodontic process that are missing when it comes to DTC aligners, as well, which we’ll explore here.
Assessing the patient in person
An experienced orthodontist is trained to identify and treat a variety of issues, from simple to complex. That’s why the first step for any patient should be an orthodontic consultation and oral examination. Our consultation also includes digital photographs of your teeth along with a series of panoramic or cephalometric x-rays if necessary. These images allow us to see the teeth, jaws, and facial soft tissue, which gives Dr. Johnson what he needs to create a personalized treatment plan for each patient.
DTC aligner companies, on the other hand, must rely on nothing more than the basic information that is provided to them. This can lead to many oral health issues being missed. For example, cavities, gum disease, and other related problems can’t be seen from just a few photos or impressions. This can be a problem since teeth and gums should always be in good condition before any type of tooth movement is attempted. Working directly with an orthodontist’s office eliminates any unnecessary risk since the treatment is built around your unique needs, including any dental work that’s needed.
Creating a custom treatment plan
Clear aligner therapy can be a great fit for many patients, but it isn’t for everyone. Complex or severe cases may require more precise tooth control than aligners can provide. For these patients, metal or clear braces may be a better option. Without access to the patient for an in-person examination or x-rays, DTC aligner companies may not be able to accurately determine if someone is a good fit for aligners or not.
Routine supervision during the treatment process
Whatever type of orthodontic treatment you choose, you should expect regular check-ups to be part of the process. These visits typically occur every 4-8 weeks or so, and Dr. Johnson will use this time to observe how the teeth are moving and make any necessary adjustments.
DTC aligner companies do not provide any meaningful supervision, meaning patients are essentially left in charge of their own orthodontic journey. This can lead to unintended consequences. For example, 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. With no orthodontist involved, problems like this may go unnoticed and thus untreated, eventually causing damage to a patient’s oral health and bite.
We already have comparable pricing and similar treatment times
There’s no denying that achieving a healthy smile requires an investment of your time and your funds. Although DTC aligners may seem like an inexpensive and easy way to straighten your smile, they can actually end up costing more in the long run when you consider all the potential risks! That’s because these companies are simply unable to provide patients with the same level of supervised care that a trained orthodontist can.
Many qualified orthodontists can already compete with the cost and treatment times DTC companies claim. Johnson Orthodontics is proud to offer a variety of affordable treatment options to our patients, including Invisalign clear aligners. We also provide a flexible, in-office financing plan and financing through third-party companies. Our team will be happy to file any insurance claims on your behalf to maximize coverage as well.
Leave your smile to the experts at Johnson Orthodontics
DTC companies may claim to have qualified dentists and technicians overseeing their approval process, but nothing compares to working with a trained orthodontist. Dr. Johnson has the education, training, and skill needed to move your teeth successfully, leaving behind nothing but a beautiful smile. Our team is committed to providing you with expert guidance and trusted support from your first appointment to your last—and beyond. Would you like to learn more about safely achieving a beautiful smile with Johnson Orthodontics? Get in touch with us today to schedule your FREE consultation.