5 Problems With Mail-Order Teeth Aligners

Published February 3, 2020 in Teeth

Dr. Charles Gemmi
mail order teeth aligners

Having crooked teeth can be pretty tough. A recent study found that Americans rate people with straight smiles significantly more positively on a number of measures. We find them more attractive, more successful, more employable, and healthier. We are more likely to date them, to remember them, and even to trust them.

Our fixation with beautiful smiles can leave some people wanting to make a change. Unfortunately, getting perfectly straight teeth can sometimes be financially challenging. As a result, “lower-cost” mail-order teeth aligners have become a popular trend recently. You have likely seen them advertised on social media channels or through direct marketing approaches.

These ads can make having a straight smile seem even more important and make you even more interested in obtaining one. But is the promise of a smaller price tag worth the risk? Probably not, according to several prominent dental organizations.

What Are Mail-Order Teeth Aligners?

Mail-order teeth alignment companies have been popping up in recent years, offering people a way to straighten their teeth without costly and inconvenient visits to an orthodontist.

A patient simply goes to a local center or uses an at-home kit to make an impression of their teeth. Then, if they are deemed a good candidate, clear alignment trays are created and mailed to them. You wear the trays at home for a certain amount of time and voila! A straight and beautiful smile at half the cost of traditional orthodontia.

Or so these companies claim.

Invisalign Philadelphia

The treatment offered by these companies seems similar to another orthodontic treatment- Invisalign. Invisalign uses clear aligners based on an impression of your teeth. However, they are done by licensed orthodontists and adjusted throughout your treatment plan. If you are interested in Invisalign, contact the only Invisalign Diamond Plus orthodontist in the Philadelphia region.

The at-home options can be very appealing to someone who wants a better smile but doesn’t think they can afford it otherwise. Ultimately, moving teeth in any capacity is a risky and serious procedure. You should be as informed as possible before beginning any kind of dental or orthodontic treatment.

Continue reading to learn about some of the potential problems with mail-order teeth aligners, and then make a fully-informed decision.

Problems with Mail-Order Aligners

Would you trust yourself exclusively to monitor a realignment of your leg bones? If you aren’t a trained orthopedic surgeon, you probably wouldn’t. The same should hold for your teeth (which are bones as well!).

To change your smile, you have to change your teeth. Dentists and orthodontists go to school for many years to learn how to safely and effectively make those adjustments. Their knowledge cannot be downsized to a simple mail-order system.

The American Dental Association and The American Association of Orthodontists caution against using these mail-order companies. They recently issued statements reminding patients and providers that realigning teeth is a medical procedure and needs to be directly supervised by a trained medical professional. Improper treatment can result in the loss of teeth and costly dental complications.

Here are some of the specific problems found with mail-order alignment:

1.  Patients are not directly assessed or monitored by a licensed orthodontist.

If you have ever had braces, you know that straightening your teeth is much more complicated than simply wearing a tray mold. Standard treatment with braces requires frequent office visits because it is medically necessary, not because the orthodontist is trying to inconvenience you. When moving teeth, an orthodontist wants to routinely monitor the progress to make sure things are progressing safely and correctly.

Additionally, orthodontia is about more than just fixing crooked teeth. When they assess you initially, they look at other aspects of your oral health and get a robust picture of your needs. The mail-order kits just make an impression of your teeth to design a tray aligner. While that mold is supposedly reviewed by dental professionals, you are never assessed by one directly.

And if you have questions or concerns about your treatment, who do you talk to? A customer service representative?

While it is understandably attractive to envision fixing your smile without leaving your house, some things simply can’t be done at home. X-rays, for example, are an important part of all dental and orthodontic care. X-rays help assess what lies beneath the gums, which can be just as important as what lies above.

To repeat our earlier example, wouldn’t you want an X-ray before the treatment of a broken leg?

2.  The treatment is not tailored to you.

The other downside of not seeing an actual orthodontist is that your treatment plan is never adjusted. Traditional braces are tightened, replaced, or otherwise modified when needed. The mail-order trays stay the same during the course of your treatment and may not reflect the steps your teeth actually need to go through.

What if your teeth start moving in unanticipated directions? What if your trays are slightly misaligned and start to cause big problems? It will be up to you to know what is normal or abnormal and to raise any concerns you may have.

3.  The treatment options are limited.

Some of these mail-order companies claim to have your impression reviewed by a dentist before your treatment is designed. This dentist will make sure you are a good candidate and have only minor tooth alignment issues. Patients with more complicated issues, such as implants, may be turned down.

But it may be that you are approved for treatment despite having other, more subtle, contraindications (such as gum disease). The mail-order company would not be able to assess that and may end up giving you problematic treatment. This is another reason to see an orthodontist in-person first. He or she can accurately and thoroughly evaluate your needs before determining which option will work best for you.

There are also many conditions that cause crooked teeth that cannot be fixed by aligners-alone. For example, if you need your jaw to be widened, you definitely cannot do that through the mail.

What if you go through the process of alignment via a mail-order company, and your teeth are still not fixed to your satisfaction? Make sure you know what the guarantees and warranties are before beginning treatment.

4.  It could cost you more in the end.

With any of the above scenarios, you could end up with ineffective treatment. You could also end up with serious dental damage though. Poorly-done alignment can permanently damage your teeth or gums, leading to tooth loss, gum recession, and painful corrective procedures.

You may end up paying more for the correction than you would have for in-office orthodontia to begin with. And you will still end up having frequent visits anyway.

5.  They use outdated techniques.

Having impressions made of your teeth can be a messy and uncomfortable process. And did you know that it may not even work correctly? With traditional impression-making methods, patients may end up with aligners that don’t fit exactly or their impressions can be rejected altogether. This can result in a much lengthier process and even cause significant discomfort for the patient.

Orthodontics Limited uses a new technology that can help you avoid those issues entirely. It’s called the iTero Scanner and it uses laser scanning to digitally capture your impressions instead of the messy material typically used. This device results in 7x fewer fitting issues and 10x fewer rejections. This means you get your aligners faster and can be sure they will fit comfortably (something the mail-order companies can’t provide!).

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, you tend to get what you pay for. Mail-order alignment kits may seem more affordable and convenient, but they come with some serious risks.

By not seeing an orthodontist in-person, you miss out on the opportunity for thorough evaluation and supervision of your treatment. You are less likely to catch problems before they cause serious damage, and you may end up with teeth that are worse than when you started.

Teeth straightening is a healthcare procedure. It should be undertaken by a healthcare professional who can help you stay safe and informed. If money is a concern, talk to an orthodontist who can offer you a reasonable payment plan. Cutting corners with your dental care can end up costing you a lot of money and a lot of pain.

Get Teeth Tips

One response to “5 Problems With Mail-Order Teeth Aligners”

  1. Dr. Silverman says:

    “Mail-order alignment kits may seem more affordable and convenient, but they come with some serious risks.”

    Braces come with serious risks.

    Crowns come with serious risks.

    Filling cavities with toxic chemicals come with serious risks.

    Injecting patients with laughing gas (also an “outdated” procedure which you dentists are still using) comes with serious risks.

    A piece of plastic only comes with one serious risk: Proving that you don’t need an overpriced dentist to straighten your teeth.

    Stop trying to justify robbing your patients by demonizing this revolutionary technology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *