It seems like at-home aligner treatments are everywhere these days. You can see their ads all over TV and social media, promoting “self-treatment” in the form of mail-order aligners. We’ve all spent a lot of time at home over the last couple of years, so this option can be tempting to consumers looking to straighten their smile without leaving the house! There are many questions surrounding the safety and efficiency of this approach, however.
There’s a reason that orthodontists, dentists, and other dental professionals have been encouraging patients to steer clear of these companies. An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Williams will be able to provide you with a safe and rewarding experience from start to finish, something mail-order treatment can’t promise. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between the two!
What are mail-order aligners? How do they work?
The companies that offer clear aligners through the mail could be described as a form of “online orthodontics.” Instead of visiting an orthodontic office for an exam, every step of the treatment process is handled via their website. An application is submitted to the company of your choice; once it’s approved, you can either visit one of their local shops or have a kit sent to your home to make a 3-D mold of your teeth. A technician or dentist will then use that mold to create a series of clear aligners that will slowly move your teeth into the desired positions.
As with in-office treatment, this process can take anywhere from several weeks to many months to complete. During this time, your progress will be monitored using photos of your mouth that you provide at regular intervals. This may seem relatively straightforward, but anyone considering these companies should proceed with caution. There are several risks and concerns associated with this kind of care, and some of them can have a lasting impact on your oral health. Here are some benefits of choosing a respected orthodontic practice like ours over mail-order companies!
Personalized care from start to finish
One of the biggest selling points for mail-order aligners is that no orthodontic visits are necessary. But this is also one of the biggest red flags! You’re not required to visit an orthodontist before beginning treatment with these companies, and you probably won’t see one during treatment, either.
Moving your teeth into more optimal positions will impact your entire mouth. Even in mild cases, straightening your smile will affect your gums, bones, and the roots of your teeth. An orthodontist is trained to ensure all of these are healthy before and during the treatment process to produce safe movement of the teeth.
At Williams Orthodontics, your first visit will include digital photographs of your teeth and a discussion with Dr. Williams about any specific areas of concern. If you prefer an alternative to traditional braces, we offer Invisalign clear aligners at our practice. We’ll be able to let you know during this appointment if you’re a good fit for this system!
If you do decide to move forward with Invisalign treatment, we’ll begin by taking a set of digital photos and x-rays to create a 3D image of your mouth. Your first set of aligners will be generated from these images, ensuring a custom fit that’s comfortable and effective. You’ll be scheduled for regular follow-up visits with us throughout the treatment process so we can track your progress and ensure your teeth are moving in a healthy way.
Once treatment is complete, you’ll be provided with a retainer to keep your newly straightened teeth in place. In contrast to mail-order aligner companies, you’ll be supported by our expert team from start to finish!
Customized treatment plans
Most at-home treatments use computer systems to predict the movements your teeth will need to make to achieve a straighter smile. You may be wondering why this is an issue since we use computers for a wide variety of complex tasks every day, but teeth don’t always follow those computer-predicted movements! Because mail-order companies create all of a patient’s aligners simultaneously, it can be difficult if their movements fall outside the predicted ones. This can lead to ill-fitting aligners that may cause discomfort, pain, and subpar results.
With no orthodontist involved in overseeing the process, patients often miss the signs of this until it’s too late. After using mail-order aligners, we’ve seen patients diagnosed with crossbites, misalignments, and other serious dental issues. These patients also report frequent headaches, aches and pains in the neck and jaw muscles, and difficulty chewing. Some even have nerve damage or broken teeth from poorly fitted aligners!
Individualized treatment options for your unique smile
While clear aligners can be an excellent option for many patients, they aren’t suitable for everyone. For example, patients with especially severe or complex cases may require more precise tooth control than a removable orthodontic appliance can provide. For these patients, a different treatment method like traditional or clear braces may be a better option. Our practice offers the following affordable treatment options.
Traditional metal braces
Traditional metal braces are an orthodontic staple and with good reason! This is one of our most efficient treatments, particularly for more complicated cases. Modern braces use high-quality stainless steel, but innovations in the design mean they’re much more comfortable than previous versions. The total treatment time also tends to be shorter than it used to be.
These function in much the same way traditional braces do but use ceramic brackets instead of metal ones. For an almost invisible treatment option, these clear brackets can be used with elastics or ties that are also clear, white, or tooth-colored! Ceramic braces can be an excellent choice for image-conscious patients, but they are more delicate than metal braces so we generally only recommend them for older teens and adults.
Invisalign clear aligner therapy
The Invisalign system consists of removable aligners that are customized to fit comfortably over the teeth. Like braces, these clear aligners gently move the teeth into the desired positions. This is accomplished by wearing them 20-22 hours per day throughout treatment. Each aligner will also need to be replaced for the next in the system every 1-2 weeks.
Regular visits with a qualified and experienced orthodontist
Mail-order companies assume their aligner clients will make good dental hygiene choices, have regular check-ups with a dentist, and be proactive with their oral health. These assumptions are not guaranteed. A patient’s teeth and gums should be in good condition before attempting any type of tooth movement. Having patients provide their own images and impressions means that cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues can be missed or worsen over time.
One of the benefits of regular visits with an orthodontist is that your oral health will be monitored, and treatment can be adjusted if and when it becomes necessary! When you trust your smile to an orthodontic expert like Dr. Williams, you’ll have access to support, guidance, and supervision throughout the treatment process. This is something mail-order companies just can’t provide, leaving patients more or less on their own during the treatment process.
Trust your smile to the experts at Williams Orthodontics
Anyone interested in straightening their smile would benefit from consulting with an orthodontist before making any decisions or beginning treatment. We offer a complimentary consultation to determine if treatment is necessary, and if so, which option would be best for your needs. Our customized treatment plans are built around your unique smile, lifestyle, and goals. You won’t find that level of personalized care with a company offering mail-order aligners!