Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontic Treatment - What to know before you consider being your own orthodontist
February 25th, 2019
Direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment has been expanding quickly with new companies entering the market all the time. While it may seem like it is harmless to straighten your teeth on your own, the truth is that unsupervised health care treatment can have negative effects. As an orthodontic specialist and an expert in the art and science of moving teeth to create amazing smiles and healthy bites, I am obviously biased. Nevertheless, I believe as a professional, it is my duty to my community to shed light on some of the things the DIY companies fail to talk about. Let's break down the three most common reasons people participate with DIY orthodontics from both sides!
First, let's take a look at some of the real reasons someone might consider the DIY option:
1) Cost - all of these companies market against one another for the cheapest solution and thus use the cheapest means to deliver the treatment. However, they don't have many of the costs an orthodontic office has with team members, an office space, and the latest in-office dental technology. This makes for a cheaper alternative to seeing a professional.
2) No appointments - no visits to the doctor's office means that you get to do all the treatment from your home and can progress the treatment as it fits your own schedule.
3) Convenience - for the first molding of your teeth, they will send you materials to your house so you can do the molding yourself. Then, the aligners are delivered directly to you.
While the reasons may seem valid and make sense, there are some issues with this reasoning:
1) Cheaper materials means you will likely get lower quality treatment. While this may not matter at first, when the result is low quality, you may wonder how much money you actually saved for getting a less than ideal result. As they say, you get what you pay for : )
2) When your care is not supervised by an orthodontist, you are responsible for monitoring your own outcome and the side effects of treatment. If you aren't aware of what to look for, you may end up in a worse spot than where you started. For example, you may have closed the gap in your teeth, but now your bite does not fit together. Or you may have corrected that crooked tooth, but now there is excessive gum loss. Orthodontic appointments in our office are typically pretty short and painless - they are worth it to ensure the best result.
3) While it may be convenient to do all of this in your pajamas at home, you should really have a professional exam and x-rays prior to starting. There is a lot of nuance to orthodontic treatment. Even if a company claims you will have a "doctor assigned to you," if you don't know whom he/she is, how can you be sure they really care about your outcome? It is all up to you!
A few other considerations:
1) In our office, we use Invisalign which incorporates a series of attachments on the teeth along with other appliances to ensure a smooth experience and a great result. Attachments are bonded to your teeth to help them move. DIY orthodontics may work for some very limited and minor movements, but chances are if you want a more dramatic change, you will need something more robust to complete the complex tooth movements.
2) Orthodontic treatment can be a significant expense and we acknowledge that. However, we offer very flexible payment plans and we will work with insurance to keep the cost very reasonable. When you break it down, it might not cost that much more to see an orthodontist and in fact, with insurance, it may not be much different than a DTC company's cost.
While DTC orthodontic treatment may be tempting for a few reasons, I encourage you to seek an orthodontic consultation if you are curious about straightening your teeth. We don't charge anything for a consultation, so it is very low risk! We can guide you and educate you on the best way to achieve your goals, and we can save you time and money in the long run.
I have some patients that attempted the DTC route prior to coming to our Downers Grove office, and every single one of them wished they didn't waste the time or money trying to go it alone. The advertising makes it sound so simple and easy. But, how often do you cut your own hair? There are so many things that we could do ourselves, but we know if we trust someone with experience, the result will be so much better!
Now go out there and find your neighborhood orthodontist : )
- Dr. Zach