Long Beach, CA – If you spend any amount of time on social media sites or watching TV, chances are good you’ve seen advertisements for a company called Smile Direct Club. The company touts the benefits of getting a straight smile using Invisalign-like clear aligners, without the hassle of having to even leave your home. But does it work? And is it worth it?
We know it certainly sounds appealing to a lot of people. After all, never having to figure out how to fit orthodontic appointments into an already busy schedule sounds wonderful. But without an orthodontist ever seeing you in person, can you be sure you are actually getting the care you need?
Smile Direct Club, and others like it, use an impression of your teeth to then build a 3D model of your smile from which the aligners can be created. You take the impression yourself at home, and then send it in to the company. From there, they say that a dentist or orthodontist reviews the 3D model that is created, and then creates a treatment plan. Your aligners will then be mailed to you all at once, and your assigned dentist or orthodontist will check in with you every 90 days. They claim their average treatment only lasts about six months.
There are several things about this process that are worrisome. First, the patient is responsible for completing their own impression of their smile. How can you be certain you’ve provided an accurate impression from which a dentist or orthodontist can then make an accurate diagnosis and properly address the issues affecting you? Additionally, if there are any issues with your current bite, will that be properly reflected in the DIY impression?
An impression is an incredibly important piece of information when an orthodontist is diagnosing a patient and determining the best treatment options. However, it isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. For adult patients, who make up the majority of people using companies like Smile Direct Club, there are other issues that can come into play that can affect how an orthodontist will provide treatment. Adult patients are more likely to suffer from gum disease, which can actually compromise the long-term health and prognosis of the teeth if orthodontic movement is completed without diagnosing and treating the gum disease. Adults are also more likely to have other things to take into consideration, such as implants, crowns or bridgework that could affect the straightening process. Without ever seeing you in person or having x-rays to review, an orthodontist working remotely wouldn’t have this information.
There is also concern that not every patient is guaranteed to be paired up with an orthodontist. Dentists are wonderful at what they do, but they don’t straighten smiles every day. Only an orthodontist truly understands the intricacies that go into perfecting a smile because they do it day in and day out. Orthodontic treatment isn’t only about getting a perfectly straight smile, it is also about creating a bite that is ideally aligned. Straightening the teeth without also looking at the alignment of the bite can create even more problems.
There is even more concern over the fact that you never see an orthodontic professional in person throughout the course of your treatment (which the company says only lasts an average of six months). While the company says that you check in with your assigned dental professional every 90 days, how can you be sure your smile is on track if there is never a physical examination?
Another difference between Invisalign and the at-home aligner companies is the use of attachments on the teeth to aid in tooth alignment. Years of research and development by Invisalign has shown that the most effective and predictable tooth movement can be achieved with the addition of bonded attachments to the teeth. Specifically when more difficult tooth movements are required, the plastic aligners cannot achieve these on their own. Because there are no actual office appointments with Smile Direct Club, there are no attachments used with their system of aligners or other at-home companies. This inherently prevents full correction of bite and alignment issues.
There are times when we find a patient’s smile isn’t responding to treatment how we had hoped, and then we need to make adjustments to our original treatment plan. Maybe a patient needs to wear a certain set of aligners for a bit longer to ensure the teeth are in the right place before moving to the next set. As the teeth move, the bite can change as well, which necessitates adjustments and sometimes the addition of elastic wear for correction. We would only know this and be able to make those adjustments by seeing that patient in person.
Smile Direct Club is typically not covered by insurance, so you would be responsible for the entire cost of treatment, which is often comparable to what you would pay for an orthodontist after your insurance benefits. Additionally, these companies charge for the impressions and retainers separately. That means that even before you know if Smile Direct Club will approve you for treatment, you have to pay to have the impressions sent in. At HD Orthodontics, we offer a complimentary consultation, at which we will determine if treatment is needed, and we can discuss what treatment options will provide the best results.
Not every patient is an ideal candidate for clear aligner therapy. But without ever seeing an orthodontist in person, you won’t know if this treatment is the best for you, or if you’ll just be throwing your money down the drain.
When it comes to your smile, your best bet is to turn to a certified orthodontist who has the experience and expertise to give you the smile of your dreams. Call HD Orthodontics today at 562-283-6590.