Online clear braces, also called at-home invisible aligners, are heavily advertised to straighten teeth. Companies say they can provide this service over the internet with no in-person visits to an orthodontist. They campaign aggressively with billboards, social media, full-page newspaper ads, and on TV.
So, what’s the deal with online clear braces? And how do they differ from seeing an orthodontist for your teeth-straightening needs?
The Online Clear Braces Process
When you sign up for online teeth straightening, you receive a kit to make a DIY 3D mold of your teeth, which you mail back to them. There are no x-rays, 3D imaging or exams involved.
Once they receive your molds, they indicate they will have a “licensed dental professional” review them to see if you’re a good candidate for their at-home aligners. These aligners look similar to but are definitely not the same as Invisalign® technology.
They will then manufacture a set of 20 aligners and send them to you through the mail. If you have any questions or issues throughout the course of your treatment, you call or email them to speak with a customer service representative. You will not be able to speak with an orthodontist or a “dental professional.”
Per their ads, most patients need to wear the online clear braces for a period of 4 to 18 months. If they determine that your treatment will take nine months, you will receive aligners to use for that specific amount of time. Once you’re done with those aligners, your treatment is complete — whether or not you’ve achieved the desired results. You also have the option of purchasing a retainer at the end of your treatment for an extra fee.
The Promoted Advantages
These companies promote convenience and cost as their biggest advantages. Yet, for $20 or $30 more per month, you can be under the care of a skilled orthodontist. Thus, our office strongly discourages using such a company for your oral health.
Unfortunately, we have seen first-hand the harm done by going through this type of company. That’s because they have no orthodontist involvement other than the initial assessment and recommendation. And that’s based only on your DIY impression of your teeth.
We have also seen patients spend money on this type of service, only to have to spend more money to correct the results of the poor-quality treatment.
You can learn more in the NBC News Coverage about this: NBC News Coverage
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Differences Between Online Clear Braces and Traditional Orthodontist Treatment
1. Do-it-Yourself vs. Professional Care
While these online companies say they offer guidance and oversight, it’s not at all the same as having a highly-trained orthodontist take care of you in person.
With online services, you’re the one doing the impression of your teeth and then sending it in. Conversely, a board-certified orthodontic specialist like Dr. Taylor will take the time to make an exact replica of your teeth using a 3D digital scanner. And he meticulously adjusts each aligner before delivering it to you, so it will fit precisely and comfortably.
Each aligner moves teeth progressively into place until done. With Invisalign treatment overseen by an orthodontist, they will place “bumps” on certain teeth to prepare them for the aligners. These bumps are small dots made of dental cement that allow the aligners to grip the teeth and move them into position more precisely.
Because the online clear braces companies do not have any in-person orthodontic oversight, there are no bumps applied to the teeth. Instead, they send “chewies” — round pieces of rubber — and tell customers to “insert them like bubble gum to snap the aligners into place.”
As an orthodontist strategically uses bumps for torque to propel the teeth in the right direction, it’s hard to understand how chewies are able to do the same thing.
Additionally, you’ll meet with Dr. Taylor throughout your procedure to make sure you’re progressing well and handle any issues if they arise. With online clear braces, an orthodontist will never lay eyes on you or see the progress that you’re making.
With online services, if you encounter problems or are not satisfied with your treatment (or suffer harm), the only person you’ll deal with is a customer service representative. And online reviews for these companies’ customer service skills have been consistently bad.
2. Clear Aligners May Not be Right for You
A fairly high percentage of patients are not suitable candidates for these types of do-it-yourself aligners; it all depends on the severity of the problem.
Orthodontists offer all types of braces to their patients — and they choose the type based on clinical needs, preferences of the patients, budget, and more.
Based on many reviews of these online teeth straightening companies, patients were told they were a candidate for this treatment but later discovered their orthodontic issues were actually too severe.
Unfortunately, many people have had to seek treatment from an orthodontist for corrections. And in some cases, they suffer irreparable damage.
An orthodontist like Dr. Taylor has completed dental school training and two to three more years of education. He is a specialist who treats dental and facial irregularities to correctly align teeth and jaws. He’s also an expert in occlusion, bone physiology, and bone development.
Therefore, once he sees your specific condition, he can determine precisely what you need to get the results you want.
3. You May Need More Treatment
Most online companies provide you with up to 20 aligners to move your teeth into position. If you don’t get the desired result from these aligners, you are still considered done with your treatment.
This is one reason the satisfaction rate for online clear braces is drastically lower than traditional orthodontic treatment. In fact, most orthodontists use 40 to 50 aligners on average to achieve the proper results.
Plus, as we have mentioned, some patients will finish their treatment and find that they have a bigger problem than before. It may cause them considerable expense to fix the damage done. It is a gamble which can adversely affect you and your health.
One such patient documented his online clear braces treatment in a long series of reviews. At first, he was excited and optimistic. His comments span a period of three years, and you can read the entire story here. In the end, this is what he had to say:
It’s been a while but long story short… the aligners damaged my teeth and shifted them too quickly. They attributed to bone loss, and I was told by my dentist that 4 healthy teeth may fall out as a result. I spoke to my lawyer and have formally asked for a full refund.“I would stay away from this company if you have very severe crowding like I had. It turns out the company completely messed up my teeth and if I hadn’t stopped using their aligners, some of my teeth would have started to fall out! Once my dentist told me about the damage, the aligners were causing me he told me to immediately stop. I told [the company] about this and demanded my money back, but they of course refused. I would say pay for regular braces, which is what I have done with a local ortho. Hope this helps and good luck.”
4. Teeth Straightening is a Service, Not a Product
A considerable amount of controversy exists between the orthodontic/dental community and companies that offer these DIY aligners.
Proponents of online clear braces say that this is the new direction of Orthodontia. They use examples such as companies like online contact lens distributors. They point out that eye doctors were vehemently opposed to consumers getting their contacts for a less expensive price through online companies, and now this has become the new norm.
That’s true, and it applies to other similar companies that provide eyeglasses, diabetic supplies, hearing aids, pet med prescriptions, etc. However, it is important to note that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Those types of companies are offering products. There is no doctor oversight needed for people to use products such as contact lenses. Additionally, these products are not actively changing anything.
While you could say that braces are a product, straightening teeth is a service as it actively changes the structure of your mouth, jaw, and teeth. This service even affects vital functions of your body as well as facial structure and appearance.
The truth is, the cost to straighten your teeth under the care of a highly skilled orthodontist is 20 or 30 dollars more per month than these online offerings. Is that really worth the gamble?
Call us at 956.630.6166 to Schedule
We are open on Saturdays!
A Perfect Smile Orthodontics: Quality Care and Affordable Options in McAllen, Texas
Dr. Taylor is an established Board-Certified Orthodontist and is one of the few Elite Invisalign Providers in the Rio Grande Valley.
You can rest assured that you or your child will receive the highest standard of care available from an orthodontist who truly cares about his patients and their health.
We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to anyone who needs orthodontic care. This includes x-rays and an orthodontic exam to determine the right treatment options for you.
We will also discuss financing options for all budgets and offer interest-free financing.
Call 956-630-6166 or click HERE to schedule your Free Consultation appointment today. Or fill out the form below and we will contact you.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your orthodontic health. Simply call us at 956.630.6166, or complete the form below and we'll get back to you.