The Dangers of Using Mail-Order Clear Aligners

Everyone wants a straight, beautiful smile. And in today’s world, where so many people value ease and quickness, there’s no surprise that teeth-straightening technology now offers treatment options to meet both of those desires. 

As orthodontic treatment technology has quickly evolved over the past decade, clear aligners are one method of straightening teeth that have significantly grown in popularity. But, there is a newer (compared to originals like Invisalign) realm of clear aligners that is causing significant concern among orthodontic professionals, the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)– mail-order clear aligners.

In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what mail-order aligners are, as well as some of the top dangers of using them.


What Are Mail-Order Aligners Exactly?

To try and beat the prices of traditional clear aligners, some companies began offering mail-order alternatives. These direct-to-consumer companies rely on a method referred to as “teledentistry”, which eliminates in-person visits with an orthodontist or dentist. Then, the design of your clear aligners is based on impressions of your teeth that you do yourself with at-home kits. 

Once you mail your DIY impressions back to them, they are reviewed by one of the company’s “technicians”. This person usually is not an actual, trained and certified orthodontist. This technician then determines if you are a candidate for their aligners (the answer is almost always “yes”). Then, your aligners are made and mailed back to you. You will then be instructed to wear these clear aligners for a specific amount of time to start aligning your teeth. With a sometimes significantly cheaper price point, it’s no surprise that this process can be very appealing to consumers. 

SmileDirectClub, which continues to be the most popular option, was the first on the scene for mail-order aligners. They spend a lot of money on advertising to be as heavily marketed as possible, often advertising their “many satisfied customers”.

Source: Smile Direct Club

The reality is that there have been hundreds of lawsuits filed against SmileDirectClub by unsatisfied patients, dental boards, and even orthodontists themselves, with many cases still open and active. Even with that being said, other mail-order clear aligner companies have sprung up after seeing SmileDirectClub’s success at selling mail-order orthodontics. Some of the other options available now include Byte, Candid, and AlignerCo.

The main thing to understand is that “do it yourself” orthodontics actually carries many potential dangers.


Some of the Biggest Risks of Using Mail-Order Aligners:

There is a reason that so many orthodontists, dentists, and even the ADA have such a strong opinion against the use of mail-order clear aligners. It is because of the variety of dangers they pose to patients. Cheaper is not always good and this is especially true with “mail-order orthodontics”. The risks/dangers of mail-order aligners include:


There’s No Comprehensive Orthodontic Exam Before Treatment Starts 

Helping to straighten teeth is not the only thing an orthodontist does. Another vital thing that they do is identify and treat a patient’s serious oral health issues before they even consider starting orthodontic treatment. This is why your orthodontist will always start with a comprehensive dental exam before outlining an appropriate orthodontic treatment plan.

Home kits make it easy for serious oral health problems like gum disease to be overlooked. This is because these types of issues can rarely be detected through simple putty impressions or a few photos. To start moving teeth without an exam and supervision by an orthodontist is very risky. An orthodontist, with many years of post-college education, has the knowledge and expertise to identify problematic oral health issues and how to best manage them.


There’s No Professional Supervision During the Treatment

The lack of supervision during treatment with mail-order clear aligners is a very risky situation. When you are treated with an in-office, orthodontist-monitored clear aligner system (like Invisalign), you will have routine check-up appointments to make sure your teeth are moving at a safe and efficient rate. Your treatment plan will then be adjusted as needed along the way. 

But, this kind of supervision won’t happen when you use DIY, mail-in aligners. With mail-order clear aligners, your teeth may move faster or slower than anticipated. Or you could develop an issue like gum disease or cavities during the treatment. In either of these situations, you won’t have an orthodontist or dentist that can adjust your treatment or treat a problem because they can’t see your teeth.

A lack of supervision presents some significantly dangerous concerns. With poorly designed mail-order aligners under no orthodontist guidance, there have been patients whose teeth were damaged and/or their bite ruined. Many orthodontists agree that no orthodontic treatment is much safer than unsupervised treatment.


Your Teeth Could Possibly End Up Worse Than Before Treatment Started

A nightmare scenario would be paying for and finishing treatment using mail-order aligners only to have to start from square one all over again due to severe damage caused by the aligners. Serious problems can result from mail-order aligners moving teeth too fast or if they are poorly fitted. 

Hundreds of reported horror stories have emerged from Smile Direct Club users (and other brands of mail-order aligners), with some complaining of poorly fitting aligners that caused significant migraine pain, misalignments, cuts to the gums, and even tooth loss. People’s teeth have ended up significantly worse off after completing treatment with mail-order aligners. Smile Direct Club will even have you sign a form before treatment starts that states that these types of problems are not their responsibility and that they are yours. So if/when their aligners don’t work for you, you don’t have any recourse against them.


Clear Aligners Are Not Suitable Treatment Options For All Cases

One of the biggest risks in using mail-order aligners is the fact that aligners are not the right choice for everyone. Certain types and degrees of misalignments require different orthodontic treatments. Only an experienced orthodontist can accurately determine which one may work best for the unique needs of that person.

Some patients see great success with orthodontist-guided aligners. While others will need some type of braces to achieve the perfect smile. For example, in severe cases of misalignment (malocclusion), clear aligners often can’t be used to properly realign teeth. Also, some orthodontists may recommend braces versus aligners for younger patients.

These mail-order companies only offer clear aligners, which cannot cater to everyone’s needs. Even more importantly, without an orthodontic exam, they cannot accurately determine if aligners are the best treatment option or not.


Opt for Hands-On Teeth-Straightening Treatment With Your Orthodontist

Obviously, the goal of these mail-order aligner companies is to make money. But they are compromising the standard of orthodontic care by selling a product that should be supervised by a professional orthodontist.

Orthodontic treatment is a medical service and not a device or product, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). They urge consumers to only use clear aligner therapy from a licensed and experienced orthodontist. This ensures that you receive high-quality and, more importantly, safe treatment to shift your teeth into proper/desired alignment. The initial, short-term price tag of mail order clear aligners may be enticing, but they are a dangerous option that can end up being much more costly in the long run.

So, if you’re in the Springfield area and want to achieve a straight, beautiful smile, contact the team at Cook & Gutsche Orthodontics today to learn more about our top-quality orthodontic services. We are a certified provider of Invisalign clear aligner treatment as well as a variety of other orthodontic treatment options.

Schedule your consultation today!