The use of at-home braces is a newer concept in dentistry that has many in the profession concerned. For several years, there have been numerous companies that provide clear aligners to help straighten teeth under the supervision of a licensed dentist. The problem is that a person ordering aligners in the mail may never set foot in that dentist's office.
Taking the cheap and easy option of do-it-yourself (DIY) braces can cause serious damage to your teeth. There are minor conditions for which aligners may be appropriate, but without a proper diagnosis - it's anybody's guess!
When Clear Aligners Can Help
When used properly, clear aligners can reliably produce very acceptable results in adult patients. One of the main indications for these aligners is "orthodontic relapse," a condition that occurs when someone who previously wore braces or another appliance fails to wear their retainers after treatment is completed and notices their teeth starting to drift back to their original state of misalignment.
According to Dental Products Report, other reasons your orthodontist might suggest aligners include small gaps between teeth, minor tooth crowding or a tooth that is rotated. But when you don't give a professional the chance to see your mouth before you pop an aligner into it, you have no way of knowing if plastic is the best way to help your dental situation.
The Risks of At-Home Braces
The idea of allowing patients to diagnose and treat themselves for orthodontic problems is a frightening concept to dental professionals. At-home braces allow patients to diagnose their own case, take their own impressions and supervise the progress of their own treatment. This entire process is fraught with problems and is potentially extremely harmful.
The American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and the Michigan Dental Associationand have all issued consumer warnings against at-home braces. The AAO in particular invites anyone considering DIY orthodontics to ask the same questions of a mail-order company that they would of their own dental professional, including:
- Is this treatment going to be based off information from my X-rays, skeletal structure and full scans of my teeth and upper and lower jaws?
- Is there a dentist or orthodontist supervising the making of my aligners? Is that person licensed?
- Are my teeth and gums healthy enough to support orthodontic treatment?
- Can I see a dentist in person in an emergency?
If the answers to these questions are hazy or hidden, you could be putting your mouth and your health in danger.
The Need for Office Visits
The orthodontists that the ADA interviewed before issuing its warning reported dire consequences of the patients they saw who had attempted DIY braces. Sometimes the "irreparable damage" of unsupervised care included the need for tooth extractions, bite problems and temporary but dangerous infections.
Without direct professional supervision, patients may also have no idea that they could have underlying problems, such as tooth decay, abscessed teeth or gum infections that could be made much worse by imposing orthodontic treatment on top of them.
Since most dental problems don't present overt symptoms, such as pain or swelling, it's easy to overlook potentially serious issues. It's kind of like having high blood pressure. You could find out about a problem by having a heart attack, but you can avoid one by having your blood pressure checked!
Even a Dentist Needs Advice Sometimes
There is one final aspect of DIY braces that has dental professionals concerned: the aspect of doing it yourself. Even licensed dentists who have completed many cases of clear aligner therapy recognize their limitations and know when to refer to a specialist. Orthodontists understand the mechanics behind the way bones, teeth and gums move and grow during treatment, and they are the only people who can safely and effectively shift your teeth.
No matter how much research they do, a degree from the university of the internet should not qualify someone to perform their own dentistry. Would you attempt your own brain surgery to save a few bucks? Of course not!
Save yourself the time, money and heartache by doing the right thing for you and your loved ones. Seek the expertise and care of a licensed, legally accountable professional to safeguard your new smile.