By Dr. Jeff Beyer
If you are like me, lately you have been getting bombarded with ads on TV, social media, and Google for “do-it-yourself orthodontics.” These are mostly coming in the form of clear aligners such as the Smile Direct Club, Candid, etc., and there are new companies popping up almost daily.
A quick search of the internet reviews and you will find everything from a wide range of testimonials of “life changing smiles,” to the multiple lawsuits against these companies being filed from patients themselves due to failed treatments or other dental/facial ailments caused by the treatment, to state dental boards that are claiming that these companies are practicing dentistry without a valid license.
So what’s a consumer to do? Certainly, if a patient’s case can be treated with one of these systems there can be a significant cost savings to the consumer, and that appears to be the number one reason that these companies were created. Now they are making claims that there are shorter treatment times, appliances can just be worn at night, etc. Honestly, most of these treatment claims are without scientific merit, but the cost differential can be significant over having treatment with a qualified orthodontist.
Listen, I get it. I am the 1st guy to go to Lowe’s, Home Depot and Costco to compare every aspect of a new refrigerator I am going to buy to make sure I am getting the best deal. I scan my valued customer card at every conceivable store to get my rewards points. Heck, I just got 6 pairs of socks for FREE this week with my Kohl’s cash!
Orthodontic treatment IS a significant investment, but think about this – there must be a reason we go to college, dental school, and then do a 2-3 year residency for 10-11 years before we are allowed to practice orthodontics, right? Our degrees are in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics (which is a fancy way of saying that the teeth are connected to the jawbones, which are connected to the face bones, which are connected to the head bones, etc.)
To me, this is what it boils down to – if you see orthodontic treatment as a PRODUCT, like you would purchase a car, vacuum cleaner or lawnmower, then do-it-yourself may be the right thing for you. But beware, if that product doesn’t meet your expectations or you are dissatisfied with what it does to your teeth (or in most cases want it doesn’t do), are you going to return the product for a refund? What are you going to do if your bite is now worse than when you simply tried to “straighten your teeth?” What if you develop TMJ problems or issues with the surrounding teeth and gums?
You see, I still see orthodontics as a SERVICE, not a product. Patients come to me for my expertise, just like a doctor, lawyer, accountant, plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, etc. When something doesn’t go as planned, I have the expertise and experience to know what options are available to correct the problem. Will the 800 number you call, the email you send, or the website chat box you open be able to do that? I’m not 100% sure, but I would most likely bet against it.
In the end, it is a good thing for patients to have choices when it comes to their treatment. But keep in mind when you do anything to alter your body, there are inherent risks and potential complications. You probably wouldn’t attempt to fill your own tooth, make your own denture, or perform a root canal on yourself. So, why would you consider your own tooth movement and bite coordination?
Certainly something to think about...