If you’ve been looking for ways to improve your smile, you’ve no doubt seen ads for online clear aligners such as Smile Direct Club. They’re everywhere. So, what’s the difference between Invisalign and Smile Direct Club, Byte, and the many other direct-to-consumer services crowding the marketplace these days? It comes down to two important factors: the process used and who will perform your treatment.
The Online Clear Aligners Process
With direct-to-consumer clear aligners, each company may have a slightly different procedure, but the basic process is similar. The first thing to note is that throughout this process, you have little to NO one-on-one interaction with a “dental professional.”
In most cases, you will receive a kit in the mail with instructions to make a mold of your teeth on your own. Smile Direct also has retail locations called Smile Stores, where a technician can make a digital impression with a 3D scanner. However, most people don’t live close to one of these stores, so still have to make their own impressions.
As a note on this, most orthodontists will agree that even with training, it can take years of education and experience to master the art of getting a good impression. And even then, sometimes they’re not perfect and need to be repeated. So, you can imagine what can happen to someone who has never done this before when they make an impression at home.
Review by a Dental Professional
Once the company receives your molds, they have what they refer to as a “licensed dental professional” review them to see if you’re a suitable candidate for their at-home aligners. They will then manufacture a set of aligners and send them to you through the mail. If you have questions throughout the course of your treatment, you call or email them to speak with a customer service representative.
Per their ads, most patients need to wear the online clear braces for 4 to 14 months, based on the initial review. And you will receive aligners to use for the specific time they determine. Then, once you’re done with those aligners, your treatment is complete — whether or not you’ve achieved the desired results.
As to the after-care, sometimes they include retainers in the cost. In other cases, you need to purchase retainers at the end of your treatment for an additional fee. With Smile Direct Club, retainers have to be replaced every six months in order to qualify for their “lifetime guarantee.”
Are There “Advantages” to Online Clear Aligners?
No. These companies promote convenience and cost as their biggest advantages. However, our office strongly discourages using such a company for your oral health. Unfortunately, we have seen first-hand the harm of going through this type of company. That’s because they have no involvement from an orthodontist other than the initial assessment and recommendation — based on YOUR DIY impression of your teeth. As well, we have seen patients finish their treatment and find that they have a bigger problem than before. It may cause them considerable time and expense to fix the damage done.
American Association of Orthodontists Alert
The time spent with a dental professional — or lack thereof — is so important that the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) issued a consumer alert. Their chief concern is the lack of in-person interaction from direct-to-consumer orthodontics companies like Smile Direct Club. And as part of the alert, they outline several questions to ask to help make an informed decision, including:
- Are your teeth and gums healthy enough for orthodontic treatment?
- Is the proposed treatment the right one for you?
- If a doctor is involved with your orthodontic treatment, how can you contact them over the course of your treatment or if an emergency arises?
Additionally, the American Association of Orthodontists says:
In some instances direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies do not involve the in-person evaluation and/or in-person supervision of your orthodontic treatment by an orthodontist. Orthodontic treatment involves the movement of biological material, which could lead to potentially irreversible and expensive damage such as tooth and gum loss, changed bites, and other issues if not done correctly.”
The AAO has also issued complaints in 36 states. These complaints state that Smile Direct Club is in violation of dental-practice statutes. It also states that these types of dental procedures are best done under the supervision of qualified orthodontists.
When you really look at it, online clear aligners may appear to be a convenient option, but they’re not the best option. And your teeth — and health — deserve the best.
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Controversy over Online Clear Aligners
There is a considerable amount of controversy between the dental and orthodontic community and companies offering DIY aligners. Proponents of online clear braces say this is the trend and use examples like 1800Contacts, which optometrists vehemently opposed at first. This online model is also popular with eyeglasses, hearing aids, pet medicines, and much more.
However, these are all products, not services. People using contact lenses or hearing aids need no doctor oversight other than the first prescription, and these types of products are not actively changing anything. While you could certainly say that clear aligners are a product, straightening teeth is a service that changes the structure of a person’s mouth, jaw, and teeth. This service even affects vital functions of your body, as well as your facial structure and appearance. However, when you use these online services, a dental professional will spend no in-person time with you to monitor your progress.
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The Invisalign Process at Love Orthodontics
The Invisalign process is far different from online — and not just because you’re seeing an experienced orthodontist throughout your treatment. It’s also because it’s vital to ensure you’re a candidate for Invisalign before you start, including making sure your teeth and gums are healthy enough. And only a thorough examination and review of your dental history can do that.
3D Scan and In-House Aligner Design
The first step of your Invisalign process is a 3D scan of your teeth, which is painless and easy. Once Dr. Grewal completes the scan, he can show you a rendering of what your smile will look like after treatment — before you start! He’ll also explain the step-by-step treatment plan designed specifically for you. This way, you will have a good understanding of what to expect.
Then, with the 3D “map” of your teeth, Dr. Grewal will digitally design each aligner. This meticulous process is crucial, as it will allow your teeth to be put into proper position, one aligner at a time. He will then send this information to Invisalign for manufacturing. Once completed, Invisalign deliver the aligners back to our office.
When you begin Invisalign treatment, you will have all the aligners for the course of your treatment and will change them out every 10 days to two weeks. Dr. Grewal will also add “bumps,” or tooth-colored attachments, to certain teeth. These help the Invisalign trays click into place and add the force needed to move the teeth.
After you begin with your aligners, you will come in regularly, as determined by Dr. Grewal. These regular in-house visits allow him to not only see how you’re doing but also to address any problems or questions, and tweak the aligners as necessary. Additionally, if you lose or damage an aligner, we are here to help you!
Completion of Treatment and Follow-up
Once you’re complete with your Invisalign treatment, you’ll have the comfort of knowing that you’ll be seeing the same orthodontist for your follow-up appointments. Dr. Grewal will determine how well the treatment worked, and prescribe additional trays if it needs more time — which online services simply cannot do. He will also fit you for a retainer and monitor your alignment to make sure no major shifting occurs.
Dr. Grewal has treated over 7,000 patients since the beginning of his orthodontic career twelve years ago. He’s a perfectionist to a fault, so you’re in excellent hands. Love Orthodontics prides itself on creating beautiful smiles for children, teens, and adults. Dr. Grewal completed Dental School and his Orthodontic Residency at Howard University, Washington DC. He is a member of the American Association of Orthodontics, the American Dental Association, and the Missouri Dental Association. Dr. G is a specialist in straightening teeth and creating beautiful, healthy smiles. Why not see a specialist if the cost is the same? It’s your smile for a lifetime.
Book a Free Invisalign Consultation with Dr. Grewal.
To see if Invisalign is right for you, schedule a Free Invisalign Consultation with Dr. Grewal. This consultation includes a 3D digital scan of your teeth. We always take the time to explain your treatment options, answer your questions and make sure you’re comfortable with your care. Once your consultation is done, we can accurately give you a cost for your treatment and discuss our Easy Payment Plans. We have locations in Springfield, Branson, and Carthage.
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