Brace Yourself at Home or Not?
If you or a family member have been told your teeth need realignment, you’ve no doubt started to do some research and have seen, or maybe even been inundated daily, with social media and website popup ads urging you to consider mail order, home alignment options vs. traditional braces.
The promise is usually a perfect smile at a significantly discounted price and in less time than traditional braces. We’re all busy and who wouldn’t want to save a few dollars to look better? These online services are primarily able to offer lower prices due to the fact you will not be required to regularly schedule in-person check-ups with a dental professional. Rather, with most of these services, you monitor your own progress and you may be provided with a remote dental advisor for and initial assessment and limited, scheduled virtual check-ups.
While the allure of convenience, less time and less cost are certainly attractive, you should always exercise caution and do your homework when considering which form of treatment is best for you and your teeth. After all, you certainly wouldn’t want to cut corners just to save money when it comes to other parts of your body. If you broke a bone and it needed to be realigned in order to heal properly, you probably wouldn’t consider a DIY solution. Furthermore, studies have shown oral health is a significant contributor to your overall health and well-being, so it should not be taken lightly just to save a few dollars.
There are a number of factors and questions to be answered when looking at home dental alignment. Your primary resource for answering these questions should always be your own personal dental professional, but here are some useful points of reference to get you started.
How Do I Know if Home Dental Alignment Is a Viable Option?
Generally speaking, home alignment is only suitable for addressing minor tooth spacing or crowding issues. It is not recommended for any problems related to a person’s bite. So again, the first place to go for an assessment prior to determine whether or not mail-order braces are an option for you is an accredited dentist, don’t just take the providers word for it.
Dentists can assess the degree of alignment required and can do an x-ray or 3D scan to ensure there is no potential issue with the current location of your wisdom teeth, which can impede the effectiveness of any alignment solution. Your dentist can also advise you on the health of your gums and any tooth decay, which may need to be addressed before undergoing any alignment treatment; mail order or otherwise.
How Long Do Mail Order Treatments Take?
Depending on the service and the equipment, treatment plans can range anywhere from 3 to 6 months in length. Some services claim to offer different techniques and equipment to shorten the process by effectively applying more pressure to your teeth. You should fully investigate the safety and suitability of these types of solutions prior to engaging with them.
How Does the Mail Order Dental Treatment Process Work?
The mail order home alignment process has five simple steps, similar to those you will experience if you choose a professional-led treatment. The main difference is your ability to establish a trusting relationship and physically interact with your chosen local orthodontist.
Step 1 – Submit Impressions of Your Teeth
Most online services ask patients to provide detailed photos and impressions of their teeth using a DIY impression kit provide by the service and which they, in turn, will use to determine suitability for their solution. The kit will typically include two molds with a soft gummy substance you press your teeth into to create the impression. If you’ve ever had impressions of your teeth done in a dental office, you know they can be a little tricky, but you should be provided with detailed instructions on how to get them right. Any mistakes made at this stage will affect the proper fit and overall effectiveness of the braces.
Step 2 – Dental Review
All services are required by law to have a dental professional review your impressions and case prior to a treatment plan being provided. However, not all services are required to have actual licensed orthodontists on staff. Naturally, it will be in your best interest to make sure your situation is handled by a fully accredited professional. Any reputable service will be able to provide you with proof of the same. Every service will differ, but you can expect a turnaround time of 2-4 weeks on this review.
Step 3 – Creating and Paying for Your Treatment Plan and Braces
Before you’re asked to pay for your home alignment package, you should be provided with a detailed treatment plan to review and approve, which will further explain the process you will follow and will preview what results you should expect. Once approved, you will be required to pay part or all of the cost of your braces, which will likely be in the $2000 range. Many of these services offer payment plans or financing options, as do most traditional dental providers. You should expect to wait another 6-8 weeks for your custom braces to be manufactured and delivered via mail.
Step 4 – Following Your Treatment Plan
Once you’ve received your alignment package, you can begin treatment, which generally entails wearing your braces for a majority of the day and when you sleep. However, these types of braces are not to be left in when eating or drinking anything other than water. As such, you will likely want to come up with a set meal schedule to lessen the hassle of having to remove and replace your tooth aligners.
Many services enable you to share photos or schedule time to consult online with your assigned dental professional to check on your progress. Some, but not all providers, offer money back guarantees within a limited period of time, if you are not satisfied with the service or experience. However, you will want to investigate the specifics of these policies fully before expending too much time or effort.
Step 5 – Post-Alignment Maintenance
As with traditional braces, you will want to make sure you maintain the progress you’ve made with your home aligners well beyond your initial treatment period. This means you will be required to wear a retainer either all day or only while you sleep at night. Typically, retainers are recommended to be worn all day for at least six months to a year, depending on the severity of the misalignment. Many orthodontists will recommend wearing some sort of retainer every night after braces have been removed. Retainers are included with some mail order service packages, while others charge an extra fee, along with options for ongoing online consultations.
What Risks Are Involved with Mail Order Braces?
While lower cost is the obvious attraction of home alignment solutions, there are risks associated with any of the following:
– No x-rays and other diagnostic methods used to see preexisting conditions that may impact results
– Mail order braces typically don’t allow for revisions to your trays, nor do they cover broken, lost or trays that do not fit correctly.
– A common solution for improperly fitted trays is having you trim the aligners with scissors, which can actually wind up damaging gums and teeth
– Incorrect or inaccurate use of the dental impression kit
– Unqualified dental resources used to design and create treatments plans or equipment specifications
– Amount of pressure used by equipment to align teeth
– Lack of physical support in the case of an emergency
The home dental alignment industry is still relatively new, but growing in popularity due to the aforementioned time, cost and convenience factors. However, these types of industries typically attract opportunistic individuals and businesses looking to make a quick buck by taking advantage of the hype and cutting corners on manufacturing, service or support in order to offer lower prices. Beware of any “hot deals” which appear to be too good to be true because, as we know, they generally are.
Face-to-face orthodontic consultations are vital not just for orthodontist, but the patient as well.
Making Sure Mail Order Braces are Right for You
Be sure to conduct your due diligence before selecting an online solution. Ask for and seek out customer reviews of each home alignment service on your list, which is something you should really be doing regardless the service provider you choose, on or offline.
Remember, at-home tray aligners are not suitable for everyone or all cases. You want to ensure you have a solution professionally tailored to your specific needs, as the result can affect more than just your smile. In some situations, mail order braces can do more harm than good or even cost more in the long run if corrective measures of any sort need to be taken. If this is case, you’ll may really need to “brace” yourself and your pocketbook.
Watch a CBC news article on the topic of mail order braces.
If you have any questions about whether or not you should consider mail order braces, reach out to the team at Georgian Dental for your free, no-obligation consult and let’s see what type of braces are right for you.