Dangers of Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontic Treatment & Aligners

[And Why You Should Avoid Them]

In a world where instant gratification is desired, direct-to-consumer trade proliferates. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, ‘direct-to-consumer’ means that a producer sells their products directly to their customers without going through third-party retailers or wholesalers. 

So many industries and professions benefit from this type of trade, but orthodontics isn’t one of them. 

In a profession that relies on the skill and experience of health practitioners to deliver personalised products and services, the direct-to-consumer approach to orthodontic treatment is at best ineffective, and at worst, downright dangerous. 

This article explains why you should avoid direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment at all costs for the sake of your dental health, wellbeing, and peace of mind.

What is Direct-To-Consumer Orthodontic Treatment? 

Within orthodontics, direct-to-consumer (DTC) treatment primarily deals with the production and retail of aligners. Many online companies have emerged into the space to retail aligners directly to customers, essentially cutting out their perceived need to see an orthodontist. 

DTC aligners are sold comparatively cheaply by online retailers. Customers then don’t have to pay the appointment and treatment fees associated with trips to see a qualified orthodontist. 

While a desire to save costs is understandable, foregoing a consultation and supervision from a qualified orthodontist can render aligners completely ineffective. Alignment is just one of a number of aspects of orthodontic treatment and certainly shouldn’t be undertaken without qualified supervision. 

What Are the Potential Risks Associated with DTC Aligners? 

The most significant pitfall of DTC aligners is that there has been no in-person evaluation prior to their use. If fixing your teeth was as simple as ordering a pre-made product off the internet, then there would be no need for orthodontists or dentists at all! 

A good analogy to draw is that of eyeglasses. If you have a problem with your eyes, you would schedule an appointment with an optician. And while you’re genuinely spoiled for choice when it comes to DTC glasses, ordering a random pair without a prescription would be as good as useless for most people. 

The same is true of DTC aligners. While there’s a chance that these aligners may improve your teeth, there’s absolutely no guarantee that they will work. Because you haven’t diagnosed your issue or consulted a professional orthodontist, you may even be doing more harm than good to your teeth in the long run. 

Why Should I See an Orthodontist Instead of Ordering a DTC Aligner?

Orthodontics is not just about fitting braces and aligners. Comprehensive orthodontic treatment involves the significant movement of biological material in your mouth. Many severe dental cases need to be treated by clinical examination and radiographic evaluation, and simply wearing a pre-made aligner won’t have any discernible benefit. 

What’s more, inadequately fixed orthodontic products like aligners can cause irreversible long-term damage to your teeth and gums and put you in an even worse situation than you were in before seeking treatment in the first instance. 

The primary role of a skilled and qualified orthodontist is to treat malocclusion (a bad bite). This is done primarily by fitting aligners and retainers, which are specially and individually made on a case-by-case basis. 

Without the in-person evaluation and supervision, teeth alignment is reduced to guesswork, significantly reducing your chances of straightening your teeth. This is in addition to the fact that unprescribed DTC aligners can cause significant dental harm

What Does the General Dental Council Say About DTC Aligners? 

Given the proliferation of DTC aligners in recent times, it’s helpful to turn to a trusted and regulated source for advice on their effectiveness. In response to DTC aligners, the General Dental Council published a statement containing the following passage: 

“In line with current authoritative clinical guidance, and orthodontic training, clinical judgements about the suitability of a proposed course of orthodontic treatment must be based on a full assessment of the patient’s oral health. At present, there is no effective substitute for a physical, clinical examination as the foundation for that assessment.” 

In short, aligners should only be fixed and worn based upon the recommendation of a registered orthodontist as a result of an in-person consultation. 

So, Why Should I Avoid DTC Aligners? 

The biggest red flag of DTC aligners is that you don’t have to visit an orthodontist or dentist at any stage of the process. It’s an enormous risk to take and offers absolutely no guarantee that the chosen aligner will either be required or effective. 

It’s also important to note that one size certainly doesn’t fit all in the world of orthodontics. While DTC companies claim to create bespoke aligners based upon the mould of your teeth, the reality is that DTC aligners are made in bulk from a computerised pattern. This means that the aligners don’t always fit as they should. 

You should also consider the fact that if something is to go wrong with your teeth by using a DTC aligner, many orthodontists are unable to help you due to legal complications associated with the process. 

The bottom line with DTC aligners is that you’re taking a gamble on your oral health. There’s no guarantee that they will work to straighten your teeth, and you aren’t protected if something goes wrong when you receive them. And the fact that the fitting isn’t tailored and supervised by a qualified orthodontist makes it incredibly dangerous to the health of your teeth. 

If you’re hoping to improve the alignment of your teeth, then please do get in touch with us and schedule an appointment with a qualified orthodontist.