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At Home Aligners vs. In-Person Orthodontics Treatment - The Smile Direct Club Dilemma

Posted by Mark Lowe DDS Dec 26, 2023

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The shutdown of Smile Direct Club (SDC) this last week has left many frustrated patients to feel stranded by this decision. Many patients were almost done with treatment and were just waiting for their final aligners or retainers, while others in mid-treatment have concerns that they will not be able to find a provider that can complete their orthodontic care. The Smile Direct Club situation has magnified the delicate balance between convenience and quality care in at-home or online dental services.

Mail order aligner programs such as Smile Direct Club promise to straighten the teeth at home rather than by coming into an orthodontics office. Essentially these are mail-order “Do It Yourself” kits that direct you to make an impression or image of your teeth. There are no 3D scans or x-rays done to check the quality of your teeth, jaw or bone. The at-home company will make your clear aligner trays and send them to you.

With at-home aligner programs, you will not have in-person follow-up visits during your treatment.  At-home programs such as Smile Direct Club have patients send in photos of their progress during their treatment. But these photos may not be enough to tell if the treatment is working. By visiting an actual orthodontist throughout your treatment, you will be able to know for certain that your treatment is working as it should. Each person reacts differently to treatment. Often treatment does not progress as planned. The only way to ensure your treatment will go as planned is to be doing regular visits to your orthodontist. This way he or she can get your treatment back on track if the teeth are not progressing as they should. Many at-home aligner companies have dentists on their teams who can answer questions online. But these dentists will not have access to your full dental history, so they are not going to be aware of other oral health issues that may impact your treatment. 

While at-home aligner programs are typically lower priced than in-person orthodontics treatment.  They  often come with quality deficiencies in results.  At-home aligners often use generic plastic which tends to yield inferior results. Licensed orthodontists use high-tech, responsive, patented dental plastics that are proven to deliver solid results.

The American Association of Orthodontics has made it clear that it is critical to have an in-person examination by a licensed dental provider and x-rays before starting any orthodontic treatment to avoid irreparable harm. The only way to guarantee the smile and results you desire is by seeing a board-certified orthodontist who will do x-rays and full assessment to provide you with treatment and will be with you every step of the way.

If you are a former Smile Direct Club customer and are not sure what to do next, here are some recommendations:

  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consult a licensed dental professional to assess the progress and quality of the treatment you received from SDC. They can provide insights into any adjustments or further treatments needed.
  • Continue to Wear Your SDC Trays: To maintain the results you may have already achieved with your SDC product, you should continue to wear your current trays so your teeth don’t move back.
  • Do Not Leave Your Teeth As Is: The alignment of your teeth and how they bite down together is critical for oral health and proper functioning of the jaw. When we are moving teeth, there will be phases where your bite is not correctly balanced. Left unchecked this could result in future problems such as chipped teeth, cracks, gum recession and unwanted tooth movement.

If you are using an at-home aligner program such as Smile Direct Club and have questions please contact Mark Lowe, D.D.S. Orthodontics https://www.drloweortho.com/ We offer free consultations to Smile Direct Club customers and a 10% discount on orthodontic treatment.



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