Over the years orthodontic treatment has undoubtedly become more appealing and braces now come in many discreet forms, from inconspicuous clear brackets to hidden lingual braces. Clear, removable aligners such as Invisalign are also far more convenient than traditional braces and can even be removed for eating and drinking – making them a popular choice among adult patients.
These exciting improvements have in part been fuelled by the growing demand for braces. However, this increased demand has also lead to some more worrying developments.
In the search for a low-cost alternative to braces, some individuals are taking matters into their own hands and trying to straighten their teeth without any professional supervision or materials. Unsurprisingly orthodontists, dentists and dental organisations such as the British Orthodontic Society have been quick to warn the public about the dangers of DIY dentistry, which can include damage to gums and even tooth loss.
Teeth straightening at home
The fallout of DIY braces was quick, with enough negative publicity to deter most individuals. Unfortunately, though, it was just the beginning and now we’re seeing ‘at-home’ orthodontics promoted on a much larger scale by big brands who are looking to target price-sensitive customers.
The process typically involves taking photos and impressions of your teeth at home and sending them off to a dental professional to review. If you’re a suitable candidate, you’ll then receive a series of custom-made aligners to straighten your teeth. Help and support will usually be provided via telephone and/or email.
The risks of mail-order orthodontics
While ‘mail-order’ orthodontics is a step away from DIY orthodontics, it still provides cause for concern.
Treatment may be more affordable and convenient, but it’s certainly not without its risks:
- A clinical assessment is a vital part of orthodontic treatment. We do this to make sure your teeth are healthy and to ensure that your treatment won’t be detrimental to your oral health. There are problems that can only be picked up during an examination and/or X-ray, which may be exacerbated by orthodontic treatment, for example, root resorption and gum disease.
- Sometimes interproximal reduction (IPR) is needed before treatment can begin. This involves gently reshaping the sides of your teeth using specialist tools in order to get the best results. In the case of unsupervised treatment, this step may be missed out altogether – impacting your end result – or you may need to find a clinician who can do this for you and incur an additional cost.
- Even with careful planning, tooth movement is not always predictable. That’s why regular check-ups are so important. We see our patients every six to eight weeks to make sure everything is on track and if necessary we can make changes to your treatment plan. These appointments are also a great time for you to ask us any questions face-to-face.
- Regular check-ups also help us to keep an eye on your oral health and we can look for the early signs of problems such as gingivitis and tooth decay and take action before they develop into something more serious. We can also show you the best way to look after you teeth during your treatment to help avoid any issues in the first place.
- Before you complete your treatment it’s important to make sure your teeth are in the correct position and you’re happy with your smile. You might think they look great, but a qualified professional will know if your results could be even better. Sometimes we’ll make some final adjustments to your brace in order to get you the best possible outcome.
- Retention is such an important part of orthodontic treatment and you’ll need to wear retainers indefinitely to maintain your results. Online companies may give you the option to purchase a removable retainer, but they won’t be able to check it fits correctly and adjust it while you wait. They also won’t be able to supervise the first year of your retention, which is when you’re most at risk of orthodontic relapse (your teeth moving back). Many of our patients also opt for a fixed retainer, which is a thin wire that we place behind your teeth for extra peace of mind.
To minimise these risks, it’s likely that only the mildest orthodontic cases will be deemed suitable for treatment by at-home orthodontic providers, but that doesn’t eradicate them completely.
If you’re considering mail-order orthodontics, we’d advise you to visit your local clinician for a second opinion. At Sensu we offer patients a free initial consultation*, which is a great opportunity for you to find out what your treatment fee includes so you can make an informed comparison.
To arrange your appointment, call us on 020 3393 6640, or get in touch using our contact form for a quick reply.