There’s a good chance you’ve heard about at-home clear aligners — either online, on the TV or the radio. Ads are touting easy, inexpensive and quick ways to straighten teeth. An at-home impression, a quick approval by a dental professional, a package of aligners sent directly to your home . . . and you’re on your way to a perfect smile!
But, is it too good to be true?
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, “Consumers should think twice before opting for a procedure without an in-person, pre-treatment evaluation or ongoing in-person supervision from a medical professional.” Now, we’re not saying that there aren’t simple cases where at-home aligners would do the trick, but who is the one determining whether your case is simple or not?
“Orthodontics is more than just straightening teeth and requires diagnostics other than an impression or quick scan,” said Dr. Scott Soderquist, partner with Associated Orthodontists. “It’s a medical procedure that should begin with a thorough, in-person examination and consistent supervision by an orthodontist. Unfortunately, these are two very important components that may not be part of at-home procedures.”
What does an orthodontist look for?
Before starting treatment, an orthodontist conducts a comprehensive examination to assess all of the factors relative to treatment, including: facial structure, airway structure, bite irregularities, jaw alignment, gum health, tooth health, root structure and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) structure. This assessment not only dictates a plan of care, it determines whether orthodontic treatment is feasible, or if other dental professionals need to be consulted to address any underlying issues.
Benefits of seeing an orthodontist regularly.
Once treatment has started, and your teeth and bones are moved and manipulated to help align and straighten your smile, an orthodontist is much better equipped to monitor your progression and oral health, rather than a computer dictating the next step. “As treatment advances, we watch how your teeth are moving, relative to your facial structure and bite function, and make adjustments as needed. Plus, we monitor the overall health of your mouth,” says Dr. Soderquist. “Lack of professional supervision may lead to misfitting aligners, damage to the roots of teeth, loosening or lost teeth and gum recession — all of which may pose a health risk and create costly, life-long dental problems.”
Additionally, many patients require the use of attachments or “buttons” during treatment with clear aligners — an option not available with mail order kits. These small, tooth-colored bumps are placed in specific locations by the orthodontist to provide anchor points that help apply force for tooth movement. For those with bite discrepancies, elastics may be used during treatment to correct overbites, underbites, openbits and crossbites. Like attachments, elastics are not an option with at-home aligners.
After four years of dental school, orthodontists have an additional two to three years of intensive training, which makes them specialists in diagnosing, preventing and treating dental and facial irregularities. And, while at-home orthodontics can seem like the perfect option for straight smile, it may be a better option to leave the straightening to the experts.
Ready to start your healthy, beautiful smile? Associated Orthodontists offers Invisalign® and Damon® System Braces, complimentary consultations and is a participating provider with most major insurance programs. Plus, zero-percent interest financing and convenient payment options are available for all patients. Click here to schedule an appointment, or call a location near you. For more information on locations and services, visit greatbraces.com.
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