Medical professionals have witnessed an unprecedented rise in DIY dentistry in recent years. In 2015, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) took a strict stance against DIY braces in a "Buyer Beware" statement. Though the dangers of these devices seem self-evident, the DIY generation has yet to be dissuaded from their quest for at-home remedies and quick fixes. The newest homegrown endeavor—mail-in braces.
For social media users, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the ads and celebrity endorsements sneaking into popular sights, like Instagram. Even more difficult to ignore are the "successful" results boasted by users through a series of before and after pictures. Averaging out at about 60% cheaper than traditional invisible aligners, many consumers are beginning to buy into the hype surrounding mail-in orthodontic services without fully understanding the risk these services pose to their oral health.
At first glance, compelling before and after pictures may lead consumers to believe that mail-in orthodontic services work, yet, a closer look reveals the truth to these photos. "Invisible aligners aren't always as effective as standard braces, though they generally produce positive results to patients using them under medical supervision," notes Sunil Wadhwa, associate professor of dental medicine and director in the division of orthodontics at the Columbia University Medical Center. Routine orthodontic exams not only provide patients with the opportunity to address questions or concerns about their treatment but also receive important refinements to their treatment. Because orthodontic treatment often induces subtle shifts to teeth and/or jaw structure, it is important to maintain regular visits to the orthodontist in order to monitor progress and adjust a patient's treatment plan as necessary. While most mail-in companies only offer between three and ten months treatment, in-office treatment is often carried out until a patient is satisfied with their treatment results. When considered in relation to cost, the question from consumers isn't "how much will it cost" but instead "how satisfied am I with my treatment?" Mail-in services might seem like a good option to consumers for what seem to be minor fixes, however, these are often not a permanent orthodontic fix.
When carried out in a dental office under professional supervision orthodontic treatment is shown to have lasting effects. While this is due in part to the quality of the initial corrections, often times this is largely dependent on proper aftercare. Generally speaking, teeth will naturally begin to relapse into less-than-ideal positions once active orthodontic treatment has stopped. For many orthodontic patients, treatment does not end when their braces are removed but instead rely on the diligent use of a custom-built retainer to prevent a relapse in treatment. Unlike traditional treatment, corrective retainers are often not a service afforded by mail-in services. Although traditional orthodontic treatment is a serious treatment, it is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment in your future and the future of your smile.
Ultimately, the success of an orthodontic treatment plan lies with the patient undergoing treatment and their specialist. As the DIY trends continue to surge, it's important for parents and patients to remain vigilant against shortsighted promises. At Spring & Sprout, it is our mission to equip parents and patients with the information they need to make educated decisions about their health in a manner that is consistent with their unique needs. If you or your child has questions about their treatment, please don't hesitate to schedule a consultation.