Here at Zeifman Orthodontics, we’ve had several patients ask us about the difference between the clear aligners we use and the at-home aligners they see advertised in various places. We’ve noticed an increase in the number of direct-to-consumer treatments available recently, so we weren’t surprised to get this question! These companies use ads online, in print, and on TV and streaming services to entice customers with a cheaper way to straighten their teeth. They also push the “convenience” of never having to actually go to an orthodontist’s office. We can certainly see why this would be appealing to some consumers, but most professionals won’t recommend them, including Dr. Zeifman. Let’s take a closer look at what these aligners are, and why you should choose an orthodontist over mail-order aligners to get the smile of your dreams.
What are mail-order aligners?
Direct-to-consumer companies market themselves as an alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment. Generally, patients would straighten their smiles in an orthodontic office under an experienced orthodontist’s direct supervision. Mail-order companies cut out the “middleman” in this process and claim to give you everything your need to correct orthodontic issues at home. First, they send you an in-home impression kit. Once you’ve taken the impression and mailed back in, a dentist or technician will review it and determine if you’re a good candidate for clear aligner treatment. If you’re approved for the process, aligners will be made from the impression provided and sent back to the patient with instructions on wearing them.
We should note upfront that the bar for using mail-order aligners is set much lower than we ever would. Many people are approved for aligner treatments who aren’t good candidates for one reason or another. When you have an orthodontic evaluation done by an experienced orthodontist and receive treatment from a reputable practice, several important factors are considered before recommending treatment. Those components are missing when it comes to mail-order aligners. These include:
Assessing each patient’s specific needs
Orthodontics is about improving oral health as well as straightening the teeth. Orthodontists are trained to identify and treat a wide variety of oral issues, and the first step is an orthodontic examination. When you visit our office, your consultation will also include digital photographs of your teeth and a series of panoramic and cephalometric x-rays if we feel they’re necessary. Your personalized treatment plan is based on all of the information we gather at your first appointment. Best of all, it’s designed for your unique smile.
On the other hand, mail-order aligner companies must rely on nothing more than the basic information that can be gleaned from your at-home impression and a few photos. This can lead to many oral health issues being missed. For example, cavities, gum disease, and other related problems can’t be seen from just a few photos or impressions. This can be a problem since teeth and gums should always be in good condition before we attempt any tooth movement. Working directly with an orthodontist like Dr. Zeifman eliminates any unnecessary risk since the treatment is built around your particular needs, including any necessary dental work.
Personalized treatment plans
There’s no “cookie-cutter” treatment at Zeifman Orthodontics. Dr. Zeifman will always take your needs, lifestyle, and goals into account when choosing the best treatment method for you. While clear aligner therapy can be an excellent fit for a lot of people, it isn’t always the right choice for everyone. Cases that are incredibly complex or severe may require more precise tooth control than aligners can provide. For these patients, metal or clear braces may be a better option.
Supervision during the treatment process
Regular check-ups are an essential part of the treatment process for every orthodontic patient. These visits occur every 4-8 weeks or so, and Dr. Zeifman will use this time to check that your teeth are moving in the way that’s best for your health and make any needed adjustments.
Mail-order aligner companies do not provide any meaningful supervision. Patients are more or less left in charge of their orthodontic journey. This can cause unintended consequences. An easy example is aligners that don’t fit properly, which may lead to irritation and pain. A bad can also move the teeth too quickly or more slowly than expected. Like we mentioned above, cavities or gum disease can develop or worsen without the patient knowing. If there’s no orthodontist involved, problems like this may go unnoticed and thus untreated. Over time, this can damage a patient’s oral health and bite.
Similar pricing and treatment times already exist
There’s no getting around the fact that a healthy smile and fully functional mouth will require an investment of your time and money. We understand why mail-order aligners seem like a good deal, but they can end up costing more in the long run when you consider all the potential risks. These companies can’t give you the same level of supervised care that a trained orthodontist can.
Not only that, but many orthodontists can compete with the cost and treatment times these mail-order companies claim, anyway! Zeifman Orthodontics believes everyone should have access to the high-quality orthodontic care they need and offer affordable treatment options for every budget. We have flexible payment plans available, and also accept most major credit cards and insurance plans.
Trust your smile to the experts at Zeifman Orthodontics
If you had a medical problem that needed treatment, you wouldn’t seek that out without consulting a medical professional. Your smile deserves just as much consideration!
Mail-order companies do claim to have qualified dentists and technicians overseeing their approval process, but that can’t compare to the education, training, skills, and care you get from one-on-one treatment from an experienced orthodontist. Dr. Zeifman has years of experience creating beautiful smiles for patients of all ages in Florham Park and the surrounding areas. Our team will always provide you with the best orthodontic care at affordable prices!