Mail order orthodontics like Smile Direct Club, Candid, and others, have been gaining popularity as more patients look for affordable and convenient ways to achieve more beautiful straight smiles at home — but how effective are these treatments, really? If you want to try straightening your teeth at home, it’s a good idea to talk to your dentist first. Not all mail order orthodontics will work for everyone’s teeth, and they can come packaged with risks. Let’s talk about mail order orthodontics, how they work, and what you should know before you sign up. 

How Do Mail Order Orthodontics Work?

Mail order orthodontics are marketed towards customers wanting a straighter smile at home, without the price tag of orthodontic treatment from a dentist. Customers sign up online and receive a kit in the mail to take their own impressions at home. An affiliated dentist reviews the model made by the patient to determine if they are a candidate. Then, the dentist then designs a treatment plan using clear retainers that work to shape the teeth over time. In their plan they include a model of what the patient’s smile will look like and directions for how long and how often each retainer should be worn. The customer pays a one-time fee or monthly payments to begin treatment over a certain period of time. 

The appeals of mail order orthodontics are the convenience and price. Many patients like the idea of handling their teeth alignment journey at home, without having to wear traditional metal braces. They are also attracted to the lower price. Mail order orthodontics cost about $2,000 compared to $5,000-8,000 of professional orthodontic treatment.

Are Mail Order Orthodontics Effective?

Despite the appeals of convenience and price, are mail order orthodontics worth it? While you may pay less to pick up your retainers in the mail, you will also receive less. As a better comparing factor than price, you should consider if the treatment will be valuable and effective for you.

While mail order orthodontics might have some success for minor alignment issues, major orthodontic work is not advisable. Orthodontic procedures should be regularly monitored by a licensed professional to make sure the treatment is effective. Orthodontists play a critical role in helping patients achieve a straight and healthy smile. Under their supervision, minor adjustments can be made to help ease teeth into position naturally and with minimal discomfort. 

Additionally, many are unaware that they can also receive clear aligning retainers from their dentist. If you don’t want to go the route of conspicuous metal braces, clear retainers are a more subtle way to straighten your teeth. Rather than trust the opinion of a mail order dentist, your dentist can work with you on a customized treatment plan to achieve actual results. 

Mail order orthodontics put a huge amount of responsibility on the patient. They require them to initiate and manage their own treatment. Patients must wear the retainers diligently with no guarantee they are working, and ignore the possible risks that come from taking treatment into their own hands. What other medical procedures would you do on your own without help from a licensed professional? Are mail order orthodontics worth the risks?

What Are the Risks of Mail Order Orthodontics?

Risks associated with mail order orthodontics come from skipping over steps that would normally be taken with professional in-office orthodontic treatment. Before starting orthodontic work, your teeth should receive a complete cleaning and examination to ensure they are in peak health and prepared for alignment work to begin. Your dentist can then design a treatment plan based on your needs and goals, using all of the tools at their disposal. 

Professional orthodontic treatment is based on more information than mail order orthodontics, including radiographs and a thorough in-person examination, as well as consideration of the unique topography of your teeth and your dental history. Your dentist has access to all of this — a mailbox doesn’t. Without this valuable information, mail order orthodontics cannot design a comprehensive treatment plan that works for every individual and the specific challenges or health issues they may be facing. 

Health Risks of Mail Order Orthodontics

Either missing or failing to properly diagnose dental problems patients may be dealing with prior to orthodontic work makes the treatment less effective and possibly dangerous to the patient’s health. For example, failure to recognize tooth decay or gum disease, problems with teeth sensitivity, lesions, and even cancer, can have long-lasting health consequences. All of these are best treated when caught early, and performing orthodontic work over afflicted areas could exacerbate problems and lead to tooth loss, extensive dental problems, or long-lasting health issues. 

What’s the Real Cost of Mail Order Orthodontic Treatment?

When you opt for mail order orthodontics over professional orthodontic treatment, you risk completing the “steps” of mail order work and then having to repair considerable damage caused by ineffective treatment — due to unaddressed dental issues that could have been resolved before starting treatment, or from following a treatment plan that wasn’t designed for your unique teeth.

Another major risk is cost. Although mail order orthodontics are less expensive, they are still not cheap. If treatment doesn’t work, or causes more problems, you will still need to see a professional orthodontist to straighten your teeth or repair the damage — and it could end up costing you more than it would have to see a professional in the first place.

Mail Order Orthodontics vs. Professional Treatment

Before being licensed to complete orthodontic work, dental professionals receive an additional 2-3 years of training, on top of their rigorous medical studies. They have dedicated their lives to finding ways to straighten teeth and align the bite effectively and safely. Their education gives them the ability to assess, diagnose, and treat dental problems and irregularities. 

Mail order orthodontics use one method to align teeth, where dentists and orthodontists have several tools and solutions at their disposal to help you achieve a beautiful and healthy smile. If you want to give mail order orthodontics a try, it’s best to talk to your dentist first. They will support you as the patient, but can give you valuable information about how to use the mail order service to achieve the best results without compromising your smile goals or dental health. However, if you need significant work to achieve your goals, your dentist may advise against mail order orthodontics. 

In-office, professional orthodontic treatment will be most effective in aligning your teeth and giving you the best value for your investment in a straighter smile. If you’re concerned about costs, there are financing options that can help you affordably reach your goals. Talk to your dentist before starting any orthodontic treatment to get an assessment of your dental health and see what option would be best for you. 

If you have questions about mail-order orthodontics like the Smile Direct Club, don’t hesitate to give Creason, Weber & Mountford a call. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have, and even schedule an appointment so we can get a closer look.