What are clear aligners?
In 2000, a company called AlignTechnology launched a brilliant alternative to traditional braces, clear aligners. The goal was to straighten teeth without the need for brackets and wires. Traditional braces use brackets that are cemented onto the teeth and attached by wires that apply a subtle but constant force to elicit movement over time. Aligners, on the other hand, are a series of clear plastic trays that are custom-made for each patient based on impressions. Clear aligners are almost invisible making them much more aesthetically pleasing than traditional orthodontics. Being removable the aligners aid in keeping teeth clean and gums healthy much simpler than with traditional orthodontic wires and brackets. This concept quickly took off so it came as no surprise when alternatives quickly began to appear on the market. One of the most commonly known being Smile Direct Club.
What is Smile Direct Club?
Smile Direct is an online service that creates a series of personalized corrective aligners based on an impression or 3D scan of your teeth. While this company does have some brick-and-mortar locations where customers can show up once for a 3D scan to receive their kit, typically everything, including scans or impressions, are done by the individual at home. Sounds great, right? Before you jump into the seemingly quicker, cheaper option for straightening your teeth, take time to review the pros and cons of Smile Direct Club.
- Little time commitment: Smile Direct is great for busy people who don’t have time for frequent in-office visits. With traditional orthodontics, you will need to see your provider in-office every 4-6 weeks. With Smile Direct, after the initial impression/3D scanning phase, customers receive their kit and start wearing the aligners right away without lengthy or frequent visits to an office.
- Treatment is overseen behind the scene by a licensed professional: A licensed orthodontist or dentist guides and monitors the impressions and trays in your kit remotely.
- Convenient all-in-one kit: When your kit arrives it will include all the trays that they anticipate you will need for the entire duration of your treatment.
- Treatments can be quick: The average wear time is 6 months. This is because Smile Direct is designed to help with minor imperfections that don’t require as much time to correct.
- Whitening treatment included: A whitening treatment as well as a preview of the intended final results will also be included in your kit when it arrives.
- Smile Direct ideally costs less than treatments like Invisalign and traditional braces: If your Smile Direct treatment goes smoothly, it costs around $2,000 while Invisalign can cost $3,000 to $6,000. The retainer made at the conclusion of Smile Direct treatment is just $99, which is significantly less than the typical retainer at around $300 in-office.
At face value, Smile Direct Club appears to be a no-brainer. However, the ironic thing about Smile Direct Club is that the majority of the company’s pros are also the company’s cons.
- Little time commitment: The flip side of not having to be seen every 4-6 weeks in-office is that the reason 4-6 week check-ins are recommended is to monitor treatment closely, to ensure things are progressing as they should. If these check-ins aren’t happening and something gets off course the whole process can progress unsatisfactory!
- Treatment is overseen by a licensed professional behind the scene: The progression of trays that you receive in the mail will have been overseen by a dentist or orthodontist. However, without in-person exams and monitoring, the possibility for error or for something to be overlooked is very much increased. And a small error at any point in the process can derail the end result dramatically.
- Convenient all-in-one kit: The idea of receiving all of your trays at once seems great but if anything was off during the impression/3D scan phase, especially if you did the impression or scan at home on your own, the entire sequence of trays can be skewed.
- Treatment can be quick: Treatment can be much quicker with Smile Direct Club than with in-office aligners if everything goes as planned. If anything at any point gets off track, without one-on-one supervision and regular in-person exams, things could very quickly require more time than initially expected!
- Smile Direct ideally costs less than treatments like Invisalign and traditional braces: This is only the case if everything goes exactly as planned. As mentioned above, if anything, at any point, gets off track you could very quickly be in a position where you have to pay much more than originally quoted to get the results you want!
- Not intended for more complex cases: Part of the reason Smile Direct Club is advertised as quicker than traditional clear aligners is that it is designed to work only for less complex cases. More complicated cases would require traditional clear aligners anyway and more time for desired results.
- Legal concerns and complaints: The AAO (American Association of Orthodontics has issued complaints in 36 states stating that Smile Direct Club is in violation of dental-practice statutes and that such dental procedures are best done under the supervision of dental professionals. Two states, Georgia and Alabama, have agreed and have put restrictions on the way Smile Direct operates. Despite the legitimate concerns and objections, from the AAO and widespread customer complaints as well, Smile Direct Club continues to grow.
Simply put, patients who go to their regular dental practice or find a local dentist or orthodontist to carry out their orthodontic needs have the advantage of building a relationship with someone who knows or who will get to know their dental history. A dental office will take photographs, radiographs, evaluate the patient’s bite and how the teeth fit together (their occlusion), examine previous dental work, and assess the condition of the gums. All of these measures are crucial steps in determining if a patient is a good candidate for a clear aligner technique for teeth straightening.
Regular visits to the dental or orthodontic office during your clear aligner treatment also allow the dental professional to monitor the progress and address any problems or questions as they arise. Pain or discomfort that you may experience can be addressed and possible adjustments can be made to the straightening plan if necessary. The patient can also call or visit the dental practice for help with lost or damaged trays. All things considered, if you want the best results with the most transparent expectations, in-office, clear aligners at a local dentist or orthodontist office are the way to go. Call your dental practice today to ask about in-office clear aligners to get the smile that you want with the personal attention and care you deserve.