DIY Orthodontics- Is it Legit or not?

Have you noticed a lot of commercials on TV lately about do-it-yourself clear plastic aligners?  I certainly have, and it often makes me cringe a little with the claims the particular company makes regarding the ease and speed of treatment.  The old adage, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’, and this is not any different.  The trade-off like most things in life is the possible cost savings versus the time it takes to get the result and the high quality one is expecting.

There are some services such as IT that can be done remotely, and the ease of buying any product online is as easy as 2-3 clicks.  Orthodontic treatment is a service that can be complicated, and often times the reason why a highly trained specialist makes it look so easy is because it is all that he or she does.  I often give an analogy of me thinking that I could play tennis as easy as Roger Federer or soccer like Leo Messi, which is very fitting because like me and other highly trained orthodontists, these guys have been practicing their craft for years!

Another  phrase I often use with this form of do-it-yourself, remote orthodontic treatment- “When you don’t know what you don’t know, how are you going to be able to assess and adjust treatment to achieve the results that you want?”  It can be hard enough for an orthodontist because there are so many variables with a typical orthodontic patient which need to be understood and diagnosed with a thorough and comprehensive initial exam.  At this complimentary exam in our office, a patient’s expectations will be managed appropriately to achieve the high quality results they expect.  Even in these times where some folks are more comfortable with staring at a phone, computer or tablet, there’s so much information that is overlooked when you choose to not get a professional’s eyes on your orthodontic problems.  Again, the trade-off is that treatment takes longer unless the result is compromised.

We have been providing clear aligner therapy to straighten teeth, close spaces and correct bad bites in our practice since 2002.  There are many biomechanical differences with this form of treatment versus metal and clear braces.  One example is that your teeth can only be pushed with clear plastic aligners versus being pushed and pulled with braces.  The extra training (3 additional years past the 4 years of dental school) provides more knowledge and experience to deal with the many adjustments that will need to be made during an orthodontic patient’s treatment, whether it is via plastic or braces.

At least get examined by an orthodontist!  If you still choose to go the DIY route after your orthodontic exam, then at least you will have more information to compare/contrast and be comfortable with your final decision.

Note: Dr. Edward Altherr is a board-certified orthodontist in private practice serving Apex, NC, and the surrounding towns/cities of Cary, Holly Springs, Morrisville and Fuquay-Varina.  Dr. Altherr’s training in orthodontics was at the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s program where we studied under many great orthodontic icons like Dr. William Proffitt and Dr. Camilla Tulloch.  During his orthodontic training, Dr. Altherr’s research and further focus was on the orthodontic treatment of the mixed-dentition (mix of baby and adult teeth in kids between 6 and 14 yo).  With his research and over 16 years of clinical orthodontic experience as of 2018, Dr. Altherr is considered an expert in mixed-dentition orthodontics and other areas of orthodontics like temporary skeletal anchors.  This web blog is for educational purposes only.  Dr. Altherr is licensed only in the state of North Carolina, and cannot diagnose and recommend orthodontic treatment over the phone or internet.

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