DIY Aligners: Do They Really Work as Orthodontic Treatments?

The cost of orthodontic treatments is an understandable concern.

Whether you need orthodontic correction for dental health or you just want a straighter smile, treatment cost will always be a consideration. This has led to a boom in DIY orthodontic options that purport to offer similar benefits to professional treatments at a fraction of the cost.

But are these DIY approaches as good as they claim? Or are they too good to be true?

What Are DIY Aligners?

DIY dental aligners are a modified type of orthodontic treatment. Generally, these look the same as Invisalign© or other clear aligners that your orthodontist provides. They’re a series of trays that fit around your teeth and are supposed to help gently position them into the desired shape, much like ordinary braces or Invisalign.

Depending on the company you buy from, some will have you go into your local dental office or a retail shop for a scan of your teeth, which is sent to the aligner manufacturer and shipped back to you to wear. Others have you take your own impressions at home and then ship them to the company, all without any type of office visit or dental scan.

It’s an easy option, no doubt. But it may not be the bargain you think it is, given that it can lead to permanent damage to your teeth and bite.

It’s Cheaper, But at a Cost

Naturally, a DIY orthodontic treatment is less expensive than most treatments provided by a certified orthodontist. But just because you pay less doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own costs.

The biggest downside to DIY aligners is that you’re undertaking a medical treatment without proper supervision. The treatment is not set up or designed by an orthodontist, or even a dentist. Typical orthodontic treatments are carried out by an orthodontist who has gone to school to become a dentist, who then undergoes an additional 2-3 years of residency to become a specialist in creating beautiful, functional smiles without doing any harm.

The orthodontist takes photographs and x-rays to evaluate the bone and joints before any treatment begins. Using that information, they design the movements of your teeth based on your unique facial structure, smile, and bite. It’s imperative that each person’s unique anatomy be assessed in this way to evaluate the health of teeth and gums prior to treatment.

When the patient is ready for treatment, everything is managed in-office with regular checkups to ensure a successful and healthy outcome. Your orthodontist will assess the treatment, monitor changes over time, and address any new physiological developments that may arise over the course of your therapy.

In other words, the aligners or plastic trays are only as good as the person designing the movements, meaning that, with DIY options, you’re on your own. You won’t have ongoing supervision or regular appointments with your orthodontist. This is risky from a medical standpoint, as detailed by the American Association of Orthodontics:

Orthodontic treatment involves the movement of biological material, which if not done correctly could lead to potentially irreversible and expensive damage such as tooth and gum loss, changed bites, and other issues.”

This is the opinion shared by Dr. Moody and orthodontic associations across the world, including the USA, Britain, and Australia. All of these bodies advise against DIY aligner therapies due to the risks inherent in unsupervised treatment.

Professional Treatments Yield Professional Results

The medical risks are the biggest drawback, but there’s also efficacy to consider. Dental trays ordered from a shop can’t compare to the results offered from personalized, specialized orthodontic treatments. Many patients find that these pre-made dental trays don’t fit their mouths well — or don’t fit at all!

And it makes sense. Braces and aligners are medical devices, and most patients require customized treatment plans — guided by a licensed practitioner — to achieve their appearance goals.

Cost will always be a factor in orthodontic therapy. But before you write off professional orthodontic work as too expensive, think about the cost of repairing and correcting a poorly-designed ortho treatment! When the financial costs of DIY options are stacked up against the risks, you’ll see that supervised orthodontic treatments are the best, and safest, way to invest in your health.

Please visit us at Moody Orthodontics for a complimentary exam before any DIY orthodontics. We have seen too many unhappy people who have wasted their money and worse, lost their teeth, with these DIY products. Let’s help you get the smile of your dreams with a budget you can afford. We offer in-house, no-interest payment plans for everyone. Contact us today!