The Problem with At-Home Orthodontics

In a world where perfection is possible, who wouldn’t want a brilliant, Hollywood-worthy smile in half the time and at a fraction of the cost of traditional orthodontic treatment? This is the promise of at-home teeth straightening solutions like Smile Direct Club or Candid. According to these direct-to-consumer companies, you can have a straight and stunning smile without the hassle of traditional braces and in-office orthodontic visits.

Not so fast, say the orthodontists and dentists of Dental Depot of Oklahoma, including Dr. Mark McCollough of the NW Expy/63rd St. location and Dr. Jaime Martins of the West Norman and new Del City ortho locations.

“We understand that at-home orthodontics are tempting,” says Dr. McCollough, Dental Depot’s longest-serving orthodontist, “but as we see more ‘completed’ cases, we’re also encountering more and more patients who have experienced less-than-ideal results and have actually found themselves in a worse position than before they started the at-home treatment.”

The process for straightening your teeth at home seems simple enough. It begins with a simple quiz to determine your eligibility for aligners as a viable orthodontic treatment. Once you’re determined to be a candidate, you’ll receive an impression kit in the mail to create a 3D mold of your teeth. You send the mold back, then receive a series of clear aligners and a personalized treatment plan intended to gently guide your teeth into perfect alignment.

The problem? Without in-person supervision from a trained dental professional, at-home treatment misses a lot of important information that could significantly impact your oral health as well as your wallet, which is why the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) has yet to endorse at-home teeth straightening kits.

Leave Aligning Your Teeth to the Professionals

Achieving the ideal alignment for your teeth and jaws is a complex biomechanical process best entrusted to the in-person care of a professional, who can closely monitor your progress and make necessary adjustments. Trying to navigate this solo, without the proper oversight, expertise, or insight into your jaw’s physiology, can lead to serious repercussions, including root and tooth damage.

Our orthodontists note several risks with at-home orthodontics, such as:
Treatment plans built on inaccurate or incomplete information. At-home orthodontic companies develop your treatment plan based on impressions and pictures you take yourself, usually without professional oversight. If something goes wrong or the treatment plan is ineffective, there is rarely any recourse for patients because it was designed based on the information they provided.

up close image of orthodontic working on woman's braces

According to Dr. Martins, this is an impossible ask for patients. “Our assistants spend months training on impressions,” he says. “They also take an iTero intraoral scan before making an impression, something they have years of experience with.” Those scans allow the doctor to see everything from the roots of the teeth to bone density, as well as the health, depth, and width of the teeth and how they’re angled, all valuable details that help make your orthodontic treatment as safe, effective, and successful as possible. Without this level of comprehensive information, the probability of successful, long-lasting results go down and the risk to your health goes up.

No guarantee on results. At-home companies do not guarantee their results; if you don’t like your smile at the end of your treatment period, or if you experience adverse results, then you are simply out of luck. At Dental Depot of Oklahoma, however, “we have a higher bar,” says Dr. McCollough, who has been with Dental Depot for eight years. “We guarantee a certain level of result not only aesthetically in how the smile looks but also in how the bite fits together and functions. How well that is done significantly impacts how well the teeth stay in that position.” Moreover, he says, “it’s much, much harder to get the results you want, because there are certain tooth movements these companies simply aren’t able to do, but they aren’t going to tell you that.”

Financial repercussions. While the upfront cost for at-home orthodontic treatment might seem attractive, the real price for taking the shortcut is often hidden. Not only do many of these companies charge additional fees if you run into problems with your treatment plan, but you’ll often be locked into financed payment plans that keep you on the hook even if you have less-than-ideal results or develop new problems that will need to be fixed—and paid for again.

The potential for long-term adverse effects. The success of orthodontic treatment—especially with clear aligners—depends largely on wearer behavior. Not wearing aligners for the recommended time can put you at risk of tooth loss because of the stress placed on your teeth, while moving your teeth too quickly or with too much force can cause root resorption and other complications like periodontal attachment loss. In-person supervision from a trained Dental Depot professional, however, includes regular assessments of your mouth and your treatment plan to make sure everything is progressing as it should. If it isn’t, or if your doctor notices any problems, they can make the necessary adjustments to preserve your oral health and get you back on track.

Opt Out of At-Home Orthodontics

From patients who are not candidates for orthodontics at all because of physiological limitations or oral health concerns to counterproductive and costly results, risks of at-home teeth straightening far outweigh the potential benefits, according to our orthodontists.

“Direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies just do not conduct thorough enough screenings to determine proper treatment eligibility,” says Dr. Martins. “There’s also a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions out there, not only about how detrimental at-home teeth straightening can be, but also about how quality, professionally supervised orthodontic treatment costs less than you think.”

Professional, Affordable Orthodontic Treatment at Dental Depot of Oklahoma

At Dental Depot of Oklahoma, we go above and beyond for our patients with exceptional dental care from basic cleanings to braces and more, all at an affordable, commonsense price. We’re also passionate about educating our patients and making quality services available and accessible for all Oklahomans, which is why we offer free orthodontic consultations, including x-rays, so patients can gain a better understanding of their options and readiness for treatment before they commit.

At Dental Depot of Oklahoma, the health and confidence of your smile is our top priority. Schedule an in-person consultation today at the Dental Depot location nearest you, or try out our new virtual consultation. Whether it’s your first time with orthodontics or you need to fix the results from an at-home treatment, Dental Depot is committed to helping you achieve your best, brightest, and healthiest smile.

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