Orthodontic Treatment Without Ever Stepping Foot Into An Office?

Written by Heather Siler

Who is a candidate-

  • Patients presenting with simple to moderate malocclusion cases. When choosing this method, personal information will be submitted on a website, and a starter kit will be provided which identifies if the patient is a suitable candidate.
  • Patient must be 12 years of age or older, and all permanent teeth must be erupted.
  • Patients who don’t want to physically see an orthodontist every 4-6 weeks for evaluation and adjustments.
  • Patients who are seeking orthodontic treatment at least 60% off traditional therapy.

Who isn’t a candidate-

  • Children under the age of 12 with mixed
  • Patients with a complex malocclusion and cases requiring surgery.
  • Patients with moderate to severe decay and/or periodontal disease.
  • Patient’s with dental implants. Although not impossible, each case will vary.
  • Patients who need constant in-person supervision.

What is at-home orthodontics?

  • A series of trays (aligners) are manufactured using a series of 3D printed models. These aligners are mailed to the patient over a period of months or all at once to guide the teeth into proper alignment gradually. Specific instructions are given as to when to advance to the next tray.
  • The trays (aligners) are clear and tight fitting. They must be worn continuously except for when eating, drinking, and practicing oral hygiene.
  • Although the patient won’t be physically seeing the orthodontist monthly, companies who offer treatment ensure that each patient is paired with a state licensed orthodontist or dentist who will evaluate their medical history, models and/or 3D scans, and photographs. Furthermore, these licensed professionals are available throughout treatment to assist the patient with any questions or problems.
  • Some dental insurance and FSA’s (Flexible Spending Account) will contribute to the cost.

Where do these treatments take place?    

  • Oddly enough, most if not all of the treatment happens in the privacy of the home. In some cases, the patient may have to visit a satellite office for a 3D scan of their teeth.

How does at-home orthodontics achieve straighter teeth?-

There are three steps to acquiring the perfect smile:

  1. The patient receives a starter kit in the mail which includes supplies to make an impression of their upper and lower teeth. The patient may also visit a satellite office, if they are close in proximity, for a 3D scan of their upper and lower teeth.
  2. After receiving the impressions and/or 3D scans, the manufacturer fabricates a series of aligners that are designed to move teeth gradually. These trays may be mailed all at once or every 4-6 weeks.
  3. When optimal results are achieved, the patient moves onto a maintenance phase where they will wear trays usually at night to keep teeth from shifting. Many times, these trays can double as bleaching trays so that the patient can whiten their teeth as well.

What are the concerns when choosing to use this method of straightening the teeth? The ADA (American Dental Association) and the AAO (American Association of Orthodontics) don’t seem to be in favor for several legitimate reasons. The absence of radiographs with this approach before and during treatment is very disturbing. X-rays are extremely necessary to evaluate bone level, decay, and abnormalities detected only on film. Furthermore, it’s difficult to predict the manner in which the bone will respond to movement of the teeth and the appropriate protocol if the patient’s teeth aren’t responding to treatment. The bottom line is that the consumer should consult with a dentist or orthodontist before considering orthodontics at home.