Dr. Conn explains the risks of using at-home aligners without going to an orthodontist
Over the last several years, companies have been advertising DIY aligners or at-home teeth straightening kits, which promise to straighten your teeth for less money. This “trend” is potentially dangerous, and I always caution friends and patients against trying to straighten teeth without the personal care of an orthodontist. The key to giving patients their best and healthiest smile is understanding how a patient’s facial features and smile fit together. Technology alone today lacks the medical judgment of how your bite and smile fit within your face and this can compromise a patient's cosmetic outcome and overall function.
Think about it… if you broke your wrist, would you put on your own cast? If you needed surgery, would you do it yourself? No way! The same logic goes for your teeth. Aligners move your teeth and the surrounding bones, which means they can cause significant health and cosmetic complications. From a health standpoint, they can move the teeth out of the bone, causing gum and bone loss, or even lead to losing a tooth. With respect to cosmetics, while the aligner is moving your teeth to close a space, it can result in tipping of the teeth making the teeth look worse.
Even if the DIY treatment gives you straighter teeth, chances are good that the process has not delivered your best smile. It is not uncommon for me to see a new patient at my practice who has tried at-home aligners and is extremely disappointed about the results. They end up spending more time in treatment to undo the damage that was done by the at-home aligners. And they’re very frustrated knowing they have thrown away the money they have spent on the at-home treatment.
Recently, a woman came to see us after she treated herself with at-home aligners she ordered online. Not only was she unhappy with the cosmetic results, but she also complained she couldn’t properly chew her food anymore. She had just wanted to close the gap between her front teeth with the at-home aligners, but the at-home aligners moved her teeth without considering her bite or the reciprocal effects of moving her teeth, which led to a compromised result. I unfortunately had to tell her that she now needs more involved orthodontic care to correct the problems caused by the at-home aligners.
For all these reasons, I strongly recommend that patients only get orthodontic treatment under the care of an orthodontist. For those patients concerned about the cost of treatment, most orthodontists today offer free consultations that include a full scan and examination of your teeth and have flexible payment plans to ensure you can get treatment within your budget. Take advantage of your local orthodontist’s years of training to give yourself the best chance to have a beautiful and healthy smile that will last you a lifetime.
Karen Conn, DMD, MS is a Board-certified orthodontist and co-owner of Bryn Mawr Orthodontics (Bryn Mawr, PA), where she specializes in Invisalign and braces for children, teens and adults. She has been recognized as a Philadelphia Magazine Top Dentist, Suburban Family Top Orthodontist, and is among the nation’s top 1% of Invisalign providers. Dr. Conn received her undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her residency in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics at Temple University, where she also earned a master's degree in Oral Biology.
Bryn Mawr Orthodontics serves its neighbors in Bryn Mawr, Gladwyne, Villanova, Ardmore, Haverford, Wynnewood, Narberth, Radnor, Penn Valley, Bala Cynwyd, Merion, Wayne, and the entire Main Line.