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La Habra Office : 562-690-1199
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2250 West Whittier Blvd. Suite 200, La Habra, CA 90631

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What Are the Differences Between Mail-Order Aligners and Aligners from My Orthodontist?

mail order aligner vs aligner from orthodontist

La Habra/Chino Hills, CA – Clear aligner therapy (CAT) is gaining in popularity as an orthodontic treatment option. Who doesn’t love the idea of a treatment that is clear, comfortable, and removable? Just as with anything else, it’s important to do proper research before moving forward with aligner therapy. 

Since we live in a world where almost anything we want is at our fingertips, teeth movement with clear aligners is no different. Mail order aligners are advertised everywhere today and chances are good you’ve seen ads from at least a few companies while perusing social media, surfing the internet, or streaming your favorite show. But it’s important to note that these mail order aligners are quite different from aligners you will receive from a trained, board certified orthodontist. Dr. Robert Gire explains the top differences.

  1. With mail order aligners, there is no guarantee that your aligners will be designed by an orthodontist. Mail order aligners are typically designed using a computer algorithm that is then approved by a dental professional. There is no guarantee this professional is an actual orthodontist, or if it is, how experienced he or she may be with clear aligners. Most of these companies hire an outside dentist to just “click to approve” without taking into consideration the severity of your case. In many instances, these quickly approved aligners may cause more harm than good and that’s why there’s been an avalanche of lawsuits and dental board complaints against these mail order companies. Aligners provided by an orthodontist will be created by someone who understands the scientific process involved in moving teeth and can consider everything that goes into your custom treatment plan. This includes the smile goals of the patient, both the sequence and speed of tooth movements, and any overcorrections that need to be accounted for to ensure the desired results of the patient. 
  2. Mail order aligners could care less whether you are healthy or have a mouthful of cavities and/or gum disease. They have a box that you select that states that you’ve seen a dentist in the last six months or you can’t continue through their ordering process. Turns out that most haven’t seen a dentist and just click the box so they can get their trays going. If you move teeth when the foundation, meaning the underlying bone and gum tissues, isn’t healthy, there’s a good chance of losing a lot of bone and this could lead to actual loss of a tooth or teeth. Seeing an orthodontist will ensure that the underlying bone and gum tissue are healthy enough to initiate treatment. If not, they’ll get you the care that you need so your teeth can be safely moved without short or long term consequences. 
  3. You won’t have the benefit of being able to use “attachments” with your treatment when using mail order aligners. “Attachments are small, tooth colored bumps that are temporarily placed on the teeth to ensure predictable movement by the aligner,” states Dr. Gire. Some patients have teeth that require additional force outside of the force applied by the aligners in order to correctly move them. This can be achieved in an orthodontic setting by placing attachments on the teeth. These serve as anchors for your aligners, allowing them to fit more snugly to move teeth more efficiently. These attachments can help rotate teeth if necessary and can also assist with intrusion or extrusion. After the treatment is completed, we simply just polish them off. 
  4. Mail order aligners usually don’t involve rubber bands. Some aligner treatment will require rubber bands to ensure the upper and lower teeth come together correctly. Remember, orthodontists aren’t just looking at straightening the teeth, we’re also looking at correcting the bite. Sometimes we need to use rubber bands attached from the upper to the lower teeth to achieve the bite improvement we need. Mail order aligner companies do not use rubber bands and therefore won’t be able to correct your bite, should your treatment need them. 
  5. You may not know whether your aligners are fitting as they should. If you’ve never had aligner therapy before, how can you tell if your aligner fits properly? In mail order cases, there’s nobody overseeing your progress to verify that things are progressing the way they should. Ill-fitting aligners can not only be painful, but they may cause damage that you may not be aware of, such as recession (gum loss), bone loss, pushing the roots out of bone, etc. Your orthodontist will know how to help and can evaluate the fit of your aligners to ensure they fit properly. 
  6. It’s possible that your teeth may not respond to treatment the way they were expected to. In aligner therapy, we refer to this as “tracking” – if your teeth aren’t following the aligners, we can’t achieve the desired movements to create a better smile. Issues with tracking can be caused by several reasons. Poor design, such as aligners designed to move too quickly or in the wrong sequence, the lack of attachments, or lack of patient compliance can cause issues with tracking. When seeing an orthodontist in person, you’ll have regular visits to ensure your treatment is progressing as it should. Without this, you will be proceeding under the assumption that everything is going as it should when in fact, your treatment may not be. This could not only be damaging your bite and smile but you may end up wasting months of your time and delaying any positive movement.  

The advantages to being seen in-person by an orthodontist are invaluable. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your healthy enough to pursue treatment, your aligners fit properly, and that your treatment is progressing as it should with the necessary attachments or rubber bands to ensure the end result is a beautifully straight smile and properly functioning bite. 

To learn more about clear aligner therapy provided by a board-certified orthodontist, call Dr. Gire at Gire Orthodontics today at 562-690-1199 (La Habra) or 909-393-9911 (Chino Hills).

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