Online Shoppers Beware

Ok, guys… it’s time for some real talk.

Everywhere I go, people ask me about those online clubs offering orthodontic discount clear trays directly to you. Ahem.
“Do they work? Should I do them? They are so cheap, and braces are so expensive!”

Uhhh the answer is no, guys. Just. No.

So, what is so bad anyway? Thought you’d never ask.

For starters… who said you were a good candidate for clear aligners anyway? When you come to our office, we take x-rays. We look at what existing restorations you have. We look at your oral hygiene and bone levels. Why do we do this? We are looking for possible reasons that this treatment might not be a good fit for you. Implants don’t move, periodontal disease can be exacerbated by orthodontics, you need to be careful with how much force you apply to a bridge… there are other considerations too. Is your bite too narrow, do you have an underbite, an overbite? What about a tongue thrust? Are your teeth undersized? Are you at risk of developing TMD? Do you have TMD symptoms now, and could this make it worse? Sorry to overwhelm you… but I get carried away. Read your release of liability from the online retailer. They are putting all of this on you, the patient. Does anyone read those anyway? Would you know what it means if you did read it?

Another concern I have is that there are very severe limits to what these trays can achieve. Invisalign uses clear attachments on teeth to target specific rotations and may require chair side treatment by the Dr. called IPR (where they slim a tooth just the tiniest bit to help with crowding). The online retailer trays do not have this ability and are therefore much more restricted in what they can do.

Speaking of what they can accomplish… it seems as though when the online retailer’s treatment stalls for whatever reason – that’s it… you’re done. You may have made your way through 6 of your 15 trays, and that 6th tray isn’t fitting quite right. You call the customer service, and their response? “You’ve met the best possible outcome for your case.” That’s right, they did the best they could. From what I’ve been told, they don’t offer refunds, because don’t worry, they didn’t guarantee you’d see any results anyway.

Alternatively, Invisalign is designed and monitored by your dentist. When planning an Invisalign case, before it is sent to you for approval, Dr. Todd will sometimes send the case back to Invisalign’s clinical team several times, making the slightest changes in order to get your case perfect. He is looking at the full picture with your dental health. Is that online dentist doing that for you?

While I understand probably any dentist or orthodontist doesn’t like the idea of losing their patients to an online retailer… it’s possible we never thought this would be a problem because unlike a bookstore or toy store, you actually DO need that face time with the doctor to receive the service you are requesting. Also, we aren’t losing you. We’ll still be here when things go wrong, and you decide to see a professional. 

Until then, keep smiling!


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