Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics


By Dr. Yin-nan Luong

Recently, there has been a growing number of companies advertising Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics (Eg. Smile Direct Club).  While these may sound tempting, they have the potential to cause severe damage to your teeth and gums.

What is Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics?

Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Orthodontics describes clear aligner products that are sold directly to patients. This means there is no little or no direct interaction with a dental practitioner. A patient either takes their own impressions at home, or alternatively may be seen by a “professional” for a 3D scan of their mouth. Clear aligners are manufactured and sent to the patient to administer themselves.

What are the problems with Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics?

Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics may be cheaper than orthodontic treatment directly with a dental practitioner. However this style of treatment comes with numerous problems, as it removes several key roles of a dental practitioner from a patient’s orthodontic journey.

  1. Lack of proper diagnosis and treatment planning by a dental practitioner

Even if you have an in-person scan of your teeth, this is usually not a qualified dental practitioner who is trained to assess your teeth and orthodontics properly. Some companies will claim that your scan is assessed by a “dental professional” - but even if that is the case, it is not possible to fully assess a patient indirectly from scans and photos. Often x-rays are not even required by DTC Orthodontic products - meaning the tooth roots and surrounding bone have not been assessed to know if tooth movement is safe.

Failure to have a thorough assessment prior to orthodontics may lead to starting treatment where it is not suitable. If the teeth and gums are not healthy enough for tooth movement, adverse outcomes can occur. Existing dental conditions such as tooth decay and gum disease can worsen, and if teeth roots are short, then orthodontic movement may be unsafe.

  1. Lack of monitoring throughout treatment

Even if a patient is suitable to start clear aligner treatment - there are numerous issues that can arise throughout a course of orthodontics. The wearing of aligners could cause damage to the teeth and gums, or lead to poor alignment of teeth. Without having regular checks by a dentist, these adverse changes may not be noticed until it is too late. These adverse outcomes would require more time and cost to fix with remedial dental procedures, and in some scenarios could lead to irreversible complications.

  1. Lack of follow up

At the completion of any orthodontic treatment, teeth are susceptible to relapse (moving back to misaligned positions). Although a DTC product may provide retainers to hold the teeth in position, these are likely to require adjustment or replacement over the long-term. Orthodontic treatment provided at a dental clinic provides patients the opportunity for regular ongoing checks of retainers to ensure teeth stay straight for life.

What other options are there?

Orthodontic treatment is a complex undertaking, and just like any health procedure requires proper assessment and supervision to safely manage the journey. A properly trained dental professional spends time to assess a patient’s oral health and orthodontic needs fully, prior to developing a treatment plan. They will then see a patient regularly throughout treatment to ensure teeth movement proceeds safely, as well as reviewing the retention of tooth positions after treatment.

If you book for a complimentary orthodontic consultation at Fine Smiles Dental, a dentist will provide a comprehensive assessment prior to commencing a.  We will discuss all suitable treatment options at a range of fee levels, and you will likely find that some of our options are comparable in pricing to Direct-to-Consumer orthodontics commencing any treatment.

​Have more questions?

To find out more about braces and Invisalign, please contact our friendly team to organise a consult with one of our dentists. Feel free to visit our Invisalign and braces page for more information.

Any more questions?

Contact us