Why You Should Choose an Orthodontist Over Mail-Order Aligners

It seems like you can do just about anything from home now. You can work and learn from home; you can have groceries delivered to your home— and you can even get mail-order aligners and skip the orthodontist! But, should you?

Despite the appealing convenience of mail-order aligners, they are not a substitute for orthodontic care. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recently issued a consumer alert cautioning against the use of mail-order aligner services. Why? Tooth movement can affect the way your teeth bite together. Moving teeth also affects their surrounding gums. Straightening teeth is a complex process and there’s a reason orthodontic training takes 2-3 years beyond the traditional 4 years of dental school. You need ongoing professional oversight to ensure proper and safe tooth movement.

What are Mail-Order Aligners?

Mail-order aligners promise a beautiful, straight smile from the comfort of your home. Some companies send you an “at-home impression kit” that you use to make models of your teeth. Other companies have you visit a salon or other non-dental office location to get a scan of your teeth. You may be asked to send in a “Smile Selfie” to determine whether you are a good candidate for at-home tooth movement. DIY companies may advertise a savings over in-person orthodontic care. But you get what you pay for – aligners that don’t fit properly and teeth that are moving in ways that damage the gums and disrupt the bite.

Problems with Mail-Order Teeth Aligners

The problem with home-made impressions is that they may warp in shipping or may not otherwise be an accurate representation of your teeth. Likewise, the Smile-Selfie doesn’t show the entire relationship of your teeth, gums and bite.

While a scan of your teeth is more accurate than an at-home impression, your surrounding gums and bite may not be evaluated by a dentist or orthodontist. These companies may tell you that you are a good candidate for mail-in invisible aligners when your smile may have more complex needs.

Receiving orthodontic treatment without orthodontic oversite is dangerous, and the negative consequences can lead to additional expenses to make the required corrections. You may end up spending twice as much to repair the damage! Additionally, insurance companies are less likely to cover the cost of mail-order aligners as the thousands of consumer complaints regarding the effectiveness of these treatments make them a liability.

Choosing an Orthodontist vs. Using Mail-Order Teeth Aligners

If you are tempted to consider using mail-order aligners, the American Association of Orthodontists suggests you ask yourself a few questions:

      • Is an orthodontic specialist supervising your treatment?
      • How customized is your treatment for your teeth and mouth?
      • What other transforming medical treatment would you undergo without an in-person, pre-treatment evaluation, or ongoing in-person supervision from a medical professional?
      • Does the treatment model comply with the dental laws in your state?

Determining Your Specific Needs

Before undergoing any type of orthodontic treatment, it’s essential to first determine your specific oral health needs. When consulting with an orthodontist experienced with Invisalign, you’ll receive a pre-treatment evaluation of your teeth, the surrounding gum tissues and the fit of your bite. This evaluation will include x-rays and diagnostic imaging, the goal of which is to create a personalized treatment plan. You may learn that another treatment method would be best for your specific situation, your lifestyle, and your budget. This is not the detailed information you can learn from a mail-order company.

Personalized Treatment Plans

Part of the diagnostic imaging an experienced orthodontist does is creating a 3D image of your teeth using the iTero® 3D scanner. There is no longer a need to take messy impressions of your teeth. A 3D scan is a painless procedure that provides a highly detailed image of the teeth and bite.

From this 3D image, the orthodontist can design your aligners based on the goals that were set up in your personalized treatment plan. The aligners are designed to put a gentle, constant force on the teeth that need to be moved. Each aligner is custom-made and individually trimmed to make sure they are comfortable.

Once you receive your aligners, you will need to wear them at least 20 hours per day and change them weekly. You will need to remove your aligners to eat and to brush your teeth. It’s important to keep the aligners in place for the entire 20 hours per day, even while playing a wind instrument or while participating in sports. The number of aligners you will need will depend on what corrections are needed.

Quality Supervision During Treatment Process

At your progress appointments your orthodontist evaluates the movement of your teeth by how your aligners are fitting. Sometimes, your orthodontist may need to modify the length of time a particular aligner is worn or make adjustments to individual aligners for specific teeth that may not be moving as well. Your orthodontist will also be evaluating the health of your gums and the fit of your bite at each check-in. By receiving quality supervision from an experienced orthodontist, you can be sure your teeth will be moving in the proper way to achieve the desired results.

Comparable Treatment Times Already Exist

Do not be fooled by mail-order companies’ claims that their product will move teeth faster than receiving professional treatment by an orthodontist. As an experienced orthodontist will tell you, the exact treatment time is dependent on the original problem that needs to be corrected. The ultimate length of treatment also depends on compliance with wearing the aligners. If the aligners are frequently removed, they are more likely to be misplaced or lost, and the teeth are less likely to move as the aligners intend. The speed of tooth movement varies from patient to patient due to differences in biology, but generally adults and teens experience the same speed of tooth movement. If a mail-order company claims their treatment times are shorter, most likely their goals of tooth movement are being limited to that shorter time frame.

Wearing your aligners as directed is the key to success with invisible aligners. You can expect to start seeing results within the first three months.

If you’re ready to explore your orthodontic treatment options, contact Walton & Maready Orthodontics for a free consultation in Raleigh, North Carolina, today!  Get the smile of your dreams with experienced, professionally trained orthodontists. Your teeth, your bite, and your healthy smile will thank you!


    1. Mail-order aligners are not a substitute for orthodontic care
    2. The American Association of Orthodontists issued a consumer alert against the use of mail-order aligner services
    3. Healthy, safe movement of teeth requires customized treatment and on-going orthodontic evaluation
    4. Moving teeth can adversely affect your gums and your bite; therefore, tooth movement should be planned and monitored by a professional orthodontist.
    5. Do not be fooled by mail-order advertising claiming lower cost and great results


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