Consumer Warning: Direct-to-consumer orthodontic products
Orthodontics Australia strongly urges consumers to be wary of the safety risks of DIY and direct to consumer clear aligner orthodontic products now being offered in Australia.
These clear aligner products are sold direct to consumers, meaning there is no in-person consultation by an orthodontist. Companies providing these types of products have been operating in the United States for several years where they have been heavily criticised by consumers and industry groups for over-promising and under-delivering on treatment results.
Although lower cost and apparent greater convenience may seem appealing compared to traditional orthodontic treatment, consumers need to be aware of the risk that final treatment outcomes may be inferior when treatment commences without a full clinical examination, and ongoing treatment involves no in-person assessment and review by an orthodontist. Experts warn that these kinds of DIY treatment plans can lead to significant dental problems, such as permanent damage to the teeth, gums, jaw joints or jaws, leading to costly remedial treatment. Consumers also need to be aware that these services can refer to utilising the expertise of a trained “dental professional”. It is important for consumers to ask questions about the qualifications and role of these “dental professionals” in their care. For example, is the person overseeing their treatment a dentist or orthodontist registered with AHPRA? How will the registered dentist or orthodontist oversee their treatment? Does the registered dentist or orthodontist keep dental records that the consumer can access if needed? Consumers should ask questions about these matters.
As part of these services, consumers typically have their teeth scanned at a retail outlet – which may be done by a person who has no dental qualifications, or are mailed a DIY kit to take impressions of their own teeth. The scans or moulds are then used to create a course of clear aligner trays that are sent directly to the consumer to administer themselves. This method doesn’t account for variations in people’s teeth and does not allow for any adjustment to the treatment once the aligners have been sent. In addition, no X-rays are taken to assess the health of the teeth and surrounding bone, so there is no way to determine if the proposed tooth movement is safe or even feasible, or if the tooth roots, gums and bone are healthy enough to tolerate tooth movement.
OrthodonticsAustralia’s view is that starting orthodontic treatment without having a face to face consultation with a specialist orthodontist and their clinical team exposes the patient to significant potential risks.
Consumers are often unaware of the potential risks of improperly applied orthodontics and are unable to tell when something is going wrong until it is too late. By the time they realise that there has been an error, their teeth and gums may be damaged, leading to even more costly remedial orthodontic procedures and in some cases, corrective surgery.
Teeth straightening is a complex dental procedure, and requires a proper pre-treatment assessment and ongoing supervision, just like any other healthcare procedure. Orthodontics Australia recommends consulting a specialist orthodontist for a comprehensive assessment before commencing any form of orthodontic treatment, no matter how simple it may seem. They will be able to provide you with a detailed overview of all feasible treatment options, including limited treatment options for the budget-conscious, to ensure safe and professional treatment.