Person wearing white gloves holding teeth aligners

Mail-Order Teeth Aligners: Advising Your Patients Against DIY Orthodontics 

Oct 16, 2018

Author: Amber Metro-Sanchez

Have you seen any of the ads for clear aligners that let patients straighten their teeth at home, often without being treated by a dentist or orthodontist? Do you wonder if this is a safe and effective option? Consider what recommendations you should be giving to your patients who are using do-it-yourself clear aligners.

The Temptations of Do-it-Yourself Straightening

The cost of orthodontic treatment can reach into the thousands of dollars. Many times patients have difficulty affording this treatment, and using do-it-yourself teeth aligners at home may seem to be an attractive option due to their lower cost.

It's easy to understand the appeal. Mail-order aligners are most often based on a scan done at a regional center or an at-home impression, after which customers are mailed a series of clear aligners over a specified treatment period. In addition to being relatively inexpensive, these aligners may seem more convenient since there are no office visits for orthodontic treatment. Unfortunately, this lack of oversight and emphasis on quick results can carry risks.

The Risks of Mail-Order Aligners

It is always best for patients to have their orthodontic treatment monitored by a qualified dental professional. In some instances, direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies do not include an in-person initial evaluation or ongoing supervision of treatment by a qualified dental professional, explains the American Association of Orthodontists. When someone does check in with the patient, it is often not face-to-face, so it is up to the patient to identify and communicate any issues.

If not done correctly, orthodontic treatment can potentially lead to irreversible and expensive damage, such as a detrimental change in occlusion or tooth loss. According to the Australian Society of Orthodontists, damage to roots, gum recession and tooth loosening may occur. The bottom line is that orthodontic treatment is not as straightforward as online and television advertisements may lead patients to believe.

What to Tell Your Patients

If your patients ask you about using do-it-yourself aligners at home, provide them with information on why seeing a dentist or orthodontist is important. Let your patient know that orthodontic treatment can be complicated and that qualified dentists and orthodontists receive thorough training to ensure their patients receive the best possible results. You can also let your patient know that with do-it-yourself aligners, there is often no regular supervision from a dental professional and it is up to the patient to notice any problems or adverse outcomes on their own.

Your patients may also think that do-it-yourself clear aligners are a simple way to straighten teeth, but sometimes clear aligners by themselves are not enough to complete all of the tooth movement that is needed and patients should be aware of this. Resin attachments (or buttons) are created and attached in the dental/orthodontic office, and may be needed to enable more complex movements with clear aligners. There are also occasions in which the final phase of treatment involves a different type of appliance.

If you have patients who are already using clear aligners, make sure they are practicing meticulous oral hygiene at home (whether they are using clear aligners provided by a qualified dental professional or the do-it-yourself variety). One of the advantages of clear aligners is that patients can take them out to perform oral hygiene. It can be helpful to remind patients to brush after eating before reinserting their aligners, about daily flossing, and to brush and rinse their aligners to keep them clean.


  • Do-it-yourself clear aligners may not involve any in-person consultation or evaluation.
  • Without supervision by a qualified dental professional, DIY tooth straightening may cause irreversible damage.
  • Explain to patients why do-it-yourself aligners are not the best option for a straighter smile.

Why It's Important

Do-it-yourself aligners carry risks. Patients need to be educated about these and the value of seeing a qualified dental professional before deciding on what treatment they will undertake.

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