Home improvement shows on HGTV often show you how taking on an improvement project yourself can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
While this may be true for refinishing a wood floor or repurposing an old shelf, this isn’t often the case for orthodontic treatment.
The American Academy of Orthodontists recently issued an alert that warns people against following the advice in YouTube videos and websites that claims to provide ways of straightening your own teeth. Many of the methods described online to close a gap between your front teeth have the potential to cause extensive damage and even tooth loss, says NYC Invisalign and conventional braces provider Dr. Mark Bronsky.
There’s also another method of treatment that has hit the marketplace within the past year: companies that offer “mail order” orthodontic treatment.
“I’m skeptical of a system of orthodontic treatment in which there is no person-to-person contact between the provider and the patient,” Dr. Bronsky says. “A lot goes into an initial evaluation to develop a diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan.
These mail order programs use photographs and impressions of your teeth that you make yourself using tools that are mailed to you. Then they create a series of aligners similar to Invisalign aligners. You progress through the series of aligners to achieve an improved smile. The companies appear to target adults primarily who perhaps had orthodontic treatment in childhood and have experienced some relapse.
Your comprehensive evaluation at our office involves much more that photos and impressions, and for good reason. A member of our staff takes panoramic and cephalometric X-rays of your mouth. The panoramic X-ray shows the entire mouth, root angulations and root length. This is important because if by chance there is root resorption – loss of a tooth’s root structure – we need to be aware so we don’t cause more damage to the root. We also can detect impacted teeth, which are below the bone and not visible in photographs or molds.
“These are VERY important, because to treat any condition you must understand the underlying causes and foundations, especially in children where there is a mixed dentition,” Dr. Bronsky says.
The cephalometric X-ray is a lateral view of the jawbones as well as angulations of roots. This is used to measure and anticipate growth to predict and customize treatment for the ideal occlusion, or bite.
“I wouldn’t ever treat a patient without X-rays, as it would be a blind guess and could be harmful,” he says.
We also take photographs during your comprehensive evaluation using a high-quality camera. We use special mirrors and take the photos at specific distances and angles in an effort to accurately document your malocclusion and to duplicate the actual clinical anatomy. These images are used in treatment planning, and to document your smile before, during and after treatment.
Taking your own photos with a camera phone to aid the professionals at these mail order companies sounds a bit risky to us. Even with clear instructions on what to take photos of, it seems difficult to ensure that ideal images are captured.
“I think about the culture of ‘selfies’ and how people take photos from specific angles and distances to perhaps hide flaws or make themselves appear thinner and/or more attractive,” Dr. Bronsky says. “Imagine now we need medical diagnostics and your teeth appear ‘thinner’ or angled a certain way because of your perception or desired outcome. That wouldn’t be good.”
We maintain that an orthodontist needs to administer and track treatment. These mail order companies’ websites state that patient cases are overseen by “local licensed dental/orthodontic professionals to review and prescribe treatment plans,” and they can be reached via phone and email if patients have questions during treatment.
We view face-to-face interaction with our patients as an important part of the treatment process because even while sitting in the chair with Dr. Bronsky present, patients sometimes have a skewed vision of the steps ahead or how treatment is progressing.
If you’re considering the DIY or mail order route to improvements through orthodontics, we urge you to call us and schedule a consultation with Dr. Bronsky. Your smile needs to last you a lifetime, so you owe it to yourself to make sure you receive the highest quality treatment possible.