Do-it-Yourself Orthodontics!!!

Welcome back everyone.  While there are still so many topics to discuss, I wanted to briefly touch on one of the newest, and worrisome, fads today in Orthodontics.  

Most likely you have read/heard about Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) companies.  To make sure everyone is on the same page, I will briefly explain.  D2C companies are those that market their goods and services directly to the public.  There are no middlemen (think stores), and as such they are able to reduce their costs AND therefore sell their products more cheaply.  

For this reason D2Cs have exploded in popularity.  Chances are you have heard of (if not bought from) some of the most successful D2C companies.  Do the names Casper (mattresses), Warby Parker (glasses) and Dollar Shave Club sound familiar?  For the record I have purchased items from some of these companies and am thrilled with their products.  Alright, now that we are all caught up…

Dentistry and orthodontics are not immune from the D2C trend.  These companies specifically market do-it-yourself (DIY) treatments.  There are dental labs that will produce snoring appliances, removable dentures, and different versions of veneers to make someone’s smile appear whiter and brighter.  Those are all treatments that have the potential to permanently change teeth, bone and gum tissue!  Even in orthodontics there are now a few companies advertising to produce clear aligners (trays) to straighten teeth!  

The American Dental Association (ADA) and American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) have both released statements regarding these D2C companies.  Obviously consumers, when using D2Cs, are bypassing the doctor’s essential role in diagnosing and treatment planning.  What could possibly go wrong with this scenario? 

Well, apparently many things have gone wrong and now the American Dental Association (ADA) is working with the FDA on helping consumers report their problems.  Check out the article here.   

In our own practice we have re-treated 5 people in the past year who have tried their luck with DIY orthodontics.  Also, one of our colleagues recently posted a video of a patient who was seeking his orthodontic expertise to correct a DIY treatment gone bad.  I was going to include it but it was recently taken down because the D2C company is suing him!  Go figure.  

Obviously we discourage anyone from pursuing DIY dental or orthodontic treatments.  Without proper oversight, these seemingly “simple” and “easy” treatments can lead to irreversible harm at worst, or simply a very expensive re-treatment at best.  Unfortunately I don’t believe we can now close Pandora’s box.  DIY treatments will remain, especially as their marketing budgets swell and consumers remain largely uneducated on the necessity of doctor-based care.  

So, why write something like this?  Well maybe you will share it with someone who is thinking about DIY orthodontics.  If nothing else perhaps it will persuade them to dig a little deeper with their research.  Consumer education is everything, and hopefully this helps.   

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