Until recently, getting your teeth straightened meant frequent visits to the orthodontist or dentist, and bills totaling $4,000 or more. Today, a handful of online businesses are offering clear aligner teeth straightening kits shipped to your door. The two most popular brands are Smile Direct Club and Candid Co. These kits cost half of what you’d typically pay to have your dentist or orthodontist straighten your teeth.
Home teeth straightening kits can be an appealing option for individuals looking for a better smile on a reasonable budget. However, with mixed customer reviews and some real drawbacks, these kits aren’t for everyone. If you’re considering signing up for a plan with a company like Smile Direct Club, this guide is for you.
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How do at-home teeth straightening systems work?
With all of the popular straightening kits, you’ll wear clear aligners that look and feel very similar to Invisalign. In fact, Smile Direct Club sources their aligners from Align Tech, the makers of Invisalign.
What makes at-home teeth straightening unique is that you’ll never meet in person with a dental professional. Instead, a dentist or orthodontist working remotely will determine if you are a candidate for treatment and monitor your progress through pictures you submit online.
At-home teeth straightening companies all do things a little bit differently. With that in mind, using one of these services typically involves the following steps:
Step 1: Order a modeling kit and take impressions of your teeth
To get a clear picture of what your smile currently looks like, the company you order from will send you a teeth modeling kit in the mail. When it arrives, you’ll bite into putty to create a 3D impression of your teeth and return ship the completed impressions. Additionally, you’ll take photos of your teeth and upload them to an online account. Some services may also require you to submit a copy of your latest dental records.
Step 2: A dental professional reviews your case
Aligners are designed to treat mild to moderate tooth crowding, spacing, and rotation. In more serious cases, or if there is a severe problem with your jaw or bite, you may not be eligible for at home treatment. You can also be turned down for treatment if you have pre-existing gum disease or tooth decay because aligners can worsen these conditions. Additionally, if your wisdom teeth need to be removed, you should take care of this before straightening your teeth.
Providers of teeth straightening kits are required by law to have a dental professionals in your state review your case to decide if you are a good fit for at-home treatment. The review process often takes a couple of weeks and roughly 80% of cases are approved for treatment.
Step 3: Your treatment plan is created
If you are approved for treatment, a trained technician creates a plan for how your teeth will shift to create your new smile. Before purchasing, you can review the plan and see 3D images of how your teeth should look after treatment.
Step 4: Begin treatment
After you purchase your treatment plan, your clear aligners will be made and shipped to your doorstep. From the day you order, it can take up to two months to receive your aligners and begin treatment. Your aligner kit will include instructions and, depending on the company you order from, may include teeth whitening gel.
Step 5: Follow your treatment plan
You’ll wear each set of aligners for around two weeks. Occasionally, you will need to send progress pictures to the company. If you ever feel concerned about the progress of your treatment or run into issues with your bite, you can usually get your plan adjusted to address these problems.
Step 6: Maintain your correction
After finishing your treatment, you’ll need to use a retainer to keep your teeth in their new alignment. A retainer will be supplied to you at the end of treatment, or made available for purchase. For best results, you’ll want to wear your retainer to bed each night indefinitely.
How effective are at-home teeth straightening kits?
Before writing this post, we reviewed hundreds of stories and reviews by people who tried out Smile Direct Club, which is currently the most popular at-home straightening kit. Many individuals report being pleased with their results after using this system. On the other hand, we are concerned by the number of negative reports.
Overall, home straightening kits do appear to be effective at improving the visual appearance of smiles in cases of mild crowding or spacing in most cases. On the other hand, we would not recommend this type of treatment where there is a functional dental problem such as abnormal eruptions, severe crowding or spacing between the teeth, bite alignment issues, or jaw problems.
Don’t just take our word for it. See what others are saying about popular at-home teeth straightening kits:
- Realself.com Reviews of Smile Direct Club
- Yelp Reviews of Smile Direct Club
- Facebook Reviews of Candid Co
Cases that may be suited to at-home treatment:
Cases that typically aren’t well suited to at-home treatment:
Are there drawbacks or risks to at-home straightening?
There are some downsides and safety concerns to consider before moving forward with at-home straightening treatment. Below, we have listed the most important issues that you should be aware of. All treatment options come with drawbacks and risks. This list should not necessarily deter you if you and your dentist determine that at-home treatment is the best option for your situation.
- No choice in dental professional: Companies providing at home straightening kits are required to have a dental professional in your state review and approve your treatment. However, you don’t get to choose the dental professional that oversees your treatment. Further, if you run into problems during your treatment, it is unlikely you’ll be able to speak directly with him/her.
- Potential for limited support: There have been complaints about shipping delays and poor quality of customer support. In terms of customer support, nothing beats an in-person relationship with a dental professional who is devoted to getting the best result for your individual situation.
- Monetary risk: In general, if you are not happy with the outcome of your care, you can’t get your money back when using an at-home service. However, sometimes you can a partial refund for aligners that are still unused.
- Correction may be less stable: Research suggests that short-term orthodontic treatment (which includes at-home treatment with clear aligners) may leave your teeth unstable following treatment. This means your teeth are more likely to drift back to their original positions after treatment. You can prevent this by exercising discipline when it comes to wearing your retainer. If your retainer breaks or goes missing, be sure to replace it immediately.
- Safety Concerns: The American Dental Association and American Orthodontics Association have warned that at-home aligner kits may pose safety risks. In fact, all kinds of orthodontic treatments carry the risk of worsening tooth or gum disease. The risks with at-home kits are greater mainly because a dental professional does not oversee your dental health in-person throughout your course of care. Therefore, if you are considering treatment with at-home aligners, we strongly recommend having your teeth checked out by a dentist before, during and after your course of treatment.
What is it like to use at-home clear aligners?
Wearing the invisible aligners that come with home straitening kits is very similar to wearing Invisalign. Here’s what to expect treatment to be like:
- Convenient for daily life: You can easily remove your aligners while eating or brushing your teeth.
- Aligners take some getting used to: Aligners sometimes cause discomfort at the beginning of treatment and with each new set.
- Potential lisp: While wearing your aligners, you may have a bit of a lisp.
- Discipline required: You’ll need to resist the urge to pull out your aligners during the day. To get good results, you’ll typically want to wear your aligners for at least twenty hours per day.
- One more thing to keep track of: If you misplace an aligner, you will need to pay for a replacement and wait for delivery. This will delay treatment progress.
Alternatives to at-home straightening
At-home treatment not for you? Check out your other options:
- If you think you may want clear aligners through a local dentist or orthodontist, check out Invisalign.
- If you have a serious functional issue with your bite, you may be better off going for braces. Braces don’t need to be an eysore! Look into Ceramic Braces and Lingual Braces.