You may have seen adverts which claim that you can now get your teeth straightened at home without visiting your dentist or dental specialist. It really sounds too good to be true doesn’t it, so let’s have a look and try to uncover what all this really is about.
Let’s look back say 15 years ago, if you wanted to have your teeth straightened the only way possible was to visit your normal dentist, your normal high street dentists would tell you that you need a referral to see a specialist. This specialist is known as an orthodontist, and generally speaking orthodontists were in very short supply, and they weren’t really that interested in straightening teeth for adults, as they were too busy sorting out the problems that children have with their crooked or goofy teeth.
The major turning point came when a normal high street dentist could go on a short course, as opposed to a specialist orthodontics course which would take three years, and he would go on this short course maybe ranging from a few months to even up to maybe 12 months and he was then qualified to straighten teeth in a normal high street dental surgery.
The other breakthrough came when these courses were primarily for clear or invisible teeth straightness, or teeth brace that’s also known as aligners, so now as an adult you didn’t have to go to an orthodontist you would go to your normal dentist and get your teeth straightened. In a fairly short period of time, the next step above that is being where you can actually have your teeth straightened at home.
The reason why you wouldn’t want to go to an orthodontist in the very first place is because orthodontists are specialists dentists, and the treatment used to be quite expensive and not within the reach of the vast majority of the population. That is until general dentists could carry out most forms of teeth straightening using clear braces, as this reduced the cost probably by about up to 50% compared to going to see an orthodontist, who would use traditional train-track type of braces – which as an adult you wouldn’t want anyway. Even though you could now go and see general high street dentists and have your teeth straightened with clear aligners or clear bright clear tooth or teeth straightness, the costs were still quite large, and this was due to the costs in actually forming the aligners. Plus also the dentist’s time, so a typical course to straighten your teeth using clear braces would be around £3000 pounds – so once again, it wasn’t very cheap, but certainly cheaper compared to an orthodontist where the average treatment will be around about £6,000 pounds.
Is it a scam, is it really true, what are the advantages, what are the disadvantages?
So let’s have a look at some of these questions. You may have seen adverts on the internet, which are from companies that claim to offer straightening at home using aligners that they will make for you. All of these companies are outside the UK, because UK regulations for dentists don’t allow this kind of treatment without seeing dentist first. Most of these home teeth straightening companies are from America, where the regulations allow this. I think over the next five years the regulations may become a bit more relaxed, and therefore I think companies will start opening up in the UK where you can have your teeth straightened at home.
So the procedure normally, is you contact the company and you have to provide them photographs of your teeth at different angles. These include both upper and lower teeth with your mouth open, with your teeth together from the front and from the side. Once these photographs are sent off, usually they will give you a rough indication whether it’s possible to have your teeth straightened or not, and what the cost might be, and how long the treatment may take, but these are just very rough estimates. If then you want to go ahead, you can pay a relatively small fee, certainly less than the cost of a dental check-up, and they will send you some impression trays for your teeth.
What are Impression Trays?
Impression trays are necessary so that you can get a replica mould of your teeth. This is done by impression trays, which fit in your mouth. Inside the impression tray, you put an impression material which will record the shape of your mouth and of your individual teeth.
The company will supply you with the correct size impression tray, and also supply you with the impression material, as well including all the instructions. Once you have taken the mould of your teeth, you send these off and then you wait to get a reply back from the company. The reply is quite often – can you retake the mould of the teeth again, because not all the teeth have been recorded, or the impression material is distorted, or for a number of other reasons. This is quite normal, because dentists do this procedure day-in day-out with their eyes closed, but as a person who’s never done this before it may take several visits or several goes to get the correct impression or mould of your teeth.
You may be asked to pay extra, because the taking of the mould is, you know, a fairly expensive procedure because of the materials involved and also the process of getting the mould into an actual cast of your teeth. This can take time as once the mould has been done, and the company has had a look at the shape of your teeth etc, they can then send you treatment plan outlining the cost and how long the treatment will take, plus what the final result may look like. Then it’s up to you to obviously get started, or ask further questions, and once you decide to go ahead and you have paid your fee you will then receive in the post these aligners.
These aligners are a bit like a very thin gum shield that goes over your teeth. They are almost invisible, and you can wear them during the day, and you wear them through the night; and most of the people around you will hardly know you’re wearing them. After two weeks the liners that you are wearing, you take them and throw them away, and you get the next set which has been supplied to you. Usually about six to eight aligners are supplied at any one time, so that’s usually three to four months worth of aligners.
After four months the company will then ask you to take another set of impressions or mould of your teeth, which is then sent off, and then you wait for the next set of aligners. Treatments can take usually between six months and 18 months according to the initial crookedness of the teeth.
As you can probably see already, there are a number of advantages for straightening your teeth. The biggest and most common barrier for you to have your teeth straightened out is of course the cost, and you can save about 75 percent of the cost as compared to visiting your orthodontist. Even visiting your normal high street dentist, having looked at the costs from the different companies, you should really expect to only pay between a thousand and one thousand five hundred pounds for doing it at home, which is obviously a significant saving. They’ll also allow you to spread payments out over perhaps 12 to 18 months, so roughly speaking you’re looking at about a hundred pounds a month so the biggest saving is definitely the cost.
There’s also the time and convenience factor. Time is really important to most people, and every time they visit a dentist they have to take time off work, and even when you get there you have to wait ages in the waiting room, and then you obviously see the dentist as well, and you have to keep on doing that every few weeks to have your aligners changed and checked. Convenience is obviously a big factor, because you don’t have to visit a dentist, you don’t even have to find a dentist. Some people don’t even like going to the dentist, and may even be really scared, in which case this is an ideal way to get your teeth straightened.
There are however disadvantages to consider, and these are extremely important to consider before having this type of treatment. Firstly as mentioned before it can actually sometimes take longer to have your teeth straighten this way, because you may have problems getting good photographs of your teeth, you may have problems getting good impressions or moulds of your teeth, every time you take a mould it gets sent away and then you probably have to wait two weeks, and then if they’re not right then you have to wait another two weeks, so you know two or three months can easily pass by.
My own personal opinion also, is that this type of home teeth straightening – it’s not really good for very fine tuning or for minor or very specific minor corrections. So if you have crooked teeth and you just want to make them look better it’s absolutely fine but if you want them absolutely straight without any imperfections whatsoever that may be more difficult in this way, and you are therefore better off going to see an orthodontist.
This method is not obviously suitable for every single patient, and not every single patient is suitable for teeth straightening orthodontic treatment. It may also be possible to get the same result using a better, or an alternative technique, such as veneers for instance which can straighten your teeth in a much shorter quicker period of time to get an instant result.
The other thing people are supposed to be worried about, is that obviously these are internet companies and what would happen if in the middle of your treatment that company cease to exist, or if you had problems and you can’t get hold of somebody face to face. You also may have problems where you have teeth have been straightened but you are still not happy, and you are left with the result which is not really ideal for you.
My own personal opinion, is that you are taking a slight gamble, but if you will definitely get an improvement it’s worth doing. However, to expect an ideal result – that may be asking for too much. So in conclusion, you will probably in the near future see UK companies starting to do home teeth whitening treatments, but at the moment there are, you know, numerous teeth whitening companies abroad and they will ship over aligners. The main advantages are of course the cost, and the time, and the convenience factor; with the disadvantages being that if treatment does not go according to plan, then this may be not be an ideal way to solve the problem.
So hopefully you have got a good overview, and I may be doing another video or recording of this in the near future thank you.