If there’s one thing that divides the dental profession, it’s remote aligners. While the whole notion of virtual orthodontic care sounds counterintuitive – after all, how can someone take care of your teeth remotely? – the benefits are too numerous for both professionals and patients not to sit up and take notice.
In reality, straightening teeth at home with remote aligners is all part of the wider aspect of telemedicine and in fact, many advocates of the concept would suggest that “there’s never a better time to start living a healthy life!”
With fitness wearables such as Fitbit, home blood testing kits, and eye examinations via apps, telemedicine is a modern, convenient, and in many cases, cost-effective way to take better care of your health. Many supporters would say that teledentistry, in particular teeth aligners online, is simply the next logical step in the process.
So what are the advantages of remote orthodontics treatment, particularly with regards to clear aligners?
Remote orthodontics gives access to all
Many people in rural communities don’t have easy access to dental care with some people having to travel many miles, simply to get a diagnosis or opinion. So, for those with cosmetic issues such as crooked teeth, they might understandably think that teeth straightening requires lots of time-consuming and costly dental visits. As such, they are more than likely to opt out. In fact, the latest statistics show this might be the case…
According to one survey, 87% of Americans would forgo something for a year in order to have a great smile. Yet, less than 2% of adults actually seek orthodontic treatment. Part of this reason could be because of access to an orthodontist.
Buying remote aligners keeps the cost down
Conventionally, invisible aligners are prescribed by either a dentist or an orthodontist after an in-person examination. Usually, treatment then requires hands-on supervision across multiple repeat dental visits and typically, this is done at a cost upwards of $7,000.
By virtualizing the process, remote aligners costs can be kept to a minimum. In some cases, up to 50% reduction or more.
What about the disadvantages/dangers of straightening teeth at home?
Of course, critics will say that prescribing teeth aligners online to a bunch of patients who haven’t been seen in-person by a dental professional could mean that some oral health issues might be overlooked. These, in turn, can compromise orthodontic treatments, or worse still, may turn into something more problematic.
In fact, this concern was raised by the American Association of Orthodontists who stated that “patients who don’t see an orthodontist for a complete diagnosis before purchasing remote aligners online, could be at risk from being harmed.”
While many companies get around this by asking their patients to present documentation stating that their dentist has checked for gum disease and decay and taken dental x-rays within the last 18 months, the fact remains that buying teeth aligners online is still heavily reliant on patient honesty.
From a cost perspective, other experts suggest that invisible aligners simply aren’t appropriate for everyone and in some cases, patients could waste a whole bunch of time and cash trying to achieve something that is in reality, impossible!
And then there’s the complicated matter of taking impressions…
Taking impressions is hard, even for the pros!
Correct impression-taking is key to manufacturing teeth aligners that exactly fit the patient’s needs. This can be a difficult task even for a trained dentist as there are many factors which may skew the results. Yet, a major part of opting for remote aligners treatment is that patients take their own impressions using gummy do-it-yourself molds which they initially buy and mail back to the company. Some companies advise patients to watch ‘how to’ impression taking videos before carrying this out, but despite this, the process is arguably far from ideal.
Remote aligners – Is there an alternative?
Clearly the concept of remote teledentistry is a good one in terms of giving people easier and cost-effective access to dental treatments, however, virtualizing every aspect of the process is not without its flaws. So, is there a better patient-centered alternative?
Here at Uniform Teeth, we think we have the answer!
While we offer all the good stuff associated with remote aligners including mobile check-ins using the latest app technology, convenient 24/7 communication and all-round patient convenience, we believe that 2-3 in-person visits with our board-certified orthodontists are crucial. So, in effect, when it comes to straightening teeth at home using clear aligners, our patients get the convenience of modern teledentistry and everything it has to offer, alongside the added safety of conventional and professional one-on-one care!