To give a little background, I saw a dentist here in Elgin about a year and a half ago about straightening my teeth. I’ve got a large gap between my front teeth and the third tooth back from the middle (the pointy one… I don’t know the official name for it) is twisted a bit. The rest could probably do with a little help as well, but those are the areas that really bother me. Anyway, I was told that I would need to do traditional braces and that the process would probably take just over a year. Well, I want to fix the cosmetic issue, not highlight it with huge metal brackets. I’m not up for all that.
Lately, I’ve been seeing ads online promoting clear braces and saying it only takes six months for them to work. But, they seem to only be offered as an online thing, and I’m not comfortable with that. I want to see someone in person. So, I’m wondering if any local dentists are using a system like what I’m seeing in the ads or if I really just need to suck it up and order online to get this done.
This is a great question. Loads of companies are promoting their clear braces online, so it’s tough to say which company’s ad you saw, but let’s break down what they’re offering and what it would take to get you the results you want.
The Invisalign company is probably the biggest and longest-running name in the clear braces market. They’ve been around since the 1990s really brought the concept to light. Their claim to fame is that they created metal-free braces, which appealed to adults who wanted straighter teeth without looking like “kids.” Of course, since then, they’ve refined their approach, upgraded the technology, enhanced their aligners, updated materials, and all sorts of other things. Now, they appeal to all sorts of people and there’s even a special line for teens. Plus, people started to realize that sometimes treatment goes faster when you’re using aligners instead of brackets, simply because force is applied all around the tooth instead of just where the bracket is attached.
Naturally, when you’re onto something good, people will start to copycat your idea. But, Invisalign has taken steps to protect their inventions. Even the material they use to make the aligners is patented. That in mind, there’s no real substitution for Invisalign, but some model their products after it.
Perhaps what most concerning, though, is that many places are now selling their clear braces online. The degree of supervision varies. Some simply have you take snapshots and then do a mold of your teeth at home. After that, you’re on your own. Others involve going into a physical location where an assistant of sorts takes pictures, x-rays, and the mold, then forwards them to a dentist somewhere. Again, you’re often left on your own after that and you never meet the dentist in person. And, there are at least a couple brands that have you do a video conference with a dentist. Let’s be clear here. You can’t tell a whole lot from photos and videos. They’re helpful, but orthodontics involves incredibly small movements. Chances are, the gap between your front teeth is only a millimeter or two. That in mind, you really need someone with expertise planning out your treatment, monitoring you throughout, and making adjustments as necessary. So, you are right to have concerns about going though the process online.
Yes, clear braces do often work quicker than metal ones, but most people don’t get results in six months. Some marketers glommed onto that concept because it is technically possible, but it’s usually only within the realm of reason for those who have already had orthodontic treatment and those who have fairly straight teeth to begin with. If you’ve already been told it will take more than a year to straighten your teeth with metal braces, odds are, even if you’re a candidate for clear ones, you may only shave a month or two off the timeline. And, that’s a big maybe.
It sounds like you saw an orthodontist before. Many still gravitate toward metal braces, especially if they’ve been in practice for an extended period of time. It makes sense that they’d work with something they know really well and trust. At the same time, many general dentists offer Invisalign treatment. You may have more luck visiting a family practice. However, there is some chance, given the twisted tooth you mentioned, that you really aren’t a candidate for clear braces. That’s one of the downsides of following the ads—they don’t know you and they may well give you a treatment that won’t work for your situation. If that’s the case, and multiple offices tell you metal is the way to go, that may be the only solution for you. If you feel disenchanted by the process, bear in mind that, if you would have started when braces were first recommended, you’d be done already instead of living with a smile you aren’t happy with. You may not like the idea of going with them, but chances are, you won’t ever regret having leveraged them once treatment is over and you’re enjoying your new smile.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Steve Sirin, an Elgin dentist who offers Invisalign treatment.