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Invisalign vs. At-Home Clear Aligners: Are they the Same?

Now that clear aligners have been available for over 20 years, there are multiple brands now on the market. Some of these, including Invisalign, can be used only in partnership with licensed orthodontists in real orthodontic offices.

But a new form of treatment has developed that has been under increasing scrutiny: at-home clear aligners, sold by tele-dentistry companies that claim to straighten your teeth without you ever having to visit an actual orthodontist. Instead, these companies mail you your aligners at home and check your progress by screen.

It can sound appealing for the ease and convenience, but the reality is actually a good deal more complicated. In fact, the difference between Invisalign and at-home aligners is quite striking. And when it comes to effectiveness of treatment, it’s important to understand that difference.

What’s Missing with At-Home Aligners

There are various companies offering aligner treatment by mail. After making an impression mold yourself at home, or getting a scan by a salesclerk in a boutique, your aligners are sent to you through the mail.

Sounds easy, right?
Easy – maybe. But effective? That’s more complicated.

Certain significant treatment aspects are neglected when it comes to at-home aligner brands like these. One factor is comprehensive diagnosis: because complete x-rays are not taken, your diagnosis may be incomplete, which means the dentist is treating you without the benefit of understanding your full condition.

All of these may affect the position of your teeth:

  • Root systems
  • Jaw alignment
  • Tooth Inclination
  • Cranial base
Unfortunately, without x-rays, the tele-dentist will your aligners without a clear picture of any of these factors.

Skipping the Orthodontist Can Have Serious Consequences for Your Aligner Treatment

Tele-dentists promote their mail-order aligners by focusing on convenience: you never have to visit an actual orthodontist.

But in-office consultation is a critical component of proper care. Without it, it’s possible your provider may miss glaring problems with your teeth before treatment, or fail to catch issues with your aligners while you’re straightening your teeth. Customers have complained of ineffective treatment requiring them to start over, or in some cases, treatment that actually worsened the positions of their teeth, setting them back from where they were before treatment!

There have even been cases of customers receiving someone else’s aligners in the mail, and having their teeth moved completely incorrectly before the company realized the mistake. All of these issues would be caught right away in an actual office, since the orthodontist has the benefit of really examining your teeth and aligners.

Orthodontists go to school for years to learn the art of crafting healthy, beautiful straight smiles. Straightening your teeth without their in-person expertise is a huge risk; it means taking the most critical factor out of the equation.

Invisalign Means Comprehensive, In-Office Care, with State-of-the-Art Tools

Invisalign is only used in partnership with a real orthodontist, in a real orthodontist’s office. With this treatment, you’re not only getting the benefit of a licensed doctor supervising your case, but you’re also getting treated with Invisalign’s industry-leading, patented materials and methods.

Invisalign aligners are made with SmartTrack® plastic, a material developed over decades of dedicated research and many millions of dollars, specifically for use in clear aligner treatments. Invisalign tested 260 different materials to develop SmartTrack™. It offers treatment times up to 50% faster than competitors and allows your orthodontist to move your teeth with 75% more predictability.

Invisalign treatments also use SmartForce® attachments, small fixtures attached to your teeth that help give your aligners better grip and dexterity when straightening your teeth. These attachments are also the product of years of research and development and are a powerful tool for your doctor in giving you a healthy, beautiful smile.

Take a look at some of the differences between Invisalign and at-home aligners:

At-Home Aligners Invisalign
Full Diagnosis by Licensed Doctor No Yes
X-Rays Taken in Office No Yes
Face-to-Face Supervision by Licensed Doctor No Yes
SmartTrack® Plastic No Yes
SmartForce® Attachments No Yes
Insurance Accepted No Yes
Post-Treatment Follow-Up No Yes

The Hidden Costs of Low-Cost

Mail-order aligner companies also promote their brands by touting the big savings. Lower price-tags make straightening your teeth at home look appealing. But consider all the treatment features discussed above: the cost is lower because the care is missing some seriously important details! By taking out critical aspects of the orthodontic treatment, like face-to-face supervision and necessary attachments, mail-order companies can offer low costs that look enticing at first glance.

Consider, for instance, going out to dinner and ordering a steak. One restaurant offers a steak for much less than the competitor restaurant. When it arrives at the table, however, you’re served a single small piece of meat on a large plate! At the other restaurant, for a little bit more, you’d get a full 3-course dinner, plus a better, bigger steak. The cost can seem appealing at first – but it’s important to consider what you’re really getting for your money! Get a full cost breakdown here.

Give Your Teeth the Care They Deserve, For a Life-Long Smile

Once your adult teeth grow in, they don’t come back! You only get one shot at great, healthy teeth – don’t waste it on ineffective treatment.

Give your smile the treatment is deserves with in-office care by a licensed orthodontist. There are major differences between Invisalign at an orthodontist’s office and at-home aligners by a tele-dentist.

If you want a beautiful, healthy smile that really lasts, it’s important to invest in the care that really works. Finding the right clear aligner treatment is worth it for the future of your health!

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