Risks of mail order teeth straightening

The ASO is aware of a number of companies which are now offering teeth straightening orthodontic products direct to the consumer without also offering any in person consultation with an orthodontist or dentist.

These direct to consumer service models are typically based on a consumer do-it-yourself (DIY) style approach, with little or no face to face supervision by a registered dentist or orthodontist.  The ASO considers that this kind of treatment model, with this type of product, comes with a number of health and financial risks that consumers should be made aware of.

What are clear aligners?

Clear aligners, such as Invisalign®, are a cosmetic type of orthodontic treatment commonly used by orthodontists and dentists to straighten teeth more discreetly.  

Any form of orthodontic treatment, whether it is braces or clear aligners, requires ongoing and regular supervision by an orthodontist to ensure that your teeth are moved safely.

For more information on clear aligner treatment and how it works click here.

What are the risks of direct to consumer mail-order teeth straightening devices?

With mail order or direct to consumer clear aligners, a kit is purchased online with instructions to take a mould of your own teeth.  Some companies also offer facilities that enable consumers to have a scan taken of their teeth, but there are not many scanning locations, so companies mostly rely on the impression that consumers take at home using the home impression kit.  The DIY impression or scan is sent back to the company and your clear aligners are made based on your homemade impression or the scan.

The dangers of attempting unsupervised movement of your teeth with mail order kits include poorly fitting aligners, damage to the roots of your teeth, gum recession and tooth loosening.

Because the do-it-yourself teeth straightening process may not involve any in-person consultation with an orthodontist prior to commencing treatment, or any face to face supervision during the treatment, things can go horribly wrong.

So why should you see a specialist orthodontist?

Moving teeth is complicated. Any orthodontic treatment requires careful planning and ongoing monitoring by an expert to ensure good results are achieved in a safe and efficient manner.

Some of the benefits of seeing an orthodontist if you’re wanting to use clear aligners to straighten your teeth include:

X-rays and examinations

The main component missing from these direct to consumer service models is the consultation, in person, with a registered dentist or orthodontist. A comprehensive in-person examination and x-rays of your teeth and gums are essential to ensure that your teeth and bone are healthy enough to undergo orthodontic treatment.

Accurate impressions

It might seem simple to create a mould of your own teeth, but it is not as easy as it sounds. The accuracy of the initial impression or “moulding” process is critical to success of the treatment as even minute inaccuracies are likely to result in poorly fitting aligners that will not work.


Successful treatment with Invisalign® and other clear aligner systems requires the placement of small tooth coloured buttons or bumps on multiple teeth to allow the plastic aligners to grip the teeth and move them in the correct direction. They are an essential part of the clear aligner treatment process, and without them certain tooth movements are impossible.

Mid-treatment intervention

Everybody’s teeth will move in different ways and at different rates. Therefore, even the best-laid plans may require some refinement during the process. When your aligner treatment is closely supervised by an orthodontist through in-person check-ups, they can see any minor issues developing and can tweak your treatment to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome.

Many people want a perfect smile to exude confidence, but opting for DIY at-home treatment, as opposed to undergoing a treatment plan designed and monitored by consulting with a registered orthodontist in their clinic,   may lead to an inferior outcome and may increase the risk of damaging the health of your teeth and gums.

Remember orthodontics is a health care procedure, and to achieve optimal outcomes in-clinic supervision is strongly recommended. Safety must always come first and there is no substitute for the in-person attention of a registered dentist!

For some consumers, ordering tooth aligners online may seem convenient and cost-effective, however consumers need to be aware that if things don’t go well, the costs involved in repairing damage can far outweigh the initial investment.

The ASO urges consumers to be wary of these risks and recommends a comprehensive in-person assessment with a specialist orthodontist before considering clear aligners or braces.

For more information go to Orthodontics Australia