Many direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies advertise easy treatment solutions. First, you take an impression, selfie, or teeth scan. Next, the company mails you aligners. After a few months, you should have straight teeth. Is it really that simple, or is there more to consider?
According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO,) consumers should consider several questions and factors before using any direct-to-consumer orthodontic company’s services. Let’s explore some of the most important questions to ask.
1. Is An Orthodontist Directly Involved?
There are likely few situations where you’d undergo any type of medical treatment without a trained professional directly evaluating, diagnosing, and monitoring your care, right? So, it’s important to understand that not all of these direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies utilize an orthodontist for in-person evaluation and supervision during the treatment process.
Orthodontic treatment is more than merely shifting around the visible portion of your smile. Biological material is being repositioned. If done incorrectly, you can suffer gum loss, tooth loss, unfavorable bite changes, and so forth. These aren’t just costly to correct. In some cases, it can leave you with permanent damage. This is why an orthodontist’s professional evaluation and continued supervision is an invaluable component of your treatment.
You want to know whether or not there will be an orthodontist both behind and in front of your treatment plan.
2. Are Diagnostics Performed Prior To Treatment?
Orthodontic treatment should start with comprehensive diagnostic records, such as X-rays. If not, you should ask yourself if you’re really comfortable without such assessment tools being a part of your treatment model.
If diagnostics are involved, be sure to ask for details, including:
- Is there an extra fee for diagnostics?
- Is a clinical examination of your alignment, bite, and teeth’s spacial relationship to other facial structures included?
- Are profile, mouth, and teeth photographs included?
- Are digital scans and/or impressions included?
2. Are In-Person Visits Included In The Cost?
Again, if the answer is no, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re comfortable without an orthodontist being directly involved in your care via in-person visits.
If in-person visits are included, then you’ll want to know the following:
- Who – licensed professional?
- How many visits?
- What occurs at the visits?
3. Is The Company’s Orthodontist Or Dentist Named?
You’ll want to know the name of the professional overseeing your treatment, which should be either listed on the company’s website or offered to you before agreeing to treatment. This information allows you to vet their reputation and credentials for education, licensing, accreditations, and patient reviews.
If the name of the professional isn’t available, then you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re comfortable trusting your treatment to an unknown orthodontist or dentist.
4. What Treatment Types Are Available, And How Are They Determined?
In most cases, direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies offer one particular appliance, such as invisible aligners. In any event, you’ll want to ask some very important questions, including:
- How is this particular appliance and treatment model the best option for your unique orthodontic condition?
- Why were other options ruled out?
- Who makes those determinations?
5. Is My Mouth Healthy Enough For Orthodontic Treatment?
An in-person visit to an orthodontist or dentist is crucial in determining if your mouth is healthy enough and prepared to receive orthodontic treatment. So, be sure to ask the following:
- Is an oral health assessment of the teeth and gums included in the cost?
- Who makes the eligibility call?
- What’s the eligibility criteria?
6. Are There Any Risks Associated With The Orthodontic Device?
Such risks can include oral health, general health, and financial losses. Know them all.
7. Who Do I Speak With If I Have A Problem?
At an orthodontist’s office, qualified professionals are on-hand to discuss any issue or problem that may arise during and after your treatment, and, if necessary, they’ll schedule you to be seen by your orthodontist. You’ll want to know the following:
- Who will you communicate with at the online orthodontic company for routine questions and emergencies?
- What’s the education and experience of your contact person?
- How are related medical problems and costs handled?
- Is there a local orthodontist or dentist available to see you in-person for emergencies; if so, who covers the cost?
- What happens if you encounter a post-treatment problem?
8. Who Monitors The Orthodontic Treatment?
Ongoing appointments with your orthodontist helps ensure early detection of issues that may arise during treatment. At the online company, you’ll want to know if it’s up to you to self-monitor for such issues or be sent somewhere for regular checkups. Of course, you’ll want to know who covers the cost of these checkups if the latter is the case.
9. Is There A Release Of Liability?
If your orthodontic treatment should cause an injury or other legal dispute, you’ll want to know:
- How is it handled?
- What rights do you have/forfeit?
- Will you have to sign any releases?
10. Is The Treatment In Compliance With State Dental Laws?
You should contact the AAO and state dental board to determine if the company’s treatment model adheres to your state’s dental laws. The state dental board can also alert you to complaints made against the company and/or take your complaint against a particular orthodontic treatment entity.
Making The Best Orthodontic Treatment Decisions
Your healthcare decisions impact your physical, mental, and financial well being, making these some of the most important choices you’ll make in life. You are your own best advocate in these decisions. By vetting and understanding all your orthodontic treatment decisions with questions like the above, you’re able to make informed decisions and select the most appropriate route of care.
Orthodontic treatment should never be considered merely a device or product. It’s a medical service, and, as such, it should be delivered via trained and experienced orthodontic professionals. Selecting an orthodontist with AAO membership means that your provider is a dentist who’s completed specialized post-doctoral education and training in the field of orthodontics.