My Thoughts On Invisalign & DIY Clear Braces

by Dr. Inna Chern | May 16th, 2019

We put a premium on the value of a beautiful smile. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, everyone definitely wants teeth that are perfectly straight! Straight teeth are a HUGE request in dental offices across the United States.

Personally, I had metal braces as a child, as did many of my friends growing up. In those days, parents were trained to take their kids to an orthodontist as part of their dental care. Straight teeth were and are definitely the norm in the US. Beyond aesthetics, straight teeth provide for better hygiene and fewer cavities. They also increase oral volume and airflow which reaps systemic benefits throughout a person’s life.

No time to read the entire post? Here’s everything you need to know:

  1. I became Invisalign-certified in 2004, but was disappointed with its inconsistent results.
  2. New technology has greatly improved Invisalign and I now recommend it wholeheartedly.
  3. I’ve used Invisalign myself and my daughter will be starting it soon, too.
  4. Smile Direct Club and Candid are new DIY clear braces by mail services. Without the supervision of a dentist or orthodontist, you’re putting your health at risk.
  5. Call (212) 838-0842 to schedule your Invisalign consultation.

Technology changed how we straighten teeth

The advent of digital technology over the last 15 years has opened the door to easier and more predictable ways to achieve a straighter and healthier smile. Gone are the days of ugly metal brackets and painful monthly dental appointments.

So what changed?

Invisalign came around in 1997, offering clear removable aligners that gently reposition and straighten teeth. The first set of aligners were available to the public in 2000 and offered a more comfortable and effective way to straighten teeth. The first system focused on adult teeth and gave people the option of having healthier smiles in a more cosmetic and private way. The aligners were clear and couldn’t be seen by the average person.

The early days of Invisalign

After finishing my dental residency in 2004, I dove into earning my Invisalign certification.
Once I completed some intense orthodontic lectures, I was ready to start my first few Invisalign cases. At the time, I was practicing in Gramercy Park as an associate dentist. I completed a total of 10 cases during those first 2 years.

The outcomes were not where they are today.

The results were not as predictable as the technology suggested. The success of the aligners were dependent on the patient being very compliant and wearing Invisalign consistently for 20-22 hours a day.

I had patients lose trays, have their dog chew them, and just down right not wear them or put in the wrong sequence.

The exorbitant lab bill and lack of consistent results led me to stop doing Invisalign for a few years after. I didn’t want to charge patients for a service that, from my point of view, wasn’t delivering. Plus, I wasn’t an orthodontist who could tweak things using traditional braces and adjustments.

Invisalign comes into its own

I watched and waited as the technology of 3D printing improved. Finally, I decided to give Invisalign another try in 2016.

I couldn’t be happier with the results and outcomes.

Invisalign has truly evolved into an amazing resource for discreet and comfortable tooth movement. The aligners use 3D scanning and printing technology to create a virtual image of your mouth. It’s awesome!

What you’ll get with Invisalign

  • The Clincheck system then allows you to see the before and after of your smile transformation along with all the steps along the way.
  • Your aligners are numbered and your dentist can track your wear to ensure best results.
  • Each set of aligners is worn for 7-10 days for 20-22 hours and is easy to clean.
  • Believe it or not, hygiene actually improves for most patients as they’ll be more conscientious about taking care of their teeth.
  • You’ll be given a few sets of aligners at a time so you don’t have to schedule as many trips to see your dentist.

What you won’t get with Invisalign

Pain and mouth sores from traditional metal braces and brackets are inevitable. Plus you’ll be on a variety of food restrictions to avoid damaging your braces. With clear aligner technology like Invisalign, these problems are a thing of the past.

No pain, all gain!

My personal Invisalign experience

I recently treated myself with Invisalign and was really pleased with the results. No one was able to see them in my mouth and I experienced no pain or discomfort when changing aligners. This is nothing like my experience with traditional braces.

As my own guinea pig, I was able to really share in the experience with my patients.

What about Smile Direct Club or Candid?

A few patients have recently bought up the DIY aligners heavily marketed on television, radio, social media, podcasts, and in print.

The 2 main contenders are Smile Direct Club and Candid.

They offer similar services without the guidance of a dentist/orthodontist. Smile Direct was the first of the DIY aligner companies and like Candid offers consumers a mail order impression kit to take their own models, which get mailed and reviewed by an orthodontist.

A treatment plan is formulated and if a consumer accepts it, trays are mailed directly to the consumer to be worn on their own without guidance from a dental provider.

The company focuses on marketing the simplicity of use and lower cost.

I believe tooth movement and one’s occlusion (bite) are nothing to be played with. For every dollar you may save now, you will pay infinitely more to fix damage to your TMJ and bite.

Until recently, Invisalign owned shares of Smile Direct and was milling the aligners for them in their facility using the older Invisalign technology which I can attest was an inferior product.

As a dentist, I am occasionally asked about these companies, especially now that they have beautiful storefront retail spaces very close to my home and office in NYC.

I tell consumers to be careful as DIY orthodontics is a risky game to play.

The DIY aligners are for simple and moderate cases and offer no way of checking if the teeth are moving correctly and not harming your functionality and periodontal health. I currently have no patients using them.

Most people who are seeing a dentist regularly value professional supervision and expertise. The DIY aligners market to people who do not see a dentist regularly and often don’t want to. They also target people who want to save on healthcare and don’t value the role of a dental provider.

The long-term effects of the DIY aligner movement are hard to evaluate as of yet because the dental damage doesn’t happen right away. Improper movement of teeth can cause TMJ problems, airway problems, bite issues, and periodontal issues.

Live a healthy & happy life

I am an advocate of healthy living and getting the best quality of care in every aspect of your life. Seeing a dental provider, whether a dentist or orthodontist, is imperative when you’re thinking about straightening your teeth.

I really value Invisalign and their products. Their retainers (essential for maintaining your straight smile) are excellent and they are constantly working on improvements to their product.

What about Invisalign for teenagers?

Unlike the DIY clear braces kits, Invisalign offer aligners to teens. They have even released a light treatment which speeds up the movements — great for teens who may not have the patience for a long treatment program.

My daughter is starting Invisalign teen soon. While I have not tried the light yet, I am looking forward to learning more about it.

Is Invisalign for you?

When it comes to straightening teeth, my advice is to not skimp out on the highest level of care. If you’d like to learn more about Invisalign, schedule your appointment today. Let’s talk about giving you the smile you’ve always wanted!

You only get one set of teeth. Cherish them for the work they do to keep you healthy!