If you spend any time browsing the options for orthodontic aligners online, you’ll probably come across at least one direct-to-consumer (DTC) treatment. Ads on social media or in the search results often make bold claims about affordable at-home treatments to straighten your teeth in three to six months. 

These online-only orthodontists promise to skip the inconvenience of a visit to the dentist. The allure is often the convenience and price, And since clear aligner treatments like Invisalign appear so simple on the surface, why would you pay more? 

You’re probably asking, “What is the difference between DTC clear aligner treatment and Invisalign?” 

Some DIY tasks in life carry low risks. If your decorating skills aren’t as strong in practice as you’d imagined, a professional can always paint over your mistakes. Sadly, the same can’t always be said for your smile. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about DTC orthodontics and how, under the supervision of a professional, Invisalign is a safer and more effective way to straighten teeth. 

How Do Clear Aligners Work?

Before we compare DTC aligners and Invisalign, let’s explore how this type of orthodontic appliance works. 

Whether you choose braces or aligners, gentle force is used to slowly and gradually move your teeth. In the case of aligners, you’ll wear a plastic tray made from a material that creates constant pressure against your teeth. Although you’ll barely feel the aligner after wearing it for a while, you’ll see noticeable changes over your treatment. 

You’ll need multiple aligners because each aligner can only move your teeth a fraction of a millimetre. In the case of Invisalign, you’ll swap your aligner every two weeks. Throughout your treatment, you may have upwards of 24 aligners. 

Accurate Custom Treatment Plans Are Essential

When you choose Invisalign treatment, the entire process begins with a thorough assessment. We use the latest digital technology to take accurate scans of your smile. This information is uploaded to powerful software that helps us create a customised treatment plan tailored to your smile. 

Your treatment plan is detailed, and an aligner is created for every slight tooth movement. Once we have a thorough treatment plan, the laboratory will make your aligners. 

In contrast, there is no initial assessment with DTC aligners. Instead, you may need to send photos of your teeth using a digital scanning app or take impressions using a mould. You’ll need to do this yourself and post this information back. As you can imagine, this isn’t the most accurate way to gather vital information before your treatment. 

Even if the pre-treatment assessment were performed by a dentist, physical impressions and photos would pale in comparison to the accuracy of the digital scans and impressions we can take. When you consider that you need to take these impressions yourself, the margin of error increases. 

Ongoing Dental Supervision Is Vital to Success

Although clear aligners can achieve great results, success depends on many complex factors.

For example, treatment may not go according to plan if you fail to wear your aligner for the recommended 22 hours daily and forgetting to put your aligner back in frequently after mealtimes could slow your progress.

We can pick up on this during your routine Invisalign checkups, alongside any other potential issues.

In contrast, direct-to-consumer treatments do not offer physical checkups. At best, you may submit images of your smile, but this is not an in-depth assessment. 

Although teledentistry has benefits, a life-changing treatment like teeth straightening requires some degree of in-person contact with a dentist. When you choose a DTC route, you may have access to a dentist either online or over the phone. In these situations, the full responsibility for engaging with your treatment rests on your shoulders. 

Cheaper Does Not Mean Better

Alongside convenience, DTC aligner treatments are often marketed as being more affordable. While it’s true that this type of treatment may cost much less than Invisalign, it doesn’t mean you will get the same professional results.

The lack of pre-treatment assessment and ongoing in-person supervision can detract from the outcomes. That straighter smile you imagined when you parted with the treatment cost may never fully emerge. Often, patients who opt for DTC aligner treatments find they need further teeth straightening later. This may mean paying for Invisalign in addition to the original online treatment. 

What Does the Regulator Say?

The dental regulator in the UK is the General Dental Council (GDC). The GDC has previously issued statements and advice to patients on direct-to-consumer orthodontics. 

The GDC is keen to ensure patient safety and that qualified and registered professionals prescribe all dental treatments. 

In their guidance to the public, the GDC highlights that you need to see the dentist in person to know whether a treatment is suitable. Interaction between you and the dentist is essential; without this two-way communication, you cannot consent to treatment. Additionally, the GDC stresses the importance of knowing who is treating you. 

Ultimately, the prescribing dentist is responsible for your care. They must make their decisions based on their assessment of your dental needs. 

Other organisations, like the British Orthodontics Society, raise concerns about direct-to-consumer patients falling through the regulatory cracks if something goes wrong. 

Direct-to-consumer orthodontics are relatively new and have grown in popularity since the pandemic. Orthodontic treatments like Invisalign have received rigorous clinical testing and refinement and have won the trust of dentists and patients worldwide. DTC treatments have had far less scrutiny. 

Invisalign in London

Invisalign is the world’s most popular clear aligner treatment. It’s perfected millions of smiles over the last two decades, and with a thorough initial consultation and ongoing support from our skilled dentists, you can enjoy the benefits of Invisalign. 

Before making any decision about the future of your smile, we recommend visiting us for a full assessment. Getting it right will save you time and money and prevent disappointment. 

Contact us today to arrange your Invisalign consultation.