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Straightening teeth has long been a procedure performed by orthodontist for many years. Most recently, orthodontist have been using invisible aligners in addition to the traditional braces. Now, with technology, the goal of having a straighter smile through the use of clear/invisible aligners can be achieved from the privacy of your own home.

Two companies are now offering the clear/invisible aligners used to straighten teeth, remotely so adults and older teens can straighten their teeth at home for a fraction of what the orthodontist charge.

clear aligners

CRYSTALBRACES

CrystalBraces (will be referred to as “CB”) are BPA-free plastic trays used to straighten teeth and correct minor bite discrepensies in the shortest amount of time (skeletal bite issues are recommended to the orthodontist or dentist). The system uses a 3D mapping technology which digitally maps out the mouth in order to create an exact replica in their system. With the map, they digitally create the amount of stages that need to occur and the slight movements and alterations that need to be made to the clear trays. So how does this process actually work? When you go onto their website, you begin by taking the free analysis to determine if you are a good candidate for CrystalBraces. You will immediately get an answer. The patient can also send pictures to CB for a quick photo assessment to see if they are eligible for the program. But in order to get a completely accurate assessment, impressions are needed. Next, you can than place your order to receive your starter kit. This kit contains impression material for you take take impressions of your teeth that get mailed back to the company to begin the proces. During the treatment process, the patient has full access to view the digital maps, 3D technology, monitor changes and track their progress at all stages of treatment. The patient is also provided with a personal dental consultant whom checks on them throughout their treatment. CrystalBraces use natural movement to make teeth straight again. They claim to correct overbites, crowding and gaps. The time of treatment is based on how much movement the teeth need and your bone formation capacity. Minor movement is about 6 months. More movement can go up to 2 years. Just like other clear aligners, they need to be worn for at least 22 hours a day. Maintaining the results is done with retainers, as with any orthodontic straightening procedure. There is no age limit for CB, the patient only needs to have permanent teeth. CrystalBraces do not accept any dental insurances but will accept all major credit cards and PayPal as forms of payment. The cost is about $900-$2100 and you receive your trays according to your payment plan. You will only receive your trays after you make the payment that is due.

So you may ask, why is CrystalBraces significantly more affordable than other systems? CB works directly with the consumer rather than a middle man or a dentist to share products. “CrystalBraces strive to help the consumer get that American smile rather than bogging them down with high retail prices and lengthy visits.” CB is a no hassle, no risk program. This means you only pay for what you use. There is no contract binding you to the terms of treatment, if you don’t like the product or results and want to quit, you can with no hassle and no further payments.

A little background about CrystalBraces. Dr. Son Tran is the founder and creator of CB. He has been a general dentist for over 10 years around the Dallas, Texas area. CrystalBraces was born in early 2003, when Dr. Tran began using the technology throughout his clinics. After getting great results and large numbers of positive results, he decided to make the product and brand available to the public in 2013. Dr. Tran was approached by companies such as Capital Venture Group (they invest in new research and development; innovation leader in their industry for past 45 years). Dr. Tran declined the company’s “commercialism” in order to keep the product and business family-friendly and dedicated to affordability through direct to consumer business.

SmileCareClub (will be referred to as “SCC”)

Founder and CEO Doug Hudson founded SCC in 2013. SmileCareClub is backed by Camelot Venture Group, a private investment group that has been pioneering the direct to consumer space since the early 90’s. Camelot is the owner of Sharper Image, Quicken Loans and 1-800-Contacts). SCC is also partnered with orthodontic labs. Their technology and process is basically the same as CrystalBraces but with some slight differences. Normally, no dental office visits are required except for more complex cases.   The system is designed for minor to moderate teeth correction, including spaces, crowding, rotations and some correction of bite. SCC is not accepting cases with implants at this time. Treatment time depends on treatment options, depending on the current situation of your teeth, but is designed to be used from 4 to 14 months. The cost also depends on your teeth. For example, if you have minor crowding and spacing, Smile 5 Plan would be approriate. This plan includes 5 trays/aligners and treatment will be approximately 4 months. This plan starts at $900 or a specific amount for a monthly payment plan. Included in this plan and all other plans, is a free whitening system ($200 value). SmileCareClub accepts all major credits, flexible spending accounts and other financing as payment. Also, dental insurance is accepted because some plans cover this type of orthodontics. There is a 100% money back guarantee for the system.

Invisible aligners are usually prescribed by an orthodontist or dentist after an in-person examination and discussion of treatment options. Invisalign and Clear Correct are two of several companies that make aligners that entail hands-on supervision at repeat office visits, at a typical cost of $4000-$6000 depending on geography and complexity of your case. Critics argue that prescribing aligners to patients sight unseen risks overlooking oral health issues that can compromise orthodontic treatment. Some experts say that because the at-home systems may not be for everyone, it can be a waste of time and money trying to achieve something that’s physically impossible. One dentist said that he would never rely on a patient’s “selfie picture” to determine whether the teeth within the bone would align properly when in-office x-rays could be taken. Many orthodontist argue that an in-person exam is critical to look for untreated cavities and underlying gum infections before any teeth straightening is done. Orthodontic treatment can exacerbate gum disease.

The FDA considers aligners prescription devices and has approved more than 10 kinds but doesn’t regulate the practice of dentistry or orthodontics. This regulation is left up to the states and their dental boards to decide what is appropriate care. In January, the American Association of Orthodontists, warned consumers against moving teeth without an initial exam and continuing supervision by an orthodontist. “Our concern is that patients who don’t see an orthodontist for regular checkups and/or a complete diagnosis are more likely to be harmed”, said Dr. Rolf Behrents, a spokesman for the association. He also is concerned about people using elastic hair bands to close gaps between their front teeth, a practice inspired by do-it-yourself YouTube videos, made  by people with no dental training.

SmileCareClub uses more than 90 orthodontists and dentists in 43 states to review photos taken by patients and a 3D model mostly made from the at-home impression. SCC is in the process of recruiting providers in the remaining seven states. They say that about 20% of cases require referrals for in-person care. SmileCareClub for the most part, relies on their patient’s honesty to confirm oral health. Patients are required to sign a form stating that their dentist has checked for decay and gum disease and x-rays had been taken in the last 18 months.

Dr. Son Tran is the sole reviewer of CrystalBraces’ mailed-in impressions and says that he can tell from a snapshot or the dental impression if a patient has swollen gums that would require a patient to visit a dentist before getting CB. They claim their system is “foolproof” and they “handle and correct 99% of cases”. CrystalBraces has treated approximately 3,600 patients since 2013 and at the time of this article, their materials were on backorder for shipment due to high demand.

In conclusion, it is always important to do your own research and consult a professional for advice before initiating any medical and/or dental treatments.