Explained: All you need to know about Do-It-Yourself aligners for teeth straightening

Orthodontists have been lately trying to create awareness among patients against using at-home teeth alignment treatments. As part of this push, a few months back, the Dental Council of India issued a public notice to companies offering at-home Do-It-Yourself aligners for teeth correction.

While traditional braces to straighten teeth involve regular visits to the orthodontist and careful medical supervision, the new trend in the market of DIY aligners — which has got a lot of traction from prospective patients – skips this part. Doctors have seen many cases go wrong, and have been cautioning against at-home treatment. What are DIY aligners, and how does this therapy differ from the traditional method?

What are DIY aligners and when did they enter the Indian market?

DIY orthodontics refers to straightening of teeth at home without seeing an orthodontist regularly. They are also less expensive. These aligners entered the Indian market in 2016.

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How are these DIY aligners different from traditional braces?

Braces are made of metal or porcelain and are attached to the patient’s teeth. Metal wires and rubber bands are then used to provide a force to help the teeth move into the correct position.

Aligners are made of plastic and are custom made to fit the teeth. Each aligner moves the teeth step by step towards the final position. They are usually recommended for mild cases. If the patient does not wear aligners as advised then the results get compromised. Aligners are considered more aesthetic but ceramic braces are also not too different in aesthetics these days, said Dr Sarabjeet Singh, a Chandigarh-based orthodontist who is also vice president of Indian Orthodontic Society.

What are the issues faced by patients using DIY aligners?

According to Dr Srikrishna Chalasani, president, Indian Orthodontic Society, DIY Teeth Aligners can cause irreparable damage as treating the teeth without considering the underlying problems can worsen existing conditions or create new ones.

Some complaints include bleeding gums, loose teeth, difficulty in chewing and swallowing, tooth loss and jaw pain.

In some cases the damage may require supervised medical treatment on top of the at-home therapy to correct the issues that creep in.

What steps are being taken by orthodontics bodies in India and abroad?

Indian Orthodontic Society (IOS) has come up with an advisory against DIY aligners and has also been conducting many awareness programmes to increase awareness against DIY aligners. IOS has conducted many social media campaigns to emphasize the role of the orthodontist in providing treatment with orthodontic aligners.

In fact, IOS has been instrumental in persuading Dental Council of India (the highest statutory body in the country for dental education and profession) to come out with a public notice against these DIY aligner companies, informed Dr Sarabjeet. He added that public notice was issued about 2 months ago. Even the European Society of Orthodontics has also been raising similar issues, he added.

What is the cost difference between DIY and traditional aligners?

The DIY aligners are cheaper than orthodontic aligners mainly because DIY aligners bypass the orthodontist, proper diagnosis and treatment planning. The cost of the orthodontist-supervised treatment would be around 25-30 % more than DIY aligners, said Dr Sridevi Padmanabhan, honorary secretary of the IOS.

She added that DIY aligner companies don’t supervise patients once the product is delivered, she informed.

What has the IOS said in its advisory?

In its advice to patients, the IOS has told them to ask themselves some basic questions before settling for DIY aligners.

These include seeing if they are getting a physical examination by an expert, and to see if they have been promised orthodontic intervention if the treatment goes wrong. The advisory says that damage to teeth can be irreversible, and should not be taken lightly.


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