written by Brady M. Thomson, DDS, board-certified orthodontist, Thomson Family Orthodontics

Sometimes DIY projects sound like a pretty good idea. However, maybe not everything is best when done by yourself; some things are better left to someone with the proper training and education. No matter how many YouTube videos we watch, trying to remove that ingrown toenail, or even piercing one’s own ears, may not be the best idea. Especially if we’ve never done it before.

Many marketing campaigns make DIY products seem too good to be true, which is often the case. At times people can benefit from some direct-to-consumer products. Take for example, contact lenses, glasses, and even hearing aids. Each one of these products can be conveniently ordered online and shipped right to our homes. However, all these products still require us to obtain the ​service ​of a prescription from a trained professional with a license in that area of expertise.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) reminds us, “orthodontic treatment is not a product or device — orthodontic treatment is a professional, ​medical service​.” When your care is personally supervised by an orthodontist who is a member of the AAO, you are assured that your orthodontist spent years after dental school in a residency program focused on providing orthodontic treatment to patients.

The AAO is a professional association of orthodontists dedicated to, among other things, “improving the health of the public by promoting quality orthodontic care, the importance of overall oral healthcare, and advocating for the public interest.”

Consider this question: What other transforming medical treatment would you undergo without an in-person pre-treatment evaluation or ongoing in-person supervision from a medical professional? Orthodontic treatment involves the movement of biological material, which, if not done correctly, could lead to potentially irreversible and expensive damage such as tooth and gum loss, changed bites, and other issues.

There are several important things to consider regarding DIY treatment.

  1. How do you know if your teeth and gums are healthy enough for orthodontic treatment? Who is making that decision and how is it being determined?
  2. What are the possible risks (financial, health, etc.) associated with your orthodontic treatment? How do you know?
  3. If an issue arises during your treatment, how will it be handled, and who will be responsible for handling it?
  4. Does the treatment and fee include x-rays of your teeth and jaws and a clinical examination of your jaw alignment, teeth, bite, and the relationship of your teeth to the skeletal structures?

Without an in-person examination to understand the patient’s overall dental health, the patient’s bite (the alignment of teeth, how they fit with opposing teeth, how they fit in the jaw, the size of the jaw, and the relationship of the upper and lower jaws), and X-rays, patients may be unaware of underlying problems. These could include the health of gum tissue, the amount of bone present to support teeth, teeth that are fused to bone (ankylosed), extra or missing teeth, excessive enamel wear, short roots, bone cysts, and more.

Consider doing some research before making a decision about orthodontic treatment to make sure you’re treated in the best possible manner.

  1. Schedule an in-person exam with an orthodontist who is an AAO member.
  2. Ask if the orthodontist is board certified.
  3. Ask if the orthodontist offers a Digital Scanning Model (no goopy impression). None of us like to have dental impressions made, yet most DIY companies ask us to take impression on ourselves.
  4. Find out if the orthodontist has experience with clear aligners. Visit ​Invisalign.com​ and search your area.

The American Dental Association (ADA) “strongly discourages” the practice of do-it-yourself orthodontics because of the potential for harm to patients.

For example, in some instances direct-to-consumer DIY orthodontic companies do not involve the in-person evaluation and/or supervision of your treatment by an orthodontist. Treatment by an orthodontist can be very important, because there is more to creating a healthy, beautiful smile than moving the visible portions of your teeth. This can help many avoid the frustration of possibly uneven DIY front teeth, like those uneven DIY pierced ears.

Trust your smile to an orthodontist, and smile all day!