Dentists express their concerns over DIY dentistry
FARMINGTON, Conn., U.S.: With the growth of direct-to-consumer marketing, there has been a trend towards do-it-yourself (DIY) dentistry, which encourages patients to skip a visit to the orthodontist in favor of at-home impression kits and low-cost tooth aligners, protective guards and tooth whitening products. However, researchers warn that the lack of professional care for such options may lead to unsatisfactory results and damage the teeth.
DIY dentistry has been met with a great deal of resistance in the dental community. Last month, the American Dental Association filed a citizen petition with the Food and Drug Administration that underscores its members’ concerns about direct-to-consumer orthodontic aligners. In 2017, the association also passed a policy that strongly discourages the practice of DIY orthodontics owing to its potential harm to patients. The American Association of Orthodontists too issued a statement of disappointment after discovering that a major department store will be offering retail orthodontic services in several locations.
“DIY orthodontics and aligners are becoming a popular but alarming trend that can cause long-term damage to the teeth and surrounding structures,” said Dr. Sumit Yadav, Associate Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. “DIY aligners do not involve a comprehensive diagnosis or treatment planning, which are necessary for successful orthodontic treatment.”
The trend recently took a new turn when a large chain store announced a partnership with a popular direct-to-consumer invisible aligner company, allowing customers to receive removable aligners mailed to their homes in a matter of weeks after visiting a local drugstore for 3D scanning of their mouths. Although these 3D images will be reviewed remotely by a licensed orthodontist, some dentists are concerned by the lack of customization and care of the service.
“We learn a lot about the patient, the patient’s background, medical history and dental history, and then design restorations for them that are custom-fit and that will work with their mouth. That’s something that can’t be done remotely,” said Dr. Geraldine Weinstein, Associate Professor of General Dentistry at the school.
While dental care and specialty treatments may seem expensive, the consequences of low-cost, unsupervised dental solutions may cost more in the long run, according to UConn’s dental experts. Furthermore, the damage may be irreparable if the product is improperly fabricated or implemented and may even lead to loss of teeth and supporting bone, Yadav noted.
In addition, professional services may actually be quicker. At UConn Health, the university’s medical center, and other dental practices, digital dentistry technology allows providers to make in-house aligners for their patients in less time than it would take to utilize a direct-to-consumer aligner service. “Sending to a lab is very time-consuming—[the product] can come back two to three weeks later,” said Weinstein. “Digital dentistry in-house allows us to make the restoration the same day or within a couple of days, and we can control the quality for the patient very easily.”