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With the increasing availability of DIY retainers and invisible retainers, such as those advertised by Smile Direct Club, we would like to shed some light on the subject and how it compares to Invisalign?

What are mail-in aligner programs?

DIY, mail-in aligner programs are websites in where you can take a survey, submit pictures of your smile, and receive aligners at your doorstep to begin straightening. After the alignment is complete (usually in about 6 months), the customer can purchase a retainer to keep that new smile straight. The customer typically never has to visit an office or consult a doctor in person.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Smile Direct Club or other mail-in aligners?


  1. Cost – Generally less expensive (60% less expensive) as there is no health professional monitoring the progress.
  2. Convenience – Impressions are sometimes taken by the patient in the comforts of their own home.


  1. Treatment is not directly supervised by a dentist. Treatment that is too fast can lead to permanent damage to the root and bone. Teeth moved in the wrong direction can lead to jaw problems and TMJ disorders.
  2. Poor fitting Aligners from imprecise impressions may not fit properly and cause pain or damage to the teeth and gums.
  3. Poor materials. When fabricating aligners, inferior materials may be used and therefore, not hold up as well. When putting materials into your mouth, the must be biocompatible, clean, and allergen free.
  4. Nowhere to turn if complications arise. With do-it-yourself treatment, if movements aren’t correct, it can cause TMJ pain, tooth problems, gum issues, infection from foreign objects, and necessitate costly dental visits.

Are mail-in aligners as effective as those made by orthodontists?

No, aligners made by patients don’t fit as well as one smade by dentists and orthodontists. Movements need to be precise, and therefore, aligners must also be precise to achieve this. Many tooth movements are complex requiring sophisticated forces to be applied at different times. This needs to be monitored closely and often updated aligners need to be created in order to perfect the results.

How do invisible aligners compare to conventional metal braces?

Invisible braces are always more aesthetic. Very few people these days want “railroad tracks” on their teeth when the orthodontics can be virtually invisible. They are almost always more comfortable as they are precisely fit with highly sophisticated digital technology. They are metal free, so they are less likely to have any allergic reactions. The forces are much more gradual and evenly distributed with invisible braces, therefore, less painful. There are no brackets or bands nor any wires so cutting off the lips cheeks and tongue is a non-issue. While they can accomplish a lot they are not a cure-all. Invisible braces can’t predictably accomplish every tooth movement. Sometimes teeth are very broad, strong or multiple stubborn roots that require incredible forces to move. It is important for the patient to understand the limitations and have realistic expectations.

When comes to your body and your health, it is always best to get guidance and supervision from a professional. And if it is in-person, that is even better! After all, we are human! Without proper understanding and guidance from a health professional, the patient can become frustrated and ultimately very disappointed with the results.