Are your patients opting for at-home orthodontics instead of visiting your dental practice? Find out how you can compete with DIY teeth straightening methods.
What is DIY Orthodontics?
With the advent of YouTube tutorials, more people are attempting to do things themselves that in the past were typically done by a professional. Sometimes, this can turn out well– for example, DIY wedding favors can keep costs down. DIY orthodontics, on the other hand, are far more involved.
Today's consumers believe they can save time and money by attempting to replicate professional results themselves. People may place traditional rubber bands or hair elastics around their teeth to close a gap, or they may use ill-fitting, over-the-counter plastic tooth aligners that can do more harm than good.
Benefits and Risks of DIY Orthodontics
Like with any DIY medical treatment, there are certain benefits and a number of risks. It's important to evaluate each and determine what DIY orthodontics could potentially end up saving (or costing) you.
The primary benefits associated with clear tooth aligners are convenience and reduced cost. Patients don't have to go to multiple dentist appointments and the cost of plastic aligners is much less than traditional orthodontics. Patients who are unable to afford orthodontic care, or who have a fear of the dentist, may be especially interested in at-home teeth straightening remedies.
While using a clear plastic aligner may seem relatively harmless, the truth is that unsupervised orthodontic treatment can lead to misalignment, infection, and even tooth loss. At best, aligners may only offer some minimal benefit. At worst, they may end up damaging your teeth and gums.
The story of David Campbell is a worst-case-scenario, but it points to the dangers of attempting to straighten your teeth using DIY tactics. As a child, he attempted to close a gap between his two front teeth with elastic bands, like many YouTubers are vlogging about today. The bands slid up underneath his periodontal ligaments, loosening the two teeth at the root. The cost to repair his teeth shot upwards of $40,000.
Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?
The benefits of DIY orthodontics are almost never worth the risks; the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) suggests that the cost of replacing a single lost tooth ranges from $3,000 to $4,500. The Consumer Guide to Dentistry suggests that traditional metal braces cost around $3,000 – $7,000.
What the ADA is Doing About the Rise of DIY Dentistry
On April 25, 2019, the ADA filed a citizen petition with the FDA against SmileDirectClub, LLC, (SDC), stating that they are "placing the public at risk by knowingly evading the 'by prescription only' restriction that the FDA has placed on plastic teeth aligners and on dental impression material." While the petition names SmileDirectClub specifically, it may pave the way for the enforcement of restrictions on other at-home dental devices. At the time of writing, the ADA is still pending a response from the FDA.
What Your Office Can Do to Compete with DIY Orthodontics
Competing with DIY orthodontics can be as simple as providing patients with robust education and flexible payment options. No one wants to willingly damage their teeth; DIY dentistry was borne from a need to obtain lower cost, more convenient dental care.
Educate your patients about the dangers of do-it-yourself orthodontics, but don't fear monger. Your patients should want to choose professional orthodontics because they clearly see the benefits, not because they're terrified of a worst-case-scenario.
You can also address the glaring issue of the high cost associated with professional orthodontics by offering your patients flexible payment plans. You may want to do this in-house, or you may want to partner with a third-party line of credit. Either way, if your patients have the option of making orthodontic treatment more affordable up-front, it is likely that more of them will choose professional treatment over DIY options.
Avoid "shaming" patients that come in with problems caused by DIY orthodontic devices. Show them compassion, educate them, and encourage them to share their story about the dangers of at-home dentistry with members of your local community.
Showcase Your Own Stellar Results
The proof is in the pudding, so make sure your practice showcases the excellent results of professional orthodontics. Compare them to the average-at-best results of DIY aligners and other at-home dental devices and let your patients make the right choice for themselves.
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