The Difference Between Treatment by a Licensed Orthodontist and Mail Order Aligners

If you are looking for orthodontic treatment in Vancouver to correct the existing crookedness of your teeth, you have many options available to you. It’s important to carefully evaluate your choices because your future dental health is at stake. Saving a few dollars today could mean a very costly and painful lesson tomorrow. Today, several direct-to-consumer companies provide aligners that can be ordered online and shipped directly to your home in Vancouver. 

Before deciding between getting treatment from a licensed orthodontist or getting mail-order aligners, let’s take a close-up look at the two.

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Why Should I Go to an Orthodontist Instead of Ordering from a Mail Home Aligner Service?

In a nutshell: An orthodontist is a dentist who has graduated from university, then completed 4 years of dental school, and then an additional 3 years of post-graduate, specialized training in teeth alignment and facial harmony; thus ensuring that your teeth are correctly aligned healthily. Your teeth will not only “look good” but also work well.

Teeth alignment is not simply about cosmetics. An orthodontic specialist seeks to eliminate bite problems to prevent any pain associated with chewing as well as future wear and tear on your teeth. With correctly aligned teeth and a proper bite, you will have complete functionality of your mouth without any further pain or discomfort. Even a slight misalignment may result in pain and discomfort and additional wear and tear on your teeth.

Critical Differences Between Orthodontic Treatment and Mail Home Aligner Services

Though most people who choose mail home aligners do so because of what appears to be cost savings for the same service, there are several key differences between the two service providers.

Orthodontic Treatments Are Tailored Specifically For The Patient’s Dental Issues

Orthodontists spend the time to understand the patient’s concerns and perform proper diagnosis of the patient’s dental health to determine the best treatment plan. A tailored treatment plan would then properly address the patient’s bite and aesthetic issues. 

Mail-order aligners offer no customization to meet the patient’s unique needs. The treatment plan is a 6-month cookie-cutter solution offering help for very general tooth alignment problems but is not designed to correct issues specific to each individual. 

Though mail-order aligners can correct some dental issues, they may also create new problems or make related ones worse, requiring more extensive orthodontic treatment. 

Full Support For Your Overall Oral Health

Orthodontists work in tandem with each patient’s family dentist to first treat any existing issues such as cavities or disease before beginning Invisalign treatment. This comprehensive approach ensures the patient’s outcome meets their goals. The family dentist and orthodontist work together to provide ongoing oral hygiene instructions and also monitor all progress, making any needed adjustments when necessary to keep the treatment on track. 

Mail-order aligners offer no personal support or oral hygiene monitoring and advice, leaving the patient to deal with any issues on their own.  

Continuous Monitoring During And After Treatment

Orthodontists work with the patients throughout the treatment to ensure that they reach the result that both the orthodontist and the patient are satisfied with. When treatment is completed, the orthodontist will make a set of retainers for patients to wear to maintain the alignment of the teeth and will continue to monitor the results for the patients.

Many mail-order aligners do not include or even offer retainers. Patient needs to go to another dental professional to get retainers made, and are on their own to monitor and maintain the alignment of their teeth.

Patented Materials & Technology vs. Everyone Else

Invisalign clear plastic aligners are crafted using the SmartTrack plastic material, a patented material that is highly recognized for its strength, flexibility, and longevity. These braces are also compatible with proprietary Invisalign tools such as SmartForce attachments and iTero scanning

Mail-order aligners do not offer the same quality or the ability to add attachments, which allows for more precise teeth movement. Mail-order aligners have been known to break more easily and cause issues and confusion during the treatment process.

Dental Attachments – a Critical Medical Device Not Available Elsewhere

A Vancouver orthodontist makes use of the correct attachments & buttons to enable them to make very precise adjustments to your aligners.

  • Attachments are small “bumps” bonded to your teeth with composite material. Attachments must be done at the clinic by a dental professional.
  • Attachments act as a handle to offer the grip required for the Invisalign aligner for more precise movement. 
  • Attachments can shift your teeth in various directions, such as up and down, not just moving them sideways. Attachments are often mandatory for more complex or severe cases of malocclusion.

Online mail-order aligners do not have staff to come to you and put attachments over a patient’s teeth, and thus these services cannot make the same maneuvers Invisalign can, often resulting in bite issues.

  • Without attachments, aligners cannot move teeth in all directions required for proper tooth positioning.

All-Inclusive Pricing vs. Pay as You Go

An orthodontist review will assess a patient in the beginning to provide a proper treatment plan and timeline, resulting in fewer nasty surprises down the road. 

  • The clinic’s treatment price is all-inclusive.
  • X-rays are essential to proper teeth alignment procedures using braces or Invisalign. The cost of X-rays is included in the fees to the clinic, as this is considered vital.
  • When getting treatment at an orthodontic clinic with licensed specialists, you will receive all the aligners and retainers you will need during your treatment. 

In comparison, mail-home aligners include only one part of what you will require to treat misaligned teeth. 

  • Typically, you will receive enough aligners and retainers to last you six months. Anything beyond that will come out of your pocket. 
  • If an aligner breaks too early, you will have to make the difficult decision of paying extra for additional aligners or using the next one, which may result in less effective treatment and more pain.
  • Auxiliary services such as X-rays may not be included in the advertised treatment price and require extra payment.

Professional Medical Support vs. Phone / Online Customer Support

Professional support is necessary throughout the treatment to ensure your teeth are coming together correctly. Without this level of support, patients are left helpless if something goes wrong or does not feel right during treatment.

Treatment at a licensed orthodontist ensures your Invisalign treatment is on track, and your teeth will be in the correct position at all times.

  • Experts recommend a visit to a licensed orthodontist one month after your aligners have been applied to ensure the teeth are moving correctly or if adjustments need to be made to correct this. 
  • Virtual care is now available where patients can send in photos of their teeth and communicate with their orthodontist through a safe and secured online channel. This allows the orthodontist to keep monitoring the patient’s progress without the patient being physically in the office.
  • Some Invisalign treatment plans will need some adjustment to the treatment plan mid-way through treatment. 

Without an orthodontist monitoring your teeth movement, patients are left with a strategy of hope while looking at the mirror, wondering if everything is happening correctly.

  • If a problem comes up, there is no dental professional who will diagnose and fix the issue. Instead, you are left with a toll-free number and an online chat with a customer service team lead.
  • Even minor misalignment can result in bite problems (open bite, misaligned bite) or bruising of the gums when chewing, causing long-term and unnecessary pain.

Research and Look For Reviews and Stories From Customers

Sadly, a quick Google search yields a wide array of horror stories about well-meaning people who opted to try to have their teeth corrected through the use of mail-order aligners. There is no shortage of customer complaints or regrets posted online about mail-order aligner horror stories.

Once the damage from these one-size-fits-all dental appliances is done, it is exceptionally costly to have repaired. But worse than the additional money required for a second treatment is the time and inconvenience you will likely have to endure during the further correction. When it comes to the future health of your teeth, it’s not worth taking a risk that could cost you considerably later. 

Get the Professional Treatment Your Deserve

Do not be the victim of another mail aligner horror story. Let PacificWest help you achieve your perfect smile today. Contact us now at Vancouver: 604-558-0993 Surrey: 604-501-0993 or to get started.

Dr Wang

Dr. Wang, DDS, MSc, FRCD(C)


Orthodontic specialist, founder of PacificWest Dental Group. Helping people get the perfect smile since 1994!

Dr Kevin

Dr. Kevin Lee, DMD, MSc, FRCD(C)


Specialist in Orthodontics, UBC alumni. Love helping patients get a beautiful smile. Part-time clinical instructor at UBC. 

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