Are online clear aligners safe? Discover the fine print, risks, and more!

These days it is impossible to watch TV or scroll through your Facebook feed without being bombarded by advertisements. More specifically, ads for straightening your teeth at home with SmileDirectClub.

And sure, it can seem very enticing to give them a shot.

SmileDirectClub’s pitch is that you can easily take your own impressions at home (or at one of their “offices”), send it to the company via mail, and get clear aligners mailed to you that will straighten your teeth.

Seems great right?

Well, as with any big company making big promises of cheap and amazing returns, things are often too good to be true.

So, as a dentist in Waldorf, MD, I am going to explain all the things you need to know BEFORE starting any online clear aligner treatment.

Read this BEFORE using SmileDirectClub

Prior to starting treatment, you must sign an informed consent. This paperwork may not seem like a big deal, but it is!

In this “waiver,” SmileDirectClub mandates that you see a dentist before starting treatment. Here’s a quote from their informed consent:

“My dentist cleaned my teeth… took x-rays of my teeth… repaired cavities, loose or defective fillings, crowns or bridges. My dentist checked my x-rays and I have no shortened or resorbed roots… no impacted teeth. My dentist has probed or measured my gum pockets and says I do not have periodontal or gum disease. My dentist preformed a full oral-cancer screening in the last 6 months and I do not have oral cancer. I have no pain in any of my teeth. I have no pain in my jaws.”

Now, ask yourself this:

Why does SmileDirectClub require you to visit a dentist and complete ALL these things before treatment?

By signing the informed consent, SmileDirectClub is placing the responsibility of anything going wrong on you. Whether it’s during or after treatment, they now hold you accountable.

Why SmileDirectClub is misleading

SmileDirectClub sells the idea of being able to straighten your teeth, all from the comforts of your home.

They make it seem like you don’t have to visit your dentist and that their “licensed dentists or orthodontists” will create a treatment plan for you.

But as you can see from their informed consent, that is NOT the case.

They require you to visit your dentist and have your entire oral health examined and approved before starting treatment.

The at-home impression kit or in-office digital scan is ONLY used to create your aligners.

They don’t take into consideration gum disease, bone density, root absorption, and so on. They expect you to take care of that with your dentist.

What you should do before SmileDirectClub

Here’s an insight into what we do at The Silberman Dental Group prior to starting ANY dental work:

Either Dr. Paul Silberman or I will complete a comprehensive exam. This typically includes x-rays, a complete diagnosis of gum and bone health, and a complete evaluation of any active issues in your mouth, like gum disease.

Why is this necessary?

Because only after completing a comprehensive exam, can your dentist confirm that your proposed treatment is safe to perform.

Without receiving a comprehensive exam and approval, SmileDirectClub or any DIY mail-order aligner company is an extremely risky move.

What can happen if you don’t get a dental exam before SmileDirectClub?

DIY mail-order aligners gone wrong. Source: Pfeffer Orthodontics

You could experience serious, irreversible damages to your smile.

For example, in the Opens new tab to Facebook postphoto above, that tooth was “extracted” by a DIY mail-order clear aligner. How did this happen?

This former online clear aligner patient had undiagnosed gum disease. This disease could have been easily caught by a dentist’s examination before starting treatment.

But by not visiting the dentist, this patient’s smile was put at risk and as a result, the tooth was “extracted.”

This is why it’s necessary to see a dental professional before, during, and after any treatment.

After all, the entire purpose of orthodontic treatment is to move teeth within the bone of your jaw into a different alignment. Your orthodontic progress should always be monitored in-person by a properly licensed and trained dental professional – not by a virtual dentist who only monitors what’s on the screen and not in your mouth.

If none of this has raised a red flag yet, listen to this:

The Opens new tab to ADA complaint with FTCAmerican Dental Association and many other organizations have already filed multiple lawsuits and complaints against SmileDirectClub for its marketing, transparency, and safety.

These organizations are fighting for your safety, especially those who are unaware of the harm SmileDirectClub may cause to their smile.

If you want to learn more, Google “ADA Citizen Petition against SDC.”

A dentist’s advice about SmileDirectClub

Patients often ask me for my recommendation on treatment, especially when there are multiple options or treatment plans like Invisalign® vs. SmileDirectClub. To guide them, I always think back to my first clinical professor and what was ingrained as my core philosophy:

“If this patient were your mother, what would you advise them?”

First, I would ask my mother, “Please make some more of those chocolate cookies!”

Next, I would advise that when something seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

So, in regards to SmileDirectClub, I would highly encourage her (and you) to see me or Dr. Silberman for a comprehensive exam – just like SmileDirectClub’s fine print states. That way, we can ensure everything is a-ok before starting a treatment that impacts not only your teeth but also your gums and bone.

If you are considering orthodontics or any other dental treatment, come visit our dental office in Waldorf, MD.

We offer complimentary consultations and second options – no strings attached. All you need to do is contact our office and we will schedule an appointment at a convenient time for you.

You can reach us at: