Colorado orthodontist warns about risks of do-it-yourself braces

DENVER -- Do-it-yourself braces is an industry that is exploding.

Patients with mild to moderate issues can get mail order invisible aligners with no appointments and at a reduced price.

Kaelen Connolly said the process worked well for her. The 26-year-old from Lakewood got her aligners from SmileDirectClub.

“Straightened my teeth in three months,” Connolly said.

She said she loved the convenience and the price. The website lists the price at $1,850, which the company said is 60 percent less than other brands.

Patients can get started with a digital scan of their teeth or do an at-home-impression kit, which is sent to a dental professional.

Connolly received multiple aligners in the mail and is pleased with the final product.

“I’m glad I did it,” she said.

But a local orthodontist said there are risks with this kind of service.

“To imagine that you could just mail out something, and get something back is incredibly scary to me,” said Dr. Anil Idiculla at i-Orthodontics.

He said patients need X-rays and direct supervision from an in-person orthodontist.

“Do it yourself is for crafts, and teeth are not a hobby,” he said.

His concerns are shared by the American Association of Orthodontists. The group filed complaints with 36 state dental boards and attorneys general against SmileDirectClub.

Ten of those cases were closed. The company’s lead dentist, Jeffrey Sulitzer, said patients are “receiving the same level of care from a treating dentist or orthodontist as an individual visiting a traditional orthodontist or dentist for treatment. The teledentistry platform allows for more convenient access and flexibility.”

But one Denver patient disagrees.

Hayley Wester said she was halfway through her treatment when her aligners stopped coming on time and problems set in.

“They never fit correctly,” Wester said.

Now she said her bite needs to be corrected.

“When I bite into an apple, these teeth over here are super loose they were never like that before and I have chipping going on behind my right canine tooth because my bite is super off,” she said.

So she said she will spend thousands of dollars to go to an orthodontist to get her teeth fixed.

SmileDirectClub spokeswoman Lauren Altmin said the company "previously could not keep up with demand for the hundreds of thousands of customers using our product. We have since adjusted our delivery schedule to a ship-at-once program, where customers receive all of their aligners at the same time.

“SmileDirectClub was founded on a simple belief: Everyone deserves a smile they love. Recognizing an opportunity to increase access to dental care, the company pioneered the creation of cutting-edge platforms and technology for doctor-directed, at-home aligner therapy.

"SmileDirectClub is for customers with mild-to-moderate alignment issues who, due to advancements in teledentistry, have an assigned dentist or orthodontist remotely follow their progress all the way through the end of their smile journey.  In addition to notifications about when it’s time to switch to a new set of aligners, the SmileDirectClub dashboard alerts customers for new photos of their smile every 90 days to monitor progress.”