Your Orthodontist vs. Do It Yourself Aligners – Part 1

June 14, 2019

At Somerville Orthodontics, it is our goal to do everything we can to educate our patients. Lets work together as a team to help create your best smile. The purpose of our blog is to provide information so that you, the patient can make an informed decision.

Recently, many companies have entered the teeth straightening business and created at home clear aligner systems. You most likely have seen their advertisements on TV or your Facebook feed. To keep myself from getting into any trouble, I am not going to refer to any of these companies by name. For the rest of this article, I will collectively call these companies: “Company X.”

This will be a two part article. Part 1 will discuss the steps to get your clear aligners. I will do my best to present the information from Company X’s perspective as well as the orthodontists’.  Part 2 will be posted next week and will address some of the other claims that Company X makes about clear aligner treatment.


Step 1: Impression
Company X

If you choose to get treatment from Company X you will need an impression or scan of your teeth. You can either go into a physical Company X store or you can try to take your own impression at home.  It is unclear if the employee is or isn’t trained in the dental field. Taking accurate impressions of your teeth is very technique sensitive and requires a lot of practice. Trying to take an impression at home without the proper equipment and training can be dangerous. (


If you elect to have treatment by a local orthodontist, you will also need an impression or a scan of your teeth. This will be completed by your orthodontist, or by a certified dental assistant.  Furthermore, a visit to your local orthodontist will involve a full clinical examination and x-rays.  These are needed to determine if you are a good candidate for treatment and the types of options available to you.

This is a very important step that Company X neglects! Your teeth are not only for smiling and chewing. They live within a specific housing of bone and gum tissue. These are part of your upper and lower jaws (maxilla and mandible).  And those are all part of your entire craniofacial complex. In addition, the position of the jaws, and your teeth within them, can influence your lips, chin, soft tissue esthetics and smile.

Your orthodontist will utilize the x-rays and examination to evaluate all of these various factors before presenting you with treatment options.


Step 2: Digital Work Up
Company X

The second step for Company X is to input the information from the 3D scan or impression into a software program. After that, a digital work up is created. This will simulate how your teeth will move during treatment.

Company X claims that a dentist or orthodontist will finalize your scan and monitor your treatment. As we discussed in a previous blog post, there is a difference between a dentist, orthodontist and board certified orthodontist. ( It is unclear whether Company X will allow you to make changes. In addition, it is unclear whether an orthodontist will be available to answer any of your questions.


Your orthodontist who performs the initial evaluation will provide you with a digital work up of your teeth and explain the various types of tooth movements. You will have the ability to ask questions and make any necessary modifications with your orthodontist until you are satisfied.

It is important to remember that the digital work up is just a simulation of how your teeth will move and respond to the forces of aligner treatment. There are many factors that can influence your treatment progress, including compliance, hygiene, severity of your initial malocclusion, and even your own biology. Your orthodontist will be able to explain all of these details to you before starting treatment and make a plan to address them before they arise.


Step 3: Start Your Treatment
Company X

After your digital work up, Company X will mail you your box of aligners. It is unclear whether this box contains all the necessary information for patients to use the aligners as effectively as possible. Your assigned dentist or orthodontist will monitor your treatment every 90 days through your customer account. It is unclear how this “monitoring” will occur and what exactly that entails.

After your treatment is finished, Company X gives you the opportunity to purchase/or will give you a retainer to maintain your smile. It is unclear how this retainer is fabricated and to what tooth position. It is also unclear what Company X will do if you are not satisfied with the final position of your teeth or smile.


After the digital work up, your orthodontist will deliver your aligners in an office setting. Therefore, you will personally receive the necessary instructions on how to use and maintain your aligners. Your orthodontist is always available if you have questions or concerns during your treatment. They will monitor your progress with follow up visits every 10-12 weeks.

These follow up visits are very important because it allows the orthodontist to monitor how your teeth are moving and determine if any modifications need to be made.

Retention is the phase after active treatment and it is just as important as the treatment phase itself.  At the conclusion of your treatment, your orthodontist will fabricate retainers to your final tooth position and make sure that you are completely satisfied with the final treatment result. It is important to remember that your teeth, like all things in your body will change with time. The only way to guarantee that your teeth remain in the position you want is to wear your retainers. If you stop wearing them, your teeth will inevitably begin to shift.

At Somerville Orthodontics, we believe that retention is for life. If you enroll in our Retainers 4 Life program, we will replace your retainers (up to 4 per year) for a reasonable copayment. Make sure you contact us for more information!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Your Orthodontist vs Do-It-Yourself Aligners.

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If you have any other questions about do-it-yourself aligner companies, or have a suggestion regarding a blog post, please contact us at 617-227-2421 or [email protected].

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