Pros, cons of straightening your teeth at home

(From Invisalign via CNN)

Customers are flocking to mail-order teeth straightening because many say it saves big money.

The way it works, customers get scans in person. Here in Houston, customers go to a "smile shop" off Bellaire Boulevard. There, Smile Direct dentists take a mold of your mouth and then customers do not go back to the shop. The company mails aligners for three months or six months and then every 90 days, the company said, they request photos of your progress.

The company said it costs less than $2,000, which is less than traditional braces, but one local dentist says, “You get what you pay for.”

Dr. Terri Alani said doing this at home is a big mistake because you're not seeing a professional in person along the way.

“You need to have supervision because during the process, there could be some tweaking that needs to be done,” she said. “There could be some modifications that need to be done with the trays, maybe the tray not fit right or maybe the teeth aren't moving correctly. You can stop the process and correct it at that time.”

She questions how the company can send months of supplies if your teeth shouldn't be the same at the end of the process.

So, KPRC spoke with the Chief Clinical Officer of Smile Direct, Jeffrey Sulitzer, and asked about this concern.

“It's no different than if you went to a Houston orthodontist and did Invisalign let's say, when you get your impressions or your scans done, you would then come the next visit and then they would give you the box of aligners. They would ask you to put in the first aligner and you put it in and you would see if it works. We do the same thing,” Sulitzer said.

Sulitzer said if something isn't working, a photo sent to the company from your phone is good enough to know if patients are on the right track or need modified aligners and he says the mail order service can reach more people in rural areas without access to orthodontists.

"Smile Direct Club has actually effective treatment in 70% of those undermanned counties," Sulitzer said.

Beth Weed from Clear Lake estimates that by using Smile Direct she's straightened her teeth and saved thousands of dollars.

“Put them in and they just seem to work," Weed said.

However, many of the reviews on the company's Facebook page said they're hard to contact when something isn't right. People who were unsatisfied, did not speak on-camera.

However, Weed said even when her treatment was over and she wasn't satisfied with the results, the company was responsive and provided her with more trays, “I had the new ones -- like within two weeks!" she said.

On the Better Business Bureau website, the reviews are 50% positive and 50% negative.