Everything you need to know about at-home teeth straightening

After a year of looking at ourselves on video calls, many people are taking more of an interest in the way their smile looks, with cosmetic treatments such as teeth straightening on the rise.

You might have heard of at-home teeth straightening kits, sometimes known as ‘DIY braces’, which have emerged on the market in the last year or so. They’re being promoted as a solution to straighten your teeth without having to visit a dentist.

We often get asked by patients if DIY braces are safe and how they work. Sarah Ramage, Clinical Director at Bupa Dental Care, explains the differences between at-home and in-practice teeth straightening, and how to achieve a straighter smile, safely.

How do DIY braces work?

If you’re interested in teeth-straightening kits, you usually fill out an online form to get started. If you’re deemed suitable by the provider, you’ll receive a kit in the post which you’ll use to take moulds of your teeth, and then send these back for analysis. Some companies also have ‘smile clinics’, where you can have your impressions taken.

Once your impressions have been reviewed, you’ll receive a set of removable aligners in the post. After you’ve finished your treatment, in some cases, you’ll be offered removable retainers to wear at night.

At-home teeth straightening kits are aimed at people with simple teeth straightening needs, using clear aligners.

Are at-home teeth straightening kits safe and do they work?

Having teeth straightening is an investment in your smile, and we’d always recommend you seek a thorough examination from a dentist before you have any kind of braces. Seeing a dentist first to make sure your teeth are healthy enough to undergo such treatment is really important in making sure the final result is better – not worse!

Sarah Ramage explained, “Clinicians undertake comprehensive training before they can carry out orthodontics, as it’s a complex process. If you’re considering orthodontic treatments which are not planned, fitted or monitored by a dentist, they may not be safe or effective.

“A dentist will always undertake a comprehensive examination, after which they can then explain all your treatment options face to face, and the pros and cons of these. If you’re considering a product which doesn’t offer you a personal dental examination, then you may wish to think again; you need to have the opportunity to ask questions, understand your treatment, and give your consent.

“Professional concerns have been expressed that some products, often known as ‘at-home’, ‘DIY’, or ‘direct-to-consumer,’ treatments, which are only suitable for very simple teeth straightening cases, are in fact being supplied to patients with more complex requirements, which could do more harm than good.”

*Image taken before COVID-19

How does home teeth straightening differ to in-practice straightening?

The most significant differences between at-home and in-practice teeth straightening are:

  • Treatment options: At-home teeth straightening kits include clear aligners, which are designed to suit those with simple teeth straightening needs. A dentist providing a face to face consultation and examination will give you advice on all the orthodontic treatments available.

  • Personalised care: When you have braces in practice, you’ll see a dentist for an initial consultation, as well as regularly throughout the course of your treatment. Your treatment progress is closely monitored, meaning your dentist can adjust your braces if they need to.

  • Reassurance: Some people aren’t confident following a teeth-straightening plan at home. Seeing a dentist in practice can give you reassurance that your treatment journey is directly monitored by a professional.

  • Price: There’s a difference in cost, which reflects both the type of teeth straightening technique being used and the personalised and professional care provided.

What are the benefits of having orthodontic treatment at a Bupa Dental Care practice?

The three main advantages of having your teeth straightened by a dentist in practice are:

  • Expertise: You benefit from professional care by a trained dentist with orthodontic experience, so you can have confidence in your treatment.

  • Greater choice: Your dentist will explain to you the different orthodontic treatments available, and help you choose which is the most suitable for you.

  • Safety: When you visit a dentist, they will carry out a thorough clinical examination and check your clinical suitability. This includes taking impressions, photographs and X-rays to make sure there are no underlying issues that might impact the recommended treatment and desired results.

If you have treatment in practice, you’ll typically see your dentist every six to eight weeks. They carefully monitor your progress and oral health to ensure you get the results you want.

It isn’t always easy to predict how your teeth will move during orthodontic treatment, so seeing your dentist regularly allows for amendments to your treatment plan if needed. If necessary, your dentist can adjust your braces throughout your treatment.

*Image taken before COVID-19

Why do people choose to have at-home teeth straightening?

The main benefits of using at-home teeth straightening kits are advertised as:

  • Cost: DIY braces are often cheaper, as you don’t have the cost of ongoing consultations. The kits are not used for complex causes, which also affects the price.

  • Convenience: You don’t have to travel for appointments, and you’ll receive your aligners and retainers in the post.

At Bupa Dental Care, we’d always recommend seeking advice from a dentist before you consider any kind of teeth straightening treatment. Choosing the wrong type of orthodontic treatment, or having it when your teeth aren’t suitable, could cause lasting damage, and leave you with a less than perfect final result.

Who can legally perform teeth straightening, and who regulates at-home teeth straightening kits?

In the UK, orthodontic treatment is carried out by a dentist or orthodontist who’s registered with the General Dental Council (GDC).

One of the UK’s leading orthodontic societies, the British Orthodontic Society, has raised concerns about home-straightening kits and the lack of clinical supervision you receive with them*.

I’ve used an at-home teeth straightening kit and it hasn’t worked. What should I do?

If you’ve used a teeth straightening kit and are experiencing problems, you should get in touch with the provider and find out who’s responsible for fixing treatment issues as soon as possible.

If you have treatment in practice, your care is closely monitored by a UK-based GDC registered dentist who takes responsibility for your treatment.

Looking for safe and effective orthodontic treatment?

If you’re interested in straightening your smile safely and effectively, we can offer teeth straightening consultations at many of our practices all across the UK.

*British Orthodontic Society:

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Bupa Dental Care is a trading name of Oasis Dental Care Limited. Registered in England and Wales No: 00478127. Registered office: Bupa Dental Care, Vantage Office Park, Old Gloucester Road, Hambrook, Bristol, United Kingdom BS16 1GW.

Oasis Dental Care Limited has a number of trading names including Bupa Dental Care. For a list of all our different trading names please follow this link.

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