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Review options for your smile: The benefits of invisible aligners

By Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD

Teledentistry is the use of electronic information, imaging, and communication technologies to provide dental care diagnosis, consultation, treatment, and education. Teledentistry includes remote, digital monitoring of patients who may otherwise not have access to care. Teledentistry is more affordable, convenient, and accessible for patients – while still providing the same level of care as in-office dental visits.

In fact, “All the applications used in teledentistry aim to bring about efficiency, provide access to underserved population, improve quality of care, and reduce oral disease burden.”[1]

A common misconception about teledentistry is that there isn’t an actual doctor involved. SmileDirectClub is completely doctor-directed, and their invisible aligners are offered through a network of over 225 dentists and orthodontists with years of aligner therapy experience. Each patient is treated by a licensed dentist or orthodontist who oversees their individual case from start to finish, including their medical and dental history. SmileDirectClub’s teledentistry model extends access to quality orthodontics and has increased underserved Americans’ access to care by 84%.[2]

smile direct club teledentistry orthodontic care

Dental and orthodontic compliance

As part of your treatment, are comprehensive diagnostic records like X-rays taken before your treatment?

Gum treatment, a part of periodontal care, is very important for the overall success of any dental treatment. Teeth and gums need to be free of bleeding, infection, and tartar before any care can begin. Any necessary X-rays, as determined by your treating doctor, can be obtained from your local dentist to continue with your invisible aligner plan.

SmileDirectClub treatment includes taking photographs of your face, mouth, and teeth. Treatment also includes having a digital scan done or taking impressions of your teeth.

As part of your treatment fee, do you receive any in-person visits to a dentist’s or orthodontist’s office during your treatment?

Although not covered in the fee charged by the dentists and orthodontists who make up our network, we always recommend that every customer see their local dentist or orthodontist in person before beginning any remote aligner therapy treatment and suggest that it continue during and after invisible aligner orthodontic care.

how smile direct club works doctors

Does SmileDirectClub work?

Is only one treatment type offered (such as invisible aligners or a certain appliance)?

SmileDirectClub offers invisible aligners and clear retainers for those who have finished treatment. SmileDirectClub is best for those with mild to moderate spacing or crowding. The treating dentist or orthodontist will not offer treatment if the customer’s correction is outside of their ability to treat effectively and garner the appropriate and expected outcomes.

How do you know if your teeth and gums are healthy enough for orthodontic treatment?

The duly licensed SmileDirectClub-affiliated dentist or orthodontist will determine their patient’s eligibility for treatment. This includes any necessary X-rays, dental records, and required clearances from the customer’s local dentist or orthodontist.

What are the possible risks (financial, health, etc.) associated with your orthodontic treatment?

We’ve already helped more than 300,000 people transform their smiles safely and effectively. However, there are risks that are a part of any orthodontic treatment, whether you use invisible aligners or traditional braces, or are being treated via teleorthodontics or in a traditional setting. That is why it is so important that customers follow their smile plan as prescribed and wear their aligners as directed by their treating doctor to ensure the process continues to be safe and effective.

The Consent and Medical and Dental History forms presented to and signed by all customers before beginning treatment outline all potential risks, benefits, and any potential alternatives.

smile direct club satisfied customers

Dental supervision

If a dentist or orthodontist is involved with your treatment, do you know the name of the dentist or orthodontist who will be specifically involved with your case (for example, is it available on the company’s website or elsewhere)?

Yes, every customer is treated by a licensed dentist or orthodontist who will remotely evaluate, develop, and monitor their orthodontic invisible aligner care. We work with a network of 225 affiliated duly licensed dentists and orthodontists who create and manage treatment throughout their patient’s journey. The prescribing dentist’s or orthodontist’s name is provided to each customer. We do not state the identity of the treating doctor on our website in order to protect the customer’s personal health information.

If a doctor is involved with your orthodontic treatment, how can you contact him or her over the course of your treatment? How can you contact him or her if an emergency arises?

Customers can contact their doctor via the dental team at any time by phone or through their online account in order to address their concerns or questions.

A 2018 systematic review found that teledentistry could be comparable to face-to-face for oral screening, especially in rural areas and those with limited access to care.[3]

smile direct club dentist orthodontist network

Who can you speak with at the online orthodontic company about your orthodontic treatment?

Our Customer Care team is available 23/7 via phone, email, social media, and chat. They can direct any clinical questions to our dental team, as well as the customer’s treating licensed dentist or orthodontist. The dental team is composed of licensed dental assistants and hygienists with orthodontic experience and training.

Who is responsible for detecting any issues that may occur during your orthodontic treatment?

The treating doctor or orthodontist will monitor treatment throughout the case, from the creation of the treatment plan, to the initial placement of the aligners, through to the retention phase. Customers should follow their prescription and wear their aligners as directed for optimal results. We also have customers confirm that they will continue seeing their local dentist or orthodontist for regular checkups throughout their SmileDirectClub treatment and after their treatment is completed.

If an issue arises during your treatment, how will it be handled and who will be responsible for handling it?

The treating doctors and the dental team handle issues that arise during treatment. Customer Care is available to act as a liaison between each customer and the appropriate dental professional.

smile direct club customer care

Responsibility and accountability

If an emergency arises, does the company have a dentist or orthodontist in your area that you can see in person? If not, who would cover the costs associated with seeing a dentist or orthodontist in your area?

The treating doctor will work with local dentists to address the concerns of any emergency. The good news is there aren’t many emergencies associated with clear aligner orthodontic therapy related to minor to moderate spacing and crowding. The treating doctor, with the assistance of the local dentist, will determine the nature of the problem, and consideration of cost will be determined at that time.

If you are injured or have another dispute involving your orthodontic treatment, how is it handled (litigation, arbitration, etc.)? State dental boards have their own complaint processes for patients who have had issues with orthodontic treatment.

Disputes are handled in the same manner as they are in the traditional setting.

If you are injured or have a dispute involving your orthodontic treatment, what rights do you have against the person or company involved with your orthodontic treatment?

Your rights and disputes are handled in the same manner as they are in the traditional setting.

Does the treatment model comply with the dental laws in your state?

Yes. SmileDirectClub’s affiliated dentists and orthodontists follow the “Standards of Care” and comply with the dental practice acts and laws in each state that they are licensed in. Our network of affiliated licensed dentists and orthodontists are licensed to treat patients in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the provinces in Canada where our affiliated dentists and orthodontists treat patients.

About the author

dr jeffrey sulitzer smile direct club

Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD

Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD, is the Lead Dentist at SmileDirectClub. From the start of his career, Dr. Sulitzer has aimed to impact oral health on a large scale. After graduating from the Temple University School of Dentistry, he spent more than a decade serving as Vice President of U.S. Healthcare’s dental division. Meanwhile, he continued to see his own patients in his private practice. Though his private practice afforded him the luxury of meeting patients in person, it was impossible for the dentist to see more than 15 patients daily, and Dr. Sulitzer was driven to access more people with different resources. At SmileDirectClub, he’s able to improve the lives of thousands of people through teledentistry.

Sources:

[1] Khan SA, Omar H. Teledentistry in practice. Telemed J E Health 2013;19:565-7.

[2] American Teledentistry Association. Teleorthodontics and doctor-directed at home clear aligner treatment: An American Teledentistry Association position paper. Jun 2018.

[3] Alabdullah J, Daniel SJ. A systematic review on the validity of teledentistry. Telemedicine and e-Health. Aug 2018.

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