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Wolverhampton dentist warns of 'harmful' home treatment amid social media boom

Dentists are calling out 'harmful aligners' that consumers are buying directly without any consultation.

Clear Aligner Dental Night Guard For Teeth

Dr Chetan Sharma, a dentist based in Wolverhampton, has joined with colleagues to raise awareness with trade publication Dentistry, about the risks people are taking by purchasing online clear aligners, which are also known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) aligners, which is becoming a growing trend in orthodontic treatment.

Dr Sharma said: "I would strongly suggest to anyone that having no treatment is much safer than unsupervised treatment.

"These aligners are designed to be worn by patients at home, rather than being adjusted and monitored by a dental professional. While patients feel these aligners can be convenient and cost-effective, they also carry huge detrimental risks.

"Firstly before any orthodontic treatment, a comprehensive examination and extensive health assessment is required by a dental professional. Bypassing this means that serious oral health problems such as gum disease, dental decay and abscessed teeth can be overlooked and even worsen.

"Unfortunately, I have previously consulted a patient where periodontal treatment was indicated before orthodontic treatment. However, the patient had evaded this and gone ahead with direct-to-consumer clear aligners without the correct assessment.

"As a result, their teeth became mobile and resulted in the ill-fated loss of their teeth. The patient now requires gum surgery and lifelong care.

"Other risks involved in DIY online clear aligners include the lack of proper monitoring and adjustments throughout the treatment process. Clear aligners need to be adjusted from a dental professional at regular intervals to ensure teeth are moving at the safest and most optimal rate.

"Without monitoring the progress of the treatment, teeth may not track and there may be very little or no tooth movement. If treatment does not go to plan, you may have to visit a dentist anyway. This will incur more costs further down the line."

Dr Chetan Sharma doing an invisalign consultation

The concerns have been raised following a huge boom in social media advertising of teeth aligners and whitening kits, which professionals in the dental industry have raised concerns about as the treatments allow people to use dental treatment kits without any consultation.

Social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok are filled with videos and ads selling teeth aligners, and some 'influencers' even advertise the kits along with teeth whitening kits on their platforms.

These adverts on social media as well as DIY dentistry, which is a growing trend on the video sharing platforms are causing concern for dental professionals.

Dr Sharma added: "Raising awareness about the dangers of ordering clear aligners online is important. It ensures individuals are receiving proper treatment and to prevent permanent damage to their teeth. Dentists and orthodontists can play a key role in raising awareness about the importance of seeking treatment from a licensed professional.

"I truly believe as a dental profession we need to unite and create awareness campaigns through social media to educate the public about the dangers of online clear aligners. We can also participate in online discussions and forums to provide accurate information.

"Together, we can advocate for stricter regulations on the sale of clear aligners online and for stricter guidelines for their manufacturing and distribution.

"Ultimately, we all not only want to create beautiful smiles but also healthy smiles. Together as a dental community we are stronger, our voices louder, and the synergy of our actions are more powerful to educate the public on the dangers of online DIY clear aligners."