Board Certified Orthodontist treating children, teens and adults. Specializing in early interceptive treatment and dentofacial orthopedics.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Braces v. Fake-Orthodontics; Public left to educate themselves about Orthodontics
Public left to educate themselves about
Braces v. Fake-Orthodontics
I have written about the public’s perception of Orthodontics
(see my Blog article entitled “Public Perception of Orthodontics”) as
well as advertising/propaganda by social media and even by various companies
and other non-Orthodontists offering lesser forms of Orthodontics or what I
would term “fake-Orthodontics” such as Invisalign, etc. for many years.However I feel I must re-visit this subject with
a focus on Public self-education.
To understand what changes have occurred in marketing and
advertising, we must first go back to a time when Braces were only used by
experts.As recent as 5 to 10 years ago,
General Dentists performed routine dental care, root canals, fillings, restorative
work (crowns, bridges, partials) and hygiene care.And they did these very well.At the same time, almost every General Dentist
would follow the American Dental Association and American Association of
Orthodontists guidelines to have every child see an accredited Orthodontist by
age 6 to see if there were any early developing problems.Teens and adults with crowding would be
referred to the Orthodontist for alignment with braces.
Why General Dentists referred patients
1.They knew their
education was limited on Orthodontics and that only the experts would be
able to identify some problems early; they
knew diagnosis was perhaps as important as the treatment.
2.They cared about
the long-term health of their family of patients; they knew they would be
responsible in the future if something was missed early; they knew crowded
teeth led to more cavities and could cause low esteem in kids and they trusted
the Orthodontist to fix any problems.
3.They wanted to
offer complete service with the best options for all patients as a practice
builder; they worked in a dental “community”; within a circle of
professionals that were all masters of their field.
4.There was a
defined and established “Standard of care” from the ADA, AAO and every
other governing boards of Orthodontics that mandated a specific proficiency and
accredited education level to perform Orthodontics and General Dentists
respected this ethical obligation.
5.They knew a “Jack
of all Trades” was a Master of None.The
whole idea for specialists was that there is too much information to be an
expert in every field, this is why specialists also do not perform General
Dentist procedures because in becoming an expert in Orthodontists, they could
not also be an expert General Dentist.Good dentists work as a team with their colleagues.
So what has changed, why are untrained
General Dentists pushing “fake Orthodontics” or Invisalign/Clear aligners?
First of all, every point made above should be absolutely
valid today.Unfortunately, professional
ethics in advertising and practice are not the same they used to be and there
is so little oversight that the public is really left to the mercy of the dentist
they happen to end up with (location, insurances accepted, costs, personal
I would argue one large problem in more populated areas has
been a flood of General Dentists with a lack of restorative work to keep them
busy and the rapid turn-over of practices, doctors and patients causing a move
away from comprehensive general dentistry.The trend today is to treat everything as fast as possible, do it all “in-house”,
and then dismiss the patient.
Insurance also has been a factor. Consider that a good,
quality family dentist has to pay more for better staff, pay for an independent
building or lease, buy his/her own equipment and maintain a pool of many
patients over long periods of time for routine cleanings and monitoring. A good family dentist is going to be around
for many years; he/she will have to answer for any problems that may show years
after treatments.A dental company that employs dentists can
share equipment, rent, and have limited to no long-term responsibility to
patients.Dentists come and go almost
yearly and they have no personal responsibility for long-term dental care;
companies can change dentists at an alarming rate and the company owns the
records, not the employee dentist or Orthodontist.
Companies can provide cheap service with less quality and
can therefor accept lower reimbursement from insurances.The more of these “dental factories” in a
community, the harder it is for an independent dentist to succeed and the worse
off patients are for comprehensive care.
A new report last month in Dental Economics revealed an average overhead of 78% for sole
dental practitioners.Therefore, profit
is only 22%.Insurances ROUTINELY will
offer HMO or PPO plans where the dentist must agree to accept lower fees in
exchange for being an “exclusive provider”.What is the discounted fee? Usually they require a full 20% discount of
usual fees.That’s right, nearly all of
the profit of an independent office.
accept this insurance [HMO’s and PPO’s], a dentist or Orthodontist is
essentially only working to pay his/her overhead, staff and keep around 2% for
In this environment, General Dentists start looking to
increase profits by offering other services, even when they are not proficient
or qualified.They become “in-house”
labs and “we do everything” clinics.Little
by little, as they introduce “fake Orthodontics” into their practice, they
erode the standards of care and the entire field of Orthodontics suffers.
Dentists [offering Orthodontic treatment] erode the standards of care and the
entire specialty of Orthodontics suffers.”
I had always been told by older Orthodontists in the
previous generation that great quality will always beat out mediocre treatment
but I am afraid this just is not the case in general; for one, the public goes
for the cheaper route first (including insurance plans).Secondly, it is very difficult for a patient
to know what quality really is when they are bombarded by misleading
advertising from Social Media, paid false testimonials, un-ethical General
Dentists, Dental Factories and even Dental supply companies that present
aligner trays (Invisalign, Clear Correct, Smile Club, etc., etc.) as equal to
traditional braces.It is equally difficult
for an Orthodontist to advertise his/her quality to a public drowning in
propaganda and social media hyperbole.And it is uncertain whether a dentist providing “fake Orthodontics” will
critique their own work if it is limited at best and more often quite deficient.You can bet that no dentist would place
restorations with the same poor occlusion they leave many times after Invisalign.
no dentist would place restorations with the same poor occlusion they leave
many times after Invisalign”
Advertisers, marketers and dental companies know every bit
what patients want to hear and they exploit that routinely.They also know they can bury the truth behind
five pages of junk marketing and false claims on Google.Just search braces or Orthodontists or even Invisalign
directly and look at all of the paid advertisements; it’s impossible to find a
real article about the efficacy or (in)effectiveness of Invisalign.And don’t forget about the “art of omission”
which is when a provider just says “I can straighten those teeth, let’s get an
impression for Invisalign” with no mention of anything else or specialty
“ …the “art of
omission”… is when providers [general dentists] just says “I can straighten
those teeth, let’s get an impression for Invisalign” with no mention of
anything else or specialty care/standards.”
Unfortunately, as more General Dentists have been pushing
the “fake Orthodontics” or Invisalign over the last 5 to 10 years, more real
Orthodontists are seeing their referrals dry up and their practices losing
patients unless they also provide Invisalign which is exactly the strategy of
these companies; to give the other providers credibility once the specialists
are also using their product.It has
become a giant game of dominos.
Something also more common in the last 10 years is that
there are many more adults realizing the benefits of Orthodontics but they are
more likely to resist braces; this has led to more patients treating but with
inferior products such as Invisalign.At
first many of us figured some treatment was better than nothing for adults that
would refuse braces.But in the long run
this has proven to create a monster of a problem as more teen are now being
offered “fake Orthodontics” with aligners to try and attract them to one office
over another (to tell them what THEY want to hear so they choose an office over
another). This is all too common in Austin currently and is leading to rather
poor treatments with low overall standards of care and many re-treats.
first many of us [Orthodontists] figured some treatment [clear aligner therapy]
was better than nothing for adults that would refuse braces.But in the long run this has proven to create
a monster of a problem as more teens are now being offered fake Orthodontics
with aligners to try and attract them to one office over another”
As a side note, there is also a population of dentists that will
sell very large and expensive “instant correction” schemes to people instead of
offering alignment by Braces.Why?
Because porcelain, ceramic, and now zirconia look better than previous
generations and can cover small defects and discolorations as well as change the
shape of teeth to make them appear straighter in some cases.In the past, this would be frowned on by the
dental profession as providing unnecessary dental work that damaged teeth (see
the teeth being prepped for typical crowns below) and created a life-long
dependence on replacement and future restorations (of otherwise healthy teeth).
I once even heard the president of the Capital Area Dental
Society in Austin speak about his “Pearls of Wisdom” in a meeting with over 200
dental professionals; his “Pearl”? Shave crooked upper front teeth down and
place porcelain crowns/veneers with straight front surfaces so the teeth would
now be straight instantly.Cost? $8,000
for the front six teeth.Result? Six
bulky front teeth that looked like Chiclets (yes that square, white chewing
gum); opaque and monochromatic, with excessive overjet (buck teeth) due to the
still-crowded inside surfaces contacting lower teeth.Even if the front of the top teeth are made
to look good (see below) the gums get squeezed out in areas and remain inflamed
in many cases which can lead to periodontitis, recession and eventual
replacement; opposing teeth will become severely worn and more dental problems
will be created for the future.Lower teeth
can no longer be aligned because they would not fit the back of the upper
So what should the Public know?
“Orthodontics” is the science and practice of correcting
malocclusions, not just making teeth pretty in the front.It is a fallacy to call Invisalign a form of
Orthodontics and certainly “Invisible braces” (I am sure they would disagree as
would dentists that are heavily invested in Invisalign).The facts show in almost every research study
not paid for by Invisalign, and even some that are funded by Align technologies
(their parent company), that traditional braces are far superior in every
aspect of movement (refer to evidence presented in my Blog entitled “New
2017 Study shows Invisalign only 50% effective v. Braces” and “Does
Invisalign work? (And should I believe all the Advertising)” with
evidence and studies taken directly from clinical research studies published in
the Journal of the American Association of Orthodontics & Dentofacial
Orthopedics which sets the standards for modern orthodontics).
is the science and practice of correcting malocclusions, not just making teeth
pretty in the front.
In every AJODO study comparing Braces to Invisalign that I
have read (and I believe I have read them all), Traditional (real) Braces are
faster, more efficient, can move teeth farther with true root movements; they
can be adjusted month to month as jaws shift changing the relationship and
function of the occlusion and they are not compliance based.In short, Traditional Braces provide
Orthodontic corrections (ideal esthetics with ideal function and stability)
while Invisalign and other clear aligners tip teeth to appear straighter
without the ability to fully move teeth in all dimensions and leaves the
occlusion worse off in many cases (again refer to articles presented in my Blog
directly from the AJODO) and almost never equivalent to traditional braces.
are faster, more efficient, can move teeth farther with true root movement and
can be adjusted month to month as jaws shift changing the relationship and
function of the occlusion [v. Invisalign].”
So why doesn’t the public know this?
Unfortunately, technology has out-pacing regulations and
dentistry.Social media advertising has
become the driving force in many direct-to-the-public campaigns and there have
been no regulations and no oversight on social media, no rules or penalties for
false advertising, no proof required to pass on propaganda (just look at recent
elections). Companies learned this was a path for selling directly to the
public instead of having to sell their product to a dental professional who
then would “use” their product when it seemed appropriate or as the AJODO
defined.As a public company (no
different than Coca-Cola or Hershey’s), Invisalign was run by business people,
They tested the public and learned exactly what the public
wanted to hear, these companies then incorporated this into their social media
campaign.They also went directly to
General Dentists to sell their product as a replacement for braces because
Orthodontists were not accepting Invisalign as a good product for most patients.Companies instead pushed General Dentists to provide
Invisalign themselves and to profit from them without referring patients out to
a specialist.After enough years of
this, and especially due to new generation of dentists that were “trained” by
Invisalign marketers, almost every dentist now offers this “fake-Orthodontics”
and most never refer a case out to the specialist.Either through omission, ignorance, false
claims or maybe just purely profit, it seems rare that patients are even
informed of better treatment by these dentists that offer “fake Orthodontics”
or Invisalign. (Refer to the Blog entitles “How Facebook is Dumbing Down Orthodontics” and
and Social Media”)
This has led to a reduced standard of care and an altogether
attitude of “give the patients what they [think] they want.As more orthodontists just give up, the
future of true Orthodontics is quite literally in jeopardy.That means true Orthodontic care to restore
function, protect against TMD (jaw pain/joint disorders), provide a life-long
functional occlusion and preserve natural teeth will be harder to find and more
expensive.It also means, as I have seen
over and over, many cases will have been incorrectly, incompletely or poorly
treated and require now require re-treatment altogether (you can see some of
these cases in my other blogs titled “Braces
,,, For than just a smile” and “Braces are Better ! (and here’s why)”.
So how can patients wade through the propaganda
and marketing to make sure they are paying for true Orthodontics and not a
First, find a good General Dentist that doesn’t try to do
everything “in house”; look for someone that works his specialist colleagues to
provide the very best for his patients and look for someone who is going to
take time to formulate short-term and long-term treatment goals.Talk to friends and neighbors to find a
dentist that continues to follow up with patients and talk to the hygienist
about the office you are seeing.
When it comes to any Orthodontic questions, get a consult
with a true Orthodontist, preferably a Board certified Orthodontist if there is
one nearby.These are generally free of
charge and very informative.Once you
are in the consult and if treatment is recommended, ask the Orthodontist for
the best treatment option and have him/her provide benefits v. disadvantages of
braces v. Clear Aligners if aligners are immediately recommended (I would ask them
if they feel braces are faster & more reliable and can aligners move the
teeth the same as braces).
Next, ask for similar cases already treated to see that this
Orthodontist can do what they say with other cases.All certified Orthodontists will take a full
set of records on every patient (models, X-Rays and Photographs) and should
have plenty of these cases to share with you.
Finally, be sure and tell the Orthodontist you are expecting
a successful and stable outcome; if the treatment with aligners fails, do you
still have to pay for braces to finish (and who decides the results are failing)?
If you have a treatment with a General Dentist, you really
have to have a certified Orthodontist check the results to see if your
occlusion is acceptable after treatment; I have found it highly unlikely for
dentists using “fake Orthodontics” to actually critique their work when
complete and fewer accept issue with the bite thereafter.If back teeth are not in contact after
treatment, then you should demand this be corrected. See my Blog “Does Invisalign work? (And should
I believe all the Advertising)” to see some of the more common and
obvious problems seen with Invisalign treatments.
Should you completely avoid clear aligners?
Even though Braces are superior in every way except
esthetics during treatment (obviously the clear aligners are the least
visible), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider clear aligners for simple
cases in adults.Most people will not be
able to distinguish a perfect bite from braces versus a good bite with aligners.The problem for the public is that unless
your doctor is an Orthodontist and offers both braces and aligners, you are
probably not going to get an honest answer for the best treatment without some
probing (and even then you may not).
Orthodontists are held to a higher standard and will be more
knowledgeable on when not to recommend aligners or when their inherent
limitations are going to affect function after treatment.
If you have questions or comments concerning this or any
orthodontic question, please feel free to make a complimentary new-patient
appointment at either my Steiner Ranch location or my North-central Austin
location on West 35th street and MoPac.
Dr. James R. Waters is
a 1996 graduate from UTHSC Dental School in San Antonio, 1997 graduate of
Advanced Dentistry from the UNMC in Nebraska and the 2001 Valedictorian
graduate from the prestigious Saint Louis University Orthodontic Program
receiving the J.P. Marshall award for clinical excellence in 2001.He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science,
Doctorate in Dental Surgery, a post-doctorate certificate in Advanced
Dentistry, post-doctorate Degree in Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
and a Master of Science Degree in Orthodontics and is a Diplomate of the
American Board of Orthodontics.Dr.
Waters and his wife of 22 years live in Austin, TX with their 4 children where
he has a thriving, multi-faceted Specialist practice with locations in Steiner
Ranch and North-Central Austin.You can
learn more about Dr. Waters at BracesAustin.com.