The worry with such services is that patients are missing out on crucial care steps provided by a one-to-one consultation with an orthodontist. This can include jaw x-rays, and general dental health checks, which are fundamental to the overall well-being of the teeth.
USC alumni Nehi Ogbevoen, now an accomplished orthodontist, explains, “There’s a lot of things we can catch on an X-ray — for example, impacted teeth. There are other things we can catch that, if you aren’t seeing a dentist regularly, can be really scary.”
“We not only want to improve aesthetics but also the function of the bite,” he adds,
“We’re trying to plan your bite and smile and how they are going to age over the next 30, 40 years.”
The open-source dental opportunity
In 2016 famed designer Amos Dudley shed significant light on the power of 3D printing in dentistry by creating his own corrective braces at home. The blog charting his homegrown dental care project comes with a disclaimer advising readers against taking such action on their own. However it seems it has sparked some concern within the professional dental market.
Not only this, but entrepreneurs seeking to cash-in on the opportunities offered by dental 3D printing have also started cropping up. And this, in particular, is what comes under scrutiny at USC.
The problem with “DIY” dentistry
As an established brand within dentistry Invisalign is of course a respected business within this sphere. However, “the world’s largest user of state-of-the-art 3D printing technology for making highly accurate, customized aligners,” is not the kind of opportunist targeted by USC critics.
Invisalign requires patients to organize an appointment before seeking treatment. It is instead such businesses that seem to solely operate online that have come under fire. Those that allow a patient to submit their own 3D scanned dental model for consideration, without consultation.
The problem here can be that any existing dental-health conditions can fly under the radar, causing deeper issues for the patient. In particular Hany Youssef, faculty member at the USC Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, has come face-to-face with a patient who suffered negative side effects due to a condition missed when undertaking this type of “DIY” dental care.
How to get low-cost dental care
Rather than scaremongering though, the recommendation here is that patients should be asking lots of questions before they go ahead with the low-cost alternative. It is also making orthodonists reflect on the high cost of treatment and, USC experts, believe that this new, more convenient approach will have a trickle-down effect on the wider dental industry.
Glenn T. Sameshima, chairman and program director of USC’s Advanced Orthodontics Certificate Program, says accessibility needs to be taken into account. “I see a future,” he adds, “20 to 30 years from now, when they’ll be able to do a combination of clear aligners and braces, with 3D printing bringing these costs down.”