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Illusions or reality of do it yourself DIY invisible braces named clear aligners — straighten your teeth at home?

By Dr Sherif Kandil

Have you ever heard about teeth straightening using clear plastic aligners like those from Invisalign, K Clear from k line europe, Clearcorrect and etc.? If yes then you are about for a treat if not, then this could be science fiction for you.

Clear aligners or invisible braces are clear plastic trays that are used as an alternative to the traditional braces. The patient receives several aligner trays packed and numbered to be worn for 1–2 weeks in order sequence till you reach the last aligner where your teeth have been straightened. So trays of plastic used for moving teeth, easy right? not so fast, the amount of effort and steps taken to manufacture one single aligner involve over 6 different processes and endeavors, from 3d scanning your teeth at the dentist or orthodontist, sending the 3D scans to the lab, receiving a 3D video simulation from the lab, approval, 3D printing the corresponding 3d models of your teeth for every planed movement, thermoforming the plastic sheets which eventually will be your aligners to finally finishing, polishing and packing your aligners.
We know teeth straightening as a process that is done at the doctor’s office. Nope think again! it is now available online and almost with no or less doctor’s interference. The question is why would we take the doctor out of the equation?… to cut the price of teeth straightening.

Makes sense? not really... let’s dive into this!
There seems to be a big frenzy and buzz going on in the orthodontic market lately, many providers hopping into the market to offer invisible braces or the so-called clear aligners hoping for fast revenue in a deceivingly thought easy business.
As we have seen in many Unicorn companies in the last 10 years their strategies are basically revolving around exponential growth and disruption. These 2 factors were coined by many companies and have been often used to the extent that they have been lately misused to rise on the top of the mountain of capitalism at its finest forms while anchoring their footsteps on the ignorance of clients shoulders.
So what do the newcomers do to be disruptive and reach a hungry market? ditch the doc and sell to the end consumer directly!
The DIY or direct consumer clear aligner companies provide teeth impression kits to the consumers to make impressions at home. The patient receives a 3D video simulation showing how the teeth will move from start till the end of treatment.

Companies doing that are like Smiledirectclub, yoursmiledirect, straightteethdirect, sunshinesmile and many others fighting for a small piece of the pie (i.e. <5% of the market ) and hoping that the pie will get bigger soon to increase the valuation of the 5% segment.
The orthodontic market is evaluated at almost 11 Billion USD in the USA only. clear aligner market players have a share of almost 3 Billion USD of that.
I will wear the good guy’s hat for a few seconds. This is an amazing opportunity to bring value for the end client, you save time by maybe going once or not at all to the doc, just following up the treatment through online communication. Most of all you save money by almost 70% of what you pay at your dentist or orthodontist. So the value is there for sure!
Now let me wear the bad guy’s hat. This is absurd!..so they provide a medical product, use one technique throw it at all patients, and give them the illusion of happy endings! sorry I meant happy smiles!