Before the pandemic, teledentistry was considered to be in its infancy and was only officially permitted in a few states. COVID-19 changed the landscape, halting in-person dental care, save for emergencies. The severity of the pandemic disconnected orthodontists and their patients, thrusting teledentistry into the spotlight. Access to oral health care is one of the most common reasons cited for the disparity in oral health in rural communities, according to the report: “Improving Oral Health Care Services In Rural America.”
Teledentistry is among several state strategies to connect patients to oral health providers. Teledentistry is designed by states to meet the unique needs of the population, with services often including face-to-face consultation between the practicing orthodontist and patient via video conference, as well as sharing images and records among providers. Removable, clear dental aligners seem to fit perfectly into the teledentistry model.
Invisalign had largely cornered the market by selling removable aligners to patients through dental practitioners and orthodontists who then administer and monitor the treatment plan. Clear aligners became an increasingly attractive alternative to metal-wire braces, as they can be temporarily removed for eating and drinking. A poll from the American Dental Association indicated that the pandemic has given rise to an increase in teeth grinding as well as chipped and cracked teeth. As a result, orthodontists were busier than ever, with many patients preferring clear aligners as an alternative to traditional braces.
What Drives The Adoption of Clear Aligners?
According to Neeraj Gunsagar, company president of Byte, “People are increasingly relying on the at-home economy, trading gym memberships for a Peloton, conference rooms for Zoom, restaurants for Blue Apron kits. Byte fits into this ‘new normal’, since you can achieve your dream smile without ever leaving your home.” Gunsagar’s point is well taken as the orthodontics start-up whose sales of direct-to-consumer aligners rapidly increased during the first half of 2020, signalling a clear need in the market.
A study found that the worldwide prevalence of malocclusion was around 56%. Some of the highest prevalences can be found in Africa, Europe and America. As malocclusion can be treated with the use of clear aligners, the prevalence of this condition is most likely one of the driving forces behind the adoption of clear aligner therapy. In the United States alone it is estimated that the number of patients using this therapy has increased to 4 million during 2020.
The Difference Between In-Office Aligners and At-Home Aligners
Whether readers visit Smile Prep to find suitable alternatives to Invisalign, or do their own research on new developments in orthodontics, they will undoubtedly find that there are two aligner options available: in-office and at-home. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
In-office aligners: A leading example here would be Invisalign. Patients need to visit a licensed Invisalign doctor to receive these aligners and the treatment process can be more extensive. As an incredibly popular treatment option it can be used to correct a number of issues including (but not limited to): crossbite and overjet. Typically, treatment can see a patient up to $5,000 out of pocket, which can place this treatment option out of reach for a lot of patients.
At-home aligners: Also referred to as “direct-to-consumer” aligners. These are a cheaper alternative to in-office aligners. Many times distance and financial reasons have been cited as barriers preventing patients from visiting their orthodontist. As treatment can be completed remotely, direct-to-consumer aligners, such as Byte and Candid, help to address a need in the market. Candid is the only aligner company to offer a Remote Monitoring service, helping the patient’s orthodontist keep track of treatment progress. Typically the Candid treatment option would see patients spend around $2,400 on treatment.
Ashley G. from Semmens had this review about Byte: “I chose Byte because it was affordable and the treatment time was fast. They have exceeded my expectations! I wanted to fix my gap and my overbite. The first couple of days they did hurt but after that, you don’t even feel them. Now, I love to smile and I do it with confidence. I’ve gotten so many compliments. Customer support alone has been by my side since day one checking in on me and I like that. Thank you Byte!”
Both in-office and at-home aligners are made of clear, medical grade plastic that is BPA-free.
While the pandemic has made in-office dental treatment a complicated process, some comfort can be taken from the positive side-effect COVID-19 has had with the advancement of dental care technology. It is now possible to treat certain dental flaws entirely from the comfort of the patient’s home through the use of clear aligners and teledentistry – an option that did not exist a few years ago. Right now, consumers and patients are in a better position than before to identify suitable cost effective alternatives to Invisalign.