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Poll: Would you do orthodontia by mail?

The internet has made DIY ? Do It Yourself ? a movement and a mantra that many people take to heart.
/ Source: NBC News

The internet has made DIY – Do It Yourself – a movement and a mantra that many people take to heart.

And, evidently, to mouth.

Braces can be a pricey pain, as TODAY anchor correspondent Sheinelle Jones knows well.

So in an effort to avoid the high cost of braces, 27 year-old John Hofford turned to the internet for dental support and found a company that claims to offer a fast, easy and at-home way to a straighten teeth.

“Typically, the invisible braces, or the Invisalign, or things like that – all the quotes I got were anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 dollars,” said Hofford. “On this plan I'll probably end up spending about $1,000 total over the course of the year.”

The discounted price is possible because customers who choose this route skip never visit an orthodontist’s office and instead order a starter kit on-line, take impressions of their own teeth and ship that back to the company. Custom aligners and a treatment plan are returned in the mail.

“You know this probably isn't for everybody but it worked for me,” said Hofford.

Hofford’s aligners came from Crystal Braces. SmileCareClub offers a similar service. And both companies say the mail-in cases are overseen by dental professionals.

“Is this do-it-yourself orthodontics? The answer to that question is absolutely not,” said Amy Carter, VP, Network Development for SmileCareClub.

Many professionals disagree and warn that mail-order orthodontics can lead to problems far worse than crooked teeth.

“Attempts to move teeth without the regular supervision of an orthodontist can result in permanent damage to teeth such as tooth loss, root resorption, tooth decay or other serious and costly problems,” said Robert Varner, president of the American Association of Orthodontists.

Varner says those seeking affordable treatment have other options.

“Most orthodontists offer payment plansand will work with you to find something that fits your monthly budget,” said Varner. Treatment is sometimes available at orthodontic schools and there are organizations that help low income patients receive treatment at no or low cost.

“There are major health risks associated with this [DIY] trend,” said Varner. “It’s a case of buyer beware.”