With countless direct-to-consumer aligner company advertisements promoted across a wide range of media outlets, consumers need guidance—now more than ever—on how to find the best teeth-straightening options for them and their families.

By Tonya Johnson

Seventy percent of adults and parents would consider direct-to-consumer treatment without a doctor’s supervision—so says a new survey conducted by Propeller Research and sponsored by Ormco Corp. What’s more, while the online survey of more than 1,000 adults rated a “smile” as the #1 characteristic of a positive first impression—the key to success, health, and happiness— most consumers do fewer than 3 hours of research when making orthodontic treatment decisions for themselves and their children, and admit to being confused about the latest teeth-straightening options to attaining a beautiful, healthy smile.

“I was particularly disheartened by the survey results that showed 7 in 10 parents and adults would strongly consider an in-mail consumer aligner treatment that often eliminates in-person visits with the orthodontist,” says Jeff Summers, DMD, of Summers Orthodontics in Greenville, SC. “Orthodontists have many years of specialty training after dental school and a suite of tools to treat a wide range of complex cases. Not all treatment options and results are equal, so my advice is for patients to do their homework and interview several orthodontists.”


To create a better-educated consumer, Ormco recently launched HealthySmileIQ.com to inform people that not all treatments, doctors, and even smiles are created equal, and to illuminate and debunk the myths around teeth-straightening treatment options. This is part of a larger campaign by Ormco that will see Summers, Stuart L. Frost, DDS, of Frost Orthodontics in Mesa, Ariz, and Lisa Lee Freeman, a consumer advocate and shopping coach, take to the media—including television and online platform appearances—to educate the public throughout 2020.

An enormous amount of information is just a click away online, empowering potential patients to go it alone when finding the right teeth-straightening option for themselves and/or their children—often without any insight from knowledgeable professionals. Moreover, consumers are exposed to a barrage of advertising for direct-to-consumer aligner options and a mixed bag of user reviews that can often cause them to arrive at the orthodontic office with preconceived notions about a particular type of treatment. The result: Prospective patients and their parents start to question the doctor’s treatment recommendations. Now more than ever, Freeman says, consumers need someone to guide them through the process and help them make the best choices for themselves and family members. And that’s where HealthySmileIQ.com comes in.

The site focuses on the vital role orthodontists play in helping consumers choose the right teeth-straightening methods. Content is updated regularly and includes resources to help consumers make informed decisions about treatment, including information on how to find and interview orthodontists in their area. Since its launch, the web campaign has garnered positive feedback from consumers and orthodontists alike.


Ormco’s efforts are part of a larger movement within the industry to remind consumers that when it comes to teeth straightening, an orthodontist is best positioned to offer them the right options for the best outcomes. These efforts are especially important as direct-to-consumer aligner companies have achieved unprecedented visibility among consumers.  

“Orthodontic treatment is not merely a product. Rather, it is a complex medical process,” says Katie Maassen, director of marketing and communications for the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). “The AAO believes it is in the best interest of consumers to have orthodontic treatment conducted under the direct and ongoing, in-person supervision of a licensed orthodontist.” For several years now, the AAO’s consumer awareness program has focused on educating the public on exactly this. In 2019 alone, AAO ads targeted at consumers appeared more than 1.2 billion times nationally.

But the consumer is only one part of the equation. The orthodontist also needs to be educated and have the resources to then educate their patients and community. And this is where an orthodontic product company can play a role, says Summers.

“Manufacturers of orthodontic products want to sell the products they make, whether it be brackets, aligners, devices, or appliances. These companies need to educate their customers— primarily the orthodontists,” he says. “Consumers drive interest and certainly share experiences with their networks. Unless consumers educate themselves, they don’t know what options exist or even what questions to ask.”

Avoiding expensive and time-consuming office visits may be an enticing prospect for consumers and an effective selling point for the direct-to-consumer options; but professional orthodontic treatment, says Freeman, is designed to last a lifetime, and correcting a smile is not a one-size-fits-all process. And the consumer needs to know this.

Ormco encourages orthodontists to help spread awareness in their communities through the HealthySmileIQ.com content, along with their own content and opinions across social media platforms and traditional venues, to further educate consumers, patients, and friends. OP

Tonya Johnson is associate editor at Orthodontic Products.