COVID-19 crisis, where people continue to wear masks to hide their mouths, and “orthodontic” interest is growing
The COVID-19 crisis, in which people continue to wear masks to hide their mouths, has apparently increased interest in orthodontic treatment. According to a survey conducted by an orthodontist in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, of 1,065 men and women in their 20s and 30s who were concerned about the alignment of their teeth, 31.5% responded “orthodontics” when asked what they would like to do now that they are living under masks.
Against this backdrop, Yamato Transport, in collaboration with DRIPS, a mouthpiece orthodontic service provider, has begun manufacturing and delivering orthodontic mouthpieces using a new 3D printer.
In this new service, Yamato Transport uses a 3D printer to create a dental model based on scans of patients’ teeth sent by orthodontists affiliated with DRIPS, and then creates a mouthpiece. Mouthpieces are made and shipped according to the progress of treatment, thus shortening the orthodontic treatment period.
Mouthpiece orthodontic service completed “online and home delivery” popular in the U.S.
Mouthpiece orthodontics is a method of aligning teeth by gradually moving them by changing custom-made mouthpiece orthodontic appliances in stages, and is mainly used for mild to moderate conditions. In the U.S., where orthodontic treatment is said to be advanced, mouthpieces are said to be the mainstream orthodontic treatment along with conventional wire braces.
In the United States, Invisalign is synonymous with mouthpiece orthodontics, and by the time I arrived in the U.S. in 2015, it had already become popular,” said a healthy resident of Los Angeles.
Yoko Hirota, a health writer living in Los Angeles, says, “Invisalign is synonymous with orthodontics in the United States.
Invisalign, a mouthpiece orthodontic device developed in the U.S., has been introduced in more than 100 countries and regions, and has been available in Japan since 2006.
Americans are very conscious about their teeth,” says Hirota, “and unless they have very good teeth, they have already had their braces corrected as children. Most people who get braces as adults have minor problems. I think that’s why mouthpieces are so prevalent.
Now there are orthodontic services that allow you to order a mouthpiece online without going to the dentist. The ‘Smile Direct Club’ has been getting quite a bit of attention for about five years now.”
How does this online orthodontic service work?
First, you apply online, and then you take your own dental mold using the kit that is sent to you and send it back. Then, a 3D orthodontic plan is sent to you via email, which you review and approve. You will receive a batch of mouthpieces for your orthodontic needs. There is no need to visit an orthodontist, and the process is completed online and by courier.
I actually had my braces done in the U.S.,” said Mr. Kato. I was interested in online orthodontic services, but I thought it was dangerous to make my own decision and I had TMJ disorder, so I asked a Japanese doctor at my general dentist in Los Angeles to refer me to an orthodontist for consultation. As a result, I decided to straighten my teeth with Invisalign because a mouthpiece is more suitable for my teeth and jaw condition than a wire. I am glad I chose the in-person treatment because I was able to carefully adjust the space between my teeth and my bite according to the orthodontic condition of my teeth.”
With online orthodontic services that do not involve an orthodontist, adjustments such as cutting between the teeth to create space are not available as a matter of course. But will it really make your teeth look better?
In Los Angeles, the cost of Invisalign is usually around $6,000. Online braces don’t require a visit to the dentist and are less than one-third the cost, but I’ve heard that there have been cases of teeth falling out. Dentists do not recommend online orthodontics, perhaps because of safety issues.
According to a Japanese doctor, many Japanese people have small jaws and large teeth, which causes their teeth to be misaligned. In the case of online orthodontics, the teeth are pushed outward to make room for the new teeth. Therefore, the teeth are pushed outward to align the teeth, and there is a risk that the teeth will fall out or the bite will be bad.
Hearing that story, I felt that online-only treatment was dangerous.”
Japanese specialists are backward-looking toward mouthpiece orthodontics. Rather than the benefits to patients…
In the service started by Yamato Transport and DRIPS, it appears that patients will only see the DRIPS partner dentists during the initial consultation, and during the orthodontic period, they will receive online remote follow-up consultations.
How do Japanese dentists view this system? We asked Tomoyuki Nakata, a dentist who also works as a healthcare administration analyst.
As a dentist, I see this as a good system because it allows me to create mouthpieces flexibly according to the progress of orthodontic treatment and the movement of teeth. For patients, the price and the hurdle of visiting the clinic will be lowered by the online remote treatment.
However, the Japanese Orthodontic Association has expressed concern about Yamato Transport’s service.
The Japan Orthodontic Society’s view is generally as follows.
We have serious concerns about the service that delivers orthodontic mouthpiece devices to patients without face-to-face consultation with dentists, and will discuss the matter with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Japan Dental Association, and others.
At first glance, it reads as if “orthodontics without a dentist” is a problem. ……
The Japanese Orthodontic Society does not recommend mouthpiece orthodontics in the first place. … It means that many orthodontists think, ‘Why do they want to use mouthpiece braces when wires are definitely more beautiful?
Wires can indeed straighten teeth beautifully, but a mild condition can be treated with a mouthpiece. From the patient’s point of view, the mouthpiece is inconspicuous and can be removed by oneself with little resistance. If a person is only slightly dissatisfied with the alignment of his or her teeth, he or she will want to choose mouthpiece orthodontics.”
Despite the need for mouthpiece braces, orthodontists tend to recommend wires.
Even if the academic community doesn’t want to approve it,” he said, “there is a chance that the need will precede the need and mouthpiece orthodontics will spread. That’s what happened with implants. While academic societies were not interested in implant treatment, practitioners and manufacturers led the way in establishing the treatment method. Now it’s a major topic at conferences on periodontal disease, dentures, etc.”
Perhaps Yamato Transport’s new service has created a stir in the field of orthodontics.
On the other hand, I am concerned that the entry of a major company like Yamato may make it easier for people to choose a dentist who offers online mouthpiece orthodontic services.
The more clinics that have little or no involvement of professional dentists, the lower the orthodontic costs. Often the responsibility is not clear. Some of them do not take any responsibility for failure. I don’t want you to choose a dental clinic based on price alone so that you won’t regret it when you finish treatment.”
So what should you look for when choosing a dentist for orthodontic treatment?
In fact, orthodontists are not certified by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare as specialists. However, the Japanese Association of Orthodontists, the Japanese Orthodontic Specialist Certification Organization, and the Japanese Association of Adult Orthodontists have certifications, and these three certifications are a standard of trust among dentists. If these specialists handle mouthpiece orthodontics, you can rest assured that you are in good hands. Certified dentists can be clearly identified on their websites, so it is a good idea to check.
Orthodontics, like any other field, is also a jumble of mixed rocks. When you are considering orthodontics, choose carefully.
Yoko Hirota is a health editorial writer and health coach. After working in the editorial department of a health magazine, she moved to the U.S. in 2015 and became a freelancer. She currently lives in Los Angeles and writes for Japanese media on topics such as health, beauty, and diet. He also provides individual diet coaching online as a health coach.
Tomoyuki Nakada, dentist and healthcare administration analyst, was born in 1984 in Saitama Prefecture. He writes for the news site “SAKISIRU.
Interview and text by： Sayuri Saito