Australians looking to fix their teeth have been warned against a growing United States industry of "do-it-yourself" teeth aligners sent out by online mail order.
While orthodontists in Australia must be qualified and regulated, some services based in the US have been offering consumers there and overseas mail order aligners are unlikely to meet Australia's strict safety or medical standards.
Canberra orthodontist Dr Ray Te Mo said while he hadn't directly seen many patients with it in Australia, he expected that in two to three years, mail order braces and aligners would start to enter the local market from the US.
The companies advertising such services essentially send out products for consumers to try to get a detailed impression of their teeth, which is then sent back to a laboratory to produce a series of plastic 'aligners' to help straighten teeth.
But Dr Te Mo, a member of the Australian Society of Orthodontists, said the industry was particularly concerned about the concept, given those who take impressions have to train for years to be able to take one correctly,.
He said he was also greatly concerned about the lack of regulation and follow-up on the success or otherwise of the aligners by a qualified orthodontist.
"Sometimes I'll see a patient who comes to me seeking braces or aligners, but they may have teeth cavities or gum disease - and that really needs to be sorted out by a qualified dentist before they can come back to see me," he said.
"As an orthodontist, I really question who's even diagnosing whether or not these people need changes to their teeth," he said.
Dr Te Mo said there was also great potential for people to cause more problems for their oral health by using such services.
"If someone does this without any consultation with a qualified practitioner, what happens if it doesn't work?" he said.
"In Australia, people who need braces know they're coming to a qualified orthodontist, using approved medicinal technology, but with these businesses, we don't know who it is making the aligners or where they're manufactured."
Dr Te Mo also questioned some such services use of extensive legal disclaimers on their websites to avoid future action should things go wrong.
"If something goes wrong here, you can make a complaint to the regulator [AHPRA], you can get something done about it," he said.
"It seems to me that these services are something a business person has thought up, offering it a lot cheaper than proper treatment, but with no real orthodontic qualifications."