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Direct-to-consumer braces vs. Professional orthodontist

March 8, 2019

If you’ve ever considered using braces to straighten your teeth, you’re most likely familiar with direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment options, such as SmileDirectClub. These companies have exploded in popularity recently—boasting their affordability and less fuss involved. However, not all aspects of direct-to-consumer treatment are good. There are strong, unwavering benefits to completing orthodontic treatment with a certified and experienced orthodontist vs. getting the quick fix of straight-to-order aligners. Here are some things you should consider before clicking “purchase” on a smile kit.

Expert Care in Vernon Hills & Chicago

The field of orthodontics is a professional medical field. To be certified as an orthodontist, doctors must go through rigorous academic study and training to become licensed as a professional in the industry. Your skilled orthodontists in Vernon Hills and Chicago are members of the American Association of Orthodontics, which is a professional association of doctors who have dedicated great time, energy, and effort into transforming smiles. When you’re orthodontic treatment is supervised by a professional orthodontist like Dr. Jacobson, Dr. Tsou, or Dr. Kim, you can be certain that your care is of the highest quality and your results will be equally exceptional.

How Does Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontic Treatment Work?

Many companies such as SmileDirectClub offer an easy, online way to get a new smile. You simply submit an impression and photo of your teeth using the company’s kit, and the company sends you a custom set of aligners every month or so. After completing all sets of aligners to straighten teeth, your smile will be aligned! This may sound too-good-to-be-true. And that’s because, in many cases, it is.
In actuality, there is more to creating a straight, stunning smile than simply moving the teeth. Orthodontic treatment does more than straighten the visible part of your smile. Effective orthodontic treatment takes into consideration your bite, jaw alignment, facial structure, and smile/mouth as a whole—targeting all of these areas to provide you with a smile that is properly aligned and will maximize your oral and dental health as well. If orthodontic treatment is not done correctly, this can actually cause irreversible and costly damage such as misaligned bite, tooth or gum loss, and other issues.
Many direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatments cannot properly assess all features of your oral and dental health and therefore, only work to correct visible issues like crookedness, gaps, or crowded teeth.

Questions to Ask about Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontic Treatment

To help make your decision easier, here are a few questions that are important to ask yourself when considering direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment, such as SmileDirectClub aligners.

  • Will X-rays be taken of your teeth and jaws?
  • Will a clinical examination of your bite, facial profile, jaw alignment, and overall smile be taken to determine the best method for straightening your teeth?
  • What type of treatment is offered by the direct-to-consumer company?
  • How can you know that the type of treatment offered is the best method for your individual needs and smile goals?
  • Are your teeth and gums healthy enough for orthodontic treatment, and has this been determined by your licensed dentist?
  • Will you require any in-person office visits to a licensed dentist or orthodontist during your treatment?
  • Is there a professional dentist or orthodontist involved in the creation and customization of your treatment?
    • Are you provided with or able to research his or her name, practice, education, credentials, etc.?
  • If there is a problem with your orthodontic treatment, who will be taking care of it, and who will be held responsible for it?
  • Are you asked to sign any forms that release the company from liability should an injury or other issue occur?
  • Who will handle any issues such as injury or an emergency, and how will those issues be handled?

Based on these questions, in the end, it should become clear that trusting direct-to-consumer teeth straightening option is not the best choice. Your smile is important after all. Why risk irreversible damage and take shortcuts designed for the masses, not your unique mouth and smile when you could have amazing orthodontic treatment from an orthodontist with skill, experience, and a passion for helping people get the smile they desire?

Contact Your Vernon Hills & Chicago Orthodontists

If you’re looking to improve your confidence by transforming your smile, it is always best to start by scheduling a consultation with one of our Vernon Hills and Chicago orthodontists. At Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics, we will take accurate images of your teeth and jaw, assess your bite, alignment, and facial structure, and discuss your smile goals with you. Together, we will determine the best possible course of action for your orthodontic treatment. If you’d like to know more or have any questions regarding orthodontic treatment, we welcome you to contact us in our Vernon Hills or Chicago office today. We can’t wait to help you get started!

Braces vs. Invisalign – Which is Right for You?

February 2, 2019

Can you believe 2019 is coming? That means another year full of activities, social events, and adventure in general. So, whether it’s for yourself or for your child, it may be time to invest in a plan to straighten your teeth. But should you pick braces or opt for Invisalign? At Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics in Chicago and Vernon Hills, we offer both Invisalign and traditional braces as great options to straighten teeth. By considering your individual teeth, goals, and preferences, we can help you choose which option is right for you.

Your Orthodontic Options


Traditional braces, the most popular orthodontic option for teeth straightening, are made of a system of brackets and wires. Brackets are attached to either the front or back of the teeth using cement and wires and elastic bands are connected to those brackets in order to apply constant pressure to help straighten teeth. Your orthodontist will schedule appointments to replace the bands and adjust the wires every 6 – 10 weeks.


Invisalign is the process of using a series of clear aligners to increasingly straighten your smile. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign is both wire and bracket-free. Initially, your orthodontist sends impressions of your teeth to create aligners. Once the Invisalign aligners are made they must be worn sequentially, contingent upon your orthodontist’s approval at regular check-up appointments. Appointments with your orthodontist should be scheduled every 8 – 12 weeks to monitor progress and receive the next aligner when ready.

Comparing Pros and Cons



The most significant difference between traditional braces and Invisalign is the fact that Invisalign is the “almost invisible” orthodontic option. Since Invisalign uses clear aligners, the treatment is less noticeable than its braces counterpart. Invisalign aligners are also removable, which means there are no restrictions on what you can eat while using this orthodontic option. Additionally, this means there are no limitations to your oral hygiene routine. Overall, because Invisalign is removable, there is a minimal effect on your lifestyle but an effect on your teeth.
Although, some patients who tend to snack all day rather than eat regular meals find having to constantly take out aligners to eat inconveniently. Those patients prefer traditional braces since they can snack with them on (they just have to eat softer foods).

Traditional Braces

Unlike Invisalign, traditional braces are not removable. This means there are certain limits in place to ensure the safety and efficiency of your orthodontic equipment. While using traditional braces, avoid eating foods that are either too sticky or too crunchy. You will also need to be especially vigilant with your oral hygiene, working to brush and floss between braces.
Naturally, traditional braces are the more noticeable option for your orthodontic needs. Keep in mind though, while they aren’t clear like Invisalign, traditional braces have come a long way aesthetically. The brackets are now smaller, come in less noticeable colors, and can even be placed on the back of the teeth to minimize how visible they are.


The cost of both traditional braces and Invisalign depends on several factors, for example, the severity of the orthodontic problem, your dental insurance, and any work to restore braces or Invisalign aligners that are damaged/lost throughout the process. Typically, the cost of traditional braces ranges from $2,500 – $7,000, while Invisalign costs from $3,000 – $8,000. Book a consultation with Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics at our Chicago or Vernon Hills office to discuss the specific pricing you can expect for either traditional braces or the Invisalign system.

Call Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics Today!

Start the New Year out with a step toward straighter teeth and a confident smile. Whether you decide to get braces or Invisalign, Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics of Chicago and Vernon Hills will help you move toward your smile goals. Your eligibility to receive either Invisalign or traditional braces depends on your unique orthodontic needs, so schedule a consultation now to discuss with an orthodontist if braces or Invisalign may be right for you. We can’t wait to see your smile!

Retainers 101

January 21, 2019

It’s the New Year, which means plenty of New Year’s resolutions. This 2019 make one of your resolutions to keep your teeth straight by properly using your retainer!
Orthodontists typically recommend wearing a retainer after completing orthodontic treatment. But what exactly is a retainer, why do you need to wear it, and how do you care for it?

What is a Retainer?

Retainers are custom-made orthodontic devices made to help prevent your teeth from moving out of their new straight positions after orthodontic treatment. Retainers are made of plastic and metal and designed to fit the top of the teeth and mouth. They are meant to be used for an extended period of time and are often assigned as part of your dental care routine for as long as you wore your braces. Some patients may only need to wear retainers during sleep, others may be asked to wear them full-time. Your Chicago and Vernon Hills orthodontist will have the best recommendations on when to wear your retainers and for how long. Not following recommendations from your orthodontist could lead to your teeth shifting back to the positions they were in before you wore braces, so it is important to follow your specific dental care instructions.

Why Else Would You Need to Wear a Retainer?

There are several additional reasons why you may need to wear a retainer past the fact that the appliances keep teeth straight after wearing braces. Those reasons could include:

  • Curbing speech defects  – it can be difficult to pronounce certain sounds if your teeth are not where they are supposed to be, as you may not be able to place your tongue behind your teeth in the right way. Retainers can help alleviate this issue.
  • Treating headaches/Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) – if you have frequent headaches and jaw pain, then your orthodontist may prescribe a retainer as part of your dental care, as TMD is a condition where your top and bottom teeth do not align properly. Also, having a retainer can prevent your teeth from grinding in your sleep which is often the cause of headaches that last until the next day
  • Close a space between teeth/move a single tooth – in some cases, retainers are a piece of dental care prescribed by your orthodontist instead of braces to adjust only one or a few teeth instead of the entire mouth, like fixing a gap between two teeth.
  • Other medical problems – while retainers are generally dental appliances that orthodontists utilize to help your teeth stay straight, they may be used to treat a medical problem like tongue thrust – where your tongue sneaks through your teeth when you talk.

How to Take Care of Your Retainers

Because retainers are generally worn daily per your orthodontist’s instructions, they should also be cleaned daily. Bacteria, plaque, and leftover food particles can easily stick to your retainers, so they should be soaked in mouthwash or a denture-cleaning agent to kill those germs and freshen the appliances up. Whenever you are not wearing your retainers, you may want to consider letting them soak as well because retainers are made of plastic and plastic can crack if it gets too dry; it should always stay moist. The plastic can also warp, so be sure not to use warm water or leave retainers near a heat source.
Furthermore, retainers can be expensive, so taking good care of these appliances as part of your dental care routine also means not losing them. If you lose a retainer please let us know at our Chicago or Vernon Hills office and we will create a replacement before your next visit. And if have any questions or concerns about your retainer, do not hesitate to contact us directly.

Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics Can Help Keep Your Smile Straight!

Whether you need braces or a retainer, already have them, or just have questions about your appliances in general, your orthodontists and the whole team at Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics are ready to help keep your smile straight by addressing all of your orthodontic needs! Schedule an appointment online today with our Chicago or Vernon Hills office!

5 foods that stain your teeth & their solutions

September 9, 2018

A bright white smile can be the key to your confidence. If you are someone that suffers from stained or discolored teeth, there’s no need to worry, the experts at Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics are here to help!
Our skilled orthodontists are committed to helping patients see the best results possible when it comes to dental and orthodontic longevity. To our doctors, good oral hygiene goes beyond routine check-ups; it means preserving your smile daily! That is why it’s important to be aware of the foods you are eating. You want to ensure that you’re not consuming too many stain-producing foods, and if you are, learn techniques to lessen the impact.
1. Coffee & Tea
I’m sure it comes as no surprise, but coffee and tea are the two biggest teeth staining culprits. Both coffee and tea contain natural compounds called tannins that are attracted to proteins in the enamel and cause your teeth to become stained. However, to most people, giving up their daily cup of coffee or tea is out of the question! So what do you do?
The Coffee & Tea Solution
Since most people need the help of caffeine to get going in the morning, we suggest drinking green or white tea (they are lower in tannins). If you’re not willing to change up your routine too much, simply try adding in some extra milk to help lighten things up and reduce teeth staining.
2. Soda
Not only is soda bad for your health, but it’s also bad for your teeth! Since soda is dark in color, it can cause your teeth to become discolored and stained if consumed in large quantities. Soda is also high in sugar and acid, which is very bad for tooth enamel and also contributes to teeth staining.
The Soda Solution
Long story short, while we suggest avoiding soda entirely, you may be able to prevent your teeth from getting stained if you drink your soda out of a straw, or switch to a lighter/ clearer colored soda instead.
3. White Wine
Believe it or not, white wine causes teeth staining! It seems odd that something so light in color can cause staining/ discoloration, but just like coffee and tea, white wines are high in tannins and acid, which are hard on your teeth and over time lead to staining.
The White Wine Solution
For our adult braces patients out there, in order to still enjoy a glass of wine without the fear of teeth staining teeth, we suggest brushing your teeth 30 minutes to 1 hour after drinking a glass of wine and drinking a glass of water as you sip on your wine.
4. Balsamic Vinegar
Just like coffee, tea, and soda, the dangerous combination of dark coloring and high acid makes balsamic vinegar a food substance to be wary of in regards to teeth staining.
The Balsamic Vinegar Solution.
Vegetables, especially lettuce and broccoli, have been shown to counteract the teeth staining effects of balsamic, as they are able to coat your teeth and protect them against the acid. So, leave the balsamic off your tomatoes and mozzarella, but you have the green light to use it in combination with salads and other veggies!
5. Soy Sauce
Before you enjoy your favorite sushi roll doused in soy sauce, just remember that it too can stain your teeth. Once again, the dark color of the food makes your teeth susceptible to discoloration. Additionally, soy sauce is very concentrated, which contributes to teeth staining even more.
The Soy Sauce Solution
Use your soy sauce sparingly and try to enjoy the flavors of your sushi and other food products au naturel.
Contact Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics
If any of the above food items are a part of your daily diet, we hope you consider some of our solutions to minimize your risk of teeth staining and discoloration. At Jacobson & Tsou Orthodontics, ensuring a beautiful and confident smile is our mission. Our orthodontists and their team of experts are here to help you throughout your orthodontic journey in our Chicago and Vernon Hills offices. Please schedule an appointment with us today! We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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