If you’ve visited MyLifeMySmile.org lately, you might have noticed a consumer alert that urges people to beware of videos, products and websites that offer do-it-yourself methods of orthodontic treatment.
That is because there seems to be an increased interest these days in over-the-counter and home remedy types of orthodontic treatment, particularly among tweens and teens.
A quick search of the Internet for the term “gap bands” generates more than 76 million results. One video on how to close a gap between your front teeth using rubber bands has been viewed nearly 200,000 times. Another video that promises to tell you how to quickly straighten your teeth using dental floss has been viewed more that 526,000 times. There are companies that sell rubber bands, which promise to close gaps between your front teeth. You can even buy these gap bands on Amazon.
This is particularly worrisome to me as an orthodontist because the people in these do-it-yourself videos don’t know how much they don’t know. What’s worse, what they don’t know can be harmful to the oral health of those who take seriously the advice given in these videos.
As for the companies selling products such as gap bands, let me just share what an American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics article says: “…orthodontists and other dentists generally consider the uncontrolled (ie, unsuper- vised and unsecured) movement of teeth using just elastics to be below the standard of care. Having attachments on the teeth with a secured wire between them is the simple remedy. So, if a practitioner used just a plain rubber band to close a space between two teeth and the teeth were lost instead, a malpractice claim would be expected.”
If elastics alone effectively and safely addressed tooth alignment issues, orthodontists would use that method. But as experts in bite and tooth alignment, we have an intimate understanding of the relationship between your jaws, teeth, gums, facial muscles and your physical features. All of these factors must be considered when developing a treatment plan to align your teeth and correct a bad bite.
DIY Can Cause Minor Problems
Going the DIY route can create problems ranging from minor to serious. On the minor end of the spectrum, many children watching these DIY teeth straightening videos don’t understand that closing a gap between two front teeth involves much more than just those two teeth. Think about it: if you push those teeth together and don’t touch any other teeth in your mouth, how do you prevent creating additional gaps on either side of those two teeth?
Orthodontic treatment typically requires a whole-mouth approach. That is why brackets and arch wires are placed on all of your teeth; or why Invisalign aligners are made to fit over all of your teeth. Making adjustments only to two teeth impacts your surrounding teeth and potentially creates alignment and bite issues elsewhere.
DIY Also Can Cause Significant Problems
On the more serious end of the spectrum, using rubber bands to close the gap between front teeth has the potential to cause extensive damage to your teeth, as well as the supporting bone and soft tissue surrounding them. Correcting this could mean expensive, lengthy repairs that require the skills of more than just an orthodontist. Treatment from other dental specialists such as oral surgeons and periodontists could be necessary to correct the damage.
Rubber bands are standard in professional orthodontic treatment, and are used in conjunction with other orthodontic appliances to move teeth under the watchful eye of an expert. But let’s not forget that one of the earliest uses of rubber bands was to remove teeth in patients who had bleeding disorders, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. The dentist would place an elastic band around the tooth to be extracted, and in four to six weeks it would work its way down the sides of the tooth, destroy the bone and the soft tissue, and the tooth would fall out.
If you think you have a gap between your front teeth now, try losing those teeth and see what your smile looks like!
These elastic bands also can work their way up your teeth and beneath your gum tissue. You may not even feel it happening because it can cause what is known as pressure anesthesia. This is the loss of sensation created by applying pressure to a nerve. Rubber bands that slide into the soft tissue are difficult – if not impossible – to retrieve, according to an American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics article. Elastics that have worked their way up the teeth’s roots typically can’t be detected on radiographs. Eventually, the elastic could continue to work its way up the teeth’s roots and cause the teeth to fall out.
Leave it to the Pros
I say fulfill your DIY dreams by repainting a piece of old furniture or making your own jewelry. But leave your oral health to professionals. Becoming an orthodontist isn’t easy. We are uniquely qualified to diagnose, prevent and treat dental and facial irregularities by aligning teeth and jaws and correcting improper bites. After we graduate from dental school, our education isn’t finished. We go on to participate in two- to three-year residencies so we can specialize in this area of dentistry. Some of us – myself included -go on to become board certified.
Cheap Now, Costly Later
I know orthodontic treatment isn’t the cheapest thing you’ll ever do for yourself or your children. But it’s worth it. Here at Orthodontics Only, we pride ourselves in our ability to offer affordable treatment through a variety of payment and financing options. And understand this: any money you might think you’re saving by following some hair-brained advice in a DIY teeth straightening video could cost you thousands more in the long run.
Call for a Consultation
If you are interested in learning more about orthodontic treatment for yourself or your children, you don’t have to rely on YouTube. I invite you to contact our office to schedule a consultation. My staff and I will conduct a thorough exam that includes digital X-rays and photographs. We will use all of this information to identify the best treatment plan to address your unique needs. We can assure you the end result will be an improved smile that promotes your oral health and sets you on a path to preserving your teeth for a lifetime. Now that is something you truly can smile about.