It has been two years since we first warned you about the dangers of DIY orthodontic treatment, and orthodontists continue to see more cases of this, according to the American Association of Orthodontists.

A survey conducted among AAO’s membership revealed that almost 13 percent of its member orthodontists see patients who have tried DIY teeth straightening, and some of those attempts have caused irreparable damage.

The most frequently used methods and materials used in this DIY teeth straightening craze include:

  • Rubber bands
  • Dental floss
  • Fishing line
  • Paper clips
  • Biting on pencils
  • Making fake retainers
  • Pushing teeth with fingers

Although this potentially harmful phenomenon has been largely credited to tweens and teens who are more likely to use social media and seek out DIY videos that explain these dangerous techniques, the AAO survey found that the “age range of people attempting to straighten their own teeth was from 8 years old to over age 60.”

Thirty-nine percent of orthodontists who participated in the survey reported that they had to provide corrective and restorative treatment to DIY patients, and most of the orthodontists said the patients ultimately would have saved time and money if they had sought orthodontic treatment from a professional at the outset. Isn’t that ironic? Many of the people in these DIY videos say they attempted these techniques as cost-saving measures. Mission: Failed.

Tooth movement is a health care matter that should be done under the supervision of an orthodontist. Moving teeth causes jawbone to dissolve and re-build as the teeth are guided into their proper positions, the AAO states. Attempting this movement on your own is a huge gamble.

Orthodontists are dentists who, after completing dental school, go on to complete an additional two to three years of specialized training in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities to correctly align teeth and jaws. They are superbly qualified. These are the professionals you want making decisions about how to align your teeth; not a teenager in New Jersey with a YouTube channel.

Damage Caused by DIY Orthodontic Treatment

In addition to not working in terms of achieving accurate, permanent results, DIY braces options found online can cause a host of dental problems.

Some DIYers recommend tying elastic bands around teeth to close gaps. Doing this can cut off blood supply to the teeth and cause them to become discolored. When blood supply is adversely affected, you can cause inflammation, infection, and you can create unfavorable changes in the shape of your gums.

Tying bands around teeth is particularly troublesome due to the natural shape of teeth. Teeth are wider at the bottom and narrower at the gum line. This wedge shape makes it difficult to keep an elastic band in one place. Instead, the band is likely to ride up the teeth and toward the gums. It can even continue working its way beneath the gums and up the tooth roots. Long-term use of bands can lead to root damage and bone loss. You could even cause your teeth to fall out.

More than Movement

Closing an unwanted gap between teeth is only half the battle. Something that DIYers don’t consider is whether the movement achieved through hair elastics and other items properly positions the teeth. Also, how do they prevent relapse?

We take X-rays, photographs and CBCT scans of teeth, gums and bone to thoroughly evaluate orthodontic cases and craft treatment plans designed to achieve ideal results that can be maintained. We look at numerous factors and consider proper tooth positions that promote a healthy bite without leading to abnormal tooth wear.

In some cases, particularly those involving large gaps between front teeth, orthodontic appliances alone will not permanently close the gap. Sometimes the front teeth are pushed apart by a thickened frenum. We have written previously about how to fix a space between the teeth, and the fact that some patients require surgical correction through a procedure called a frenectomy to remove excess tissue between the teeth.

Sometimes gaps exist because of congenitally missing teeth. Using homemade methods of closing the space left by missing teeth could make the situation worse. Look in the mirror at the way your upper and lower teeth fit together when your jaws are closed. Specific teeth are physiologically designed to fit together. Just because you’re missing a tooth doesn’t mean you can close the gap and eliminate the problem. You may close the gap, but then find that your bite is off and the enamel on your teeth is wearing away faster than normal. Matching up two teeth that aren’t meant to touch each other when you’re biting or chewing your food could result in cracked or broken teeth.

DIY Can Turn Expensive

Still not convinced that DIY is dangerous? Then let’s go back to the money issue. If DIY techniques don’t destroy the teeth you’re trying to alter, the chances are high that fixing the damage will cost significantly more than if you had sought treatment from an orthodontist in the first place.

Orthodontic treatment is achievable for almost anyone. Many dental benefits plans cover a portion of treatment. Health care financing options and interest-free monthly payment plans also are available. Here in our office, we offer a discount to patients who pay for treatment in full, as well as a family discount when more than one family member undergoes orthodontic treatment.  For added convenience, we also offer automatic draft from checking accounts or credit cards.

Please don’t attempt to correct your own orthodontic issues. Let a trained, experienced professional provide the necessary treatment that will give you lasting results you can be happy with and proud to show off.

I invite you to call our office today to schedule a consultation so you can learn about the treatment options available to you. In the mean time, feel free to check out other helpful pages on our website that explain what you can expect during your first office visit and why you should choose us for treatment. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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