With the rise of Youtube and Pinterest, do-it-yourself tutorials are all the rage, with people making home decor, crafting beautiful gifts, and finding second lives for various items. Unfortunately, this trend has found its way into orthodontics with people trying to straighten their own teeth with things like rubber bands, bobby pins, and even at home 3D printed aligners. Whether it’s a desire to save money or prove they can do it themselves, people across the internet are sharing their tips and tricks to avoid seeing a licensed orthodontist.
The American Association of Orthodontists released a consumer alert, warning people to take heed after learning nearly 13% of AAO members are seeing patients who have made a DIY attempt at orthodontic care.
“The American Association of Orthodontists is urging consumers to beware of Internet videos and websites which encourage people to try and straighten their own teeth. Moving teeth is a medical procedure and needs personal supervision by an orthodontist. Please be wary of any suggestions to move teeth with rubber bands, dental floss, or other objects ordered on the Internet. Moving teeth without a thorough examination of the overall health of the teeth and gums could result in the permanent loss of teeth, which may result in expensive and lifelong dental problems. Orthodontists receive two to three years of specialized education beyond dental school and are specialists in straightening teeth and aligning the bite.”
A popular method to self-correct teeth involves wrapping a rubber band, often a clear hair elastic, around teeth to close gaps over time. The time frame is generally whenever the wearer has determined their teeth are straight enough and does not take into account the proper and safe amount of time it takes to move teeth without experiencing bone loss. The rubber bands are cheap and wearers claim that the fix is very fast. It’s touted as easy, inexpensive, and accessible to everyone. While all of those sounds great to the untrained ear, the potential dangers are grave.
The Danger of DIY Orthodontics
The history of dental elastics goes way back to when practitioners would use rubber bands to extract teeth. The bands would slowly, over time, work their way down the sides of the tooth, all the way down the roots, destroying soft tissue and bone until the tooth fell out on it’s own. Even this method of elastic use was supervised by a licensed practitioner.
Bands sliding down teeth are a huge danger for those attempting to close teeth gaps on their own. Before a person has noticed that the band has slid beyond a “safe” level, soft tissue could already be damaged, and bands become extremely difficult to retrieve without professional assistance. If dental assistance is not sought, the band can continue to move down, destroying the tooth root, and misshaping the crown. The tooth or teeth will become loose, potentially falling out. In addition to lost teeth and nerve damage, risks from do-it-yourself orthodontics depend on the items being incorrectly used. Anything affixed to the teeth can become a choking hazard, materials left in the mouth can become toxic, gums can become infected from foreign objects harboring bacteria, and teeth can move in directions not intended giving a crooked smile. If bands aren’t removed carefully, snapping them against teeth can cause cracked enamel, further ruining your smile.
In addition to all of these issues, if your teeth move too quickly, which is nearly impossible to determine if you’re not a professional, you can have pain, bone loss, and other long-term issues. The damage done by DIY orthodontics can require complex and very expensive procedures to reverse or even prevent further destruction, rendering the money save tactics fruitless.
Why Quality Orthodontic Work Matters
Receiving orthodontic treatment from a licensed professional can be slow, difficult, or relatively expensive. There is a reason for all three of these qualities. Trained orthodontists are required to attend many years of schooling, with two to three extra years of education to master the art of moving teeth using safe and effective methods. Moving teeth slowly over a longer period of time is not done to simply prolong treatment, but ensure the integrity and health of the whole mouth, including the jaw. The science of using orthodontics to change a smile is a biological process involving the degradation and rebuilding of bone as teeth move and Youtubers often do not understand this science, particularly the more nuanced aspects. It’s not as simple as pushing teeth closer together. There are many other factors including the physics of a person’s bite, the integrity of the bone, and potentially turning teeth, not just linear movement.
To ensure that your smile is not only beautiful but will last as long as possible and remain healthy, seeing an orthodontist is your best plan of action. An orthodontist will take diagnostic records and monitor your movement over time, adjusting treatment as it’s needed. The in-person supervision over time will give you the best possible dental care. Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat dental and facial irregularities to align teeth and jaws. Beauty bloggers and vloggers may have good intentions, but only an orthodontist is going to be qualified to give professional healthcare treatment and advice when it comes to creating a beautiful, straight smile. Save yourself the pain, money, and headache and see an orthodontist for a consultation today!