As an orthodontist, I will always be an advocate for beautiful teeth. After all, an attractive smile is a person’s most appealing feature. However, achieving that perfect smile should never be attempted at the expense of one’s oral health.
Why do I say this? Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the past few years of do-it-yourself (DIY) orthodontics. Recent YouTube videos and posts of how to perform DIY orthodontic procedures have been trending and resulted in a rise of patients suffering from DIY procedures gone wrong. These are problematic trends that can have serious consequences.
There are many different methods people use to try to straighten their own teeth. Some include the use of common household or personal care items such as bobby pins, rubber bands and/or paper clips. The most popular method is to wrap rubber bands around the teeth to close gaps. But without the expertise and specialized tools an orthodontist has access to, people can create more problems than they solve with DIY methods. Some such aftereffects can be irreparable and include:
- Gum infections
- Cracked tooth enamel
- Pain and damage to soft tissues
- Toxic exposure to corroded metal from paper clips and other metal items left in the mouth for too long
- Crooked teeth from the rubber bands pulling them in the wrong direction
- Potential long-term bone loss and even tooth loss
- Choking hazards from the small components of DIY braces
Another form of DIY orthodontics, which unfortunately is also on the rise, is “mail-order braces.” Instead of going to an orthodontist, there are now direct-to-consumer companies that will supply individuals with orthodontic appliances. These companies will send an at-home impression kit for DIY impressions to be mailed back to the company for evaluation. If accepted, the company will then fabricate aligners and send them back with instructions for at-home orthodontics.
These products are significantly cheaper, making them appear to be more desirable and convenient to consumers. However, there are obvious dangers inherent to this concept. For one, the treatment is never being monitored by a dentist or orthodontist. Also, the criteria for the company’s acceptance does not take into account individuals who might already be suffering from oral health issues such as gum disease and dental decay. Tooth movement in the presence of these conditions may cause them to progress rapidly and lead to more severe issues.
Additional dangers from mail-order braces include poorly fitting products from molds done at home, which may lead to tooth and gum problems as well as jaw problems. Also, orthodontic treatment should never be one size fits all, as each person is unique and requires customized treatment based on their individual needs.
Mail-order companies have the goal of making money by selling you products that should be supervised by qualified oral health professionals and are willing to compromise consumer health and safety for the sake of profit. Needless to say, the American Dental Association and American Association of Orthodontists have strongly discouraged the practice of DIY orthodontics because of the potential for harm to patients.
Consider this question: What other transforming medical treatment would you undergo without an in-person, pretreatment evaluation or ongoing in-person supervision from a medical professional?
In summary, if you’re looking for ways to save money on home improvements and car repairs, the do-it-yourself mentality can be helpful. However, this approach has its limitations and should never be used to straighten your own teeth or those of your children. DIY orthodontic treatment is not safe and can lead to pain and complications that can affect your oral health.
If you are considering orthodontic treatment for yourself or your child, please call Pinecrest Orthodontics for a complimentary initial consultation. It is so important to entrust your orthodontic care to the hands of a trained and skilled specialist. The investment you make now will be well worth it later for the achievement of a long-lasting, beautiful and healthy smile!