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Dangers of DIY Orthodontics

Just about everybody loves a little DIY project every now and then, whether it’s building or painting, repurposing everyday things you have lying around the house, or concocting homemade beauty products. If Pinterest and Facebook are any indication, DIY is having a moment right now, and it seems like everywhere you look there’s a “how-to tutorial” or “step-by-step guide” on making something from scratch. While this can be great for our collective creativity, it does have its limits. Unfortunately, like everything else, this trend can sometimes be taken too far. DIY orthodontics is a perfect example of that.

Here at Swan Orthodontics, we love being resourceful and thrifty! But we also take oral health seriously. Dr. Swan is an experienced orthodontist, and our sktilled staff is proud to provide high-quality orthodontic care our community. With a variety of affordable orthodontic options to suit every patient, you’re in much safer hands than anyone attempting DIY braces. Keep reading below to learn more about why orthodontic methods that are not backed by experience, skill, or science should always be avoided!

What exactly is the DIY orthodontics trend, anyway?

As unbelievable as it seems, when you enter “DIY braces” into any search engine, it returns hundreds of results. You’ll even find videos with thousands of views that promise straighter smiles by using rubber bands, paper clips, bobby pins, and even aluminum foil to move teeth into more desirable positions. A number of these videos were so popular, and garnered so much attention from the media, that the American Association of Orthodontists were alarmed enough to issue a consumer alert. This was prompted in part by a survey of its members that showed almost 15% of them had been dealing with problems caused by patients attempting to replicate these DIY methods, including tooth loss in some of the more extreme cases. Their alert states, in part:

“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.”

In the weird world of DIY orthodontics, the most popular method appears to be “gap bands.” These are essentially cheap hair elastics that can be bought anywhere for just a couple of dollars. Proponents of DIY braces believe that by wrapping these elastics around your misaligned teeth, and wearing them daily or nightly for an extended amount of time, the gaps will gradually close and your bite will be straightened. Some claim to have seen results from this method in as little as 45 days.

It’s no secret that a considerable amount of time, effort, and expense go into successful orthodontic treatment. We understand why people would be attracted to the promise of a cheap and easy option for straightening their smile. However, this truly is a case of getting what you pay for (and what you don’t!)

Swan staff talking with a patient

The dangers of DIY braces

Using elastics in dentistry and orthodontics is not a new phenomenon. It was once a common method for extracting teeth. Practitioners would place a rubber band around problem teeth, then wait for them to fall out once enough bone and soft tissue was destroyed. Even this kind of archaic tooth removal was done under appropriate supervision!

There is a potential for disastrous results with gap bands, and any other unsupervised methods of DIY orthodontic treatment. Because the shape of teeth can vary widely, even in the same mouth, it’s very easy for rubber bands to slide into the soft tissues surrounding them. Once bands become embedded in this tissue, they become difficult to retrieve on your own, if not impossible. Left untreated, the band will continue to move over time, eventually hitting the roots and potentially causing nerve damage. The crowns will also begin to fan out as the roots are pulled together, resulting in the teeth beginning to erupt and loosen, sometimes enough to fall out.

There are other serious issues that can result from attempting DIY braces, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • the teeth being moved at the wrong angle, resulting in a crooked smile
  • lacerations from gap bands sinking into the soft tissues
  • pain from the bands slipping below the surface of the teeth
  • the teeth being moved too quickly, causing long-term issues such as loss of root length, gum problems, etc.
  • small bands and makeshift brackets like earring backs or beads are choking hazards
  • the metal in paper clips and other such materials is potentially toxic if used long-term
  • bands that are snapped directly on the teeth can crack enamel
  • infected gums can sometimes result in the need for serious treatment, up to and including tooth extraction
  • a bite that does not fit together from improper diagnosis or the wrong treatment

Experienced orthodontists like Dr. Swan are very careful to move teeth slowly and over a safe period of time in order to ensure the mouth stays healthy and the integrity of the results aren’t compromised. By attempting ill-advised DIY methods to straighten the teeth, you’re risking complex and expensive dental procedures to repair any associated damage, including the repair and replacement of any missing teeth or bone.

Shortcuts to a straighter smile don’t exist!

High-quality orthodontic work as a whole is not quick, easy, or inexpensive. Creating the perfect smile requires education, training, and expertise in the physics and biology of moving teeth, as this is a complicated biological process involving the bone-dissolving and rebuilding as they move into their new positions. It’s not as simple as encouraging teeth to move closer together to close a gap or push teeth out to straighten a smile. It’s incorrect to assume that long-term orthodontic success can be achieved with DIY methods. Orthodontic treatment should always be done under the supervision of a certified orthodontist like Dr. Swan.

Swan Orthodontic office

Trust your smile to Swan Orthodontics

There’s no need to look to beauty bloggers and YouTube stars for orthodontic advice when quality, affordable care is available from the talented team here at Swan Orthodontics! We ’re dedicated to making it as easy as possible for families in our community to achieve a beautifully-aligned, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.

If you’re in Caledonia or the surrounding area, and want more information about the difference professional orthodontics can make in your smile, why not give us a call and schedule an initial consultation? We will be able to assess any orthodontic needs and discuss which treatment options suit you best. We can get you started on the safest path to a straighter, healthier smile today!