pretty african american young woman have a toothache

The Dangers Of DIY Orthodontics

Posted on August 30, 2018 by Dr. Damon Szymanowski.

It’s hard to resist a little DIY project every now and then, whether it’s building something, changing things up with a fresh coat of paint, or repurposing everyday things you have lying around the house. DIY is having a bit of a moment right now, with Facebook and Pinterest full of endless project videos, tutorials, and how-to guides, and while this is great for our creativity, it does have its limits. Like most everything else, this is a trend that can be taken several steps too far, and DIY orthodontics is a perfect example of that!

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, our team enjoys being resourceful and crafty as much as the next person, but we also take oral health seriously. As an experienced orthodontist, Dr. Szymanowski proudly provides high-quality orthodontic care to families in Sacramento and the surrounding communities. We offer a wide variety of affordable orthodontic options to suit every budget, putting you in much safer hands than anyone attempting DIY braces! To learn more about why you should never embark on orthodontic methods that aren’t backed by science, experience, or skill, keep reading below.

There’s a DIY orthodontics trend? What does that even mean?

It might seem crazy, but enter “DIY braces” into any search engine, and you’ll see hundreds of pages of results. There are popular videos with thousands of views that promise you can get a straighter smile by using everyday items such as rubber bands, paper clips, bobby pins, and even aluminum foil to move your teeth into more desirable positions. Some of these videos had so many views and shares, and were covered so frequently in the media, that the American Association of Orthodontists felt compelled to issue a consumer alert. This was prompted in part by a survey of its members that showed almost 15% of them had seen patients with problems caused by DIY attempts, including actual tooth loss in the most extreme cases. Their statement reads, 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.”

It’s true that there is a significant amount of time, effort, and expense involved in the kind of successful orthodontic treatment that produces a lasting, beautifully aligned smile. Although we can understand why people would be attracted to the promise of a cheap and easy option to straighten their teeth, this is truly a case of “you get what you pay for!”

Dental X-Ray and mold

The dangers of experimenting with DIY braces

Using elastics in dentistry and orthodontics is actually not a new phenomenon, as 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. However, even this kind of primitive tooth removal was done under the appropriate supervision!

When it comes to DIY orthodontics, the most popular method seems to be “gap bands.” These are nothing more than cheap hair elastics that you might see in any shop for a dollar or two. Advocates of DIY braces believe that wrapping these elastics around misaligned teeth and wearing them daily or nightly for an extended amount of time will close any gaps and straighten the overall bite. Some even claim to have seen results from this method in as little as 45 days.

There is a potential for disastrous results with gap bands, along with any unsupervised methods of orthodontic treatment. Many people don’t realize how widely the shape of teeth can vary, even within the same mouth, and how easy that makes it for rubber bands to slide into the soft tissues surrounding them. Once bands become embedded in this tissue, they become difficult to retrieve without the help of a dentist or orthodontist, if not impossible. If left untreated, the band will continue to move over time, eventually hitting the roots and potentially causing nerve damage. As the roots are pulled together, the crowns will also begin to fan out, resulting in the teeth beginning to erupt and loosen. Sometimes things get bad enough that the affected teeth will actually fall out.

There is a long list of other issues that can result from attempting to straighten the teeth with DIY braces, including (but not limited to):

  • the teeth being moved into wrong angles, resulting in a crooked smile
  • gap bands sinking into the soft tissues of the gums, causing lacerations and pain
  • the teeth being moved too quickly, which can cause long-term issues like a loss of length along the root, gum problems, etc.
  • small bands and makeshift brackets like earring backs or tiny beads can be potential choking hazards
  • the metal in paper clips and other such materials may be toxic if used over an extended period of time
  • bands that are snapped directly on the teeth can crack enamel
  • infected gums may result in the need for serious treatment, up to and including tooth extraction
  • no/improper diagnosis or the wrong treatment can result in an improper bite

Experienced orthodontists like Dr. Szymanowski spent many years learning how to move teeth slowly and safely to ensure overall oral health is maintained, treatment methods are effective, and results are long-lasting. By attempting DIY braces, you’re setting yourself up to fail, and also risking the need for complex dental procedures to repair any associated damage. Some of these repairs can be quite extensive (and expensive!)

Shortcuts to a straighter smile simply don’t exist

In general, high-quality orthodontic work isn’t likely to be quick, easy, or inexpensive. That’s because it takes education, expertise, and the best in modern orthodontic technology to create the perfect customized smile. Orthodontics isn’t as simple as pushing the teeth closer together to close a gap or push teeth out to straighten a smile. Moving teeth is a complicated biological process that involves dissolving the bone and then rebuilding it as the teeth move into their new positions. Long-term orthodontic success can’t be achieved with DIY methods, and any orthodontic treatment should be supervised by a certified orthodontist like Dr. Szymanowski.

Girl at doctors office

Trust your teeth to the experts at Szymanowski Orthodontics

Viral videos are great for craft projects, but you don’t need to look to YouTube for orthodontic advice when we offer quality care that’s affordable for every budget! We know that orthodontic treatment can be a sizable investment, and we’ll work with you to provide the treatment you need. We never want finances to stand in the way of creating a healthy, stunning smile for you! Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, we offer:

  • Interest-free financial payment plans throughout treatment
  • No-down-payment, third-party financing from CareCredit
  • Automatic credit card or bank draft payments through OrthoBanc
  • Convenient online credit card payments

Many dental insurance policies will also cover a portion of your orthodontic treatment. During your initial consultation, we will review your orthodontic coverage and explain your benefits to you. Once treatment begins, we will gladly submit and file your insurance claim on your behalf to make sure your benefits are maximized! We ’re dedicated to making it as easy as possible for you to achieve a beautifully straight smile that lasts a lifetime, so if you’re in Sacramento or the surrounding area, give us a call today to schedule an initial consultation!