There are just some things you should never do yourself. (Photo: iStock/Jennifer Fox for Yahoo Health)
Braces are worn by more than 4 million people in the United States. They’re not comfortable, they don’t always look awesome, and they’re definitely not cheap. But the payoff is why people do it: After all that professioal orthodontic care, you’ll end up with a straight line of pearly whites.
Key word: professional.
Turns out, there is a growing trend of do-it-yourself braces — and it’s concerning the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Some people have used paper clips, rubber bands, and elastic floss to try to fashion their own braces and attempt to move their own teeth. (Case in point: this 2012 YouTube video titled “Cheap easy braces!! Without going to the dentist!!!!!”)
Bad idea, experts say, because you could end up injuring yourself — and even losing your teeth.
“I personally have had a patient who chose to attempt to close a space between his front teeth with the use of rubber bands (elastics),” explains DeWayne B. McCamish, DDS, MS, an orthodontist in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and president-elect of the AAO. But “one of the elastics was forgotten about and left on the teeth. It became submerged under the gum tissue while additional elastics continued to be placed on his teeth.”
Because of the ice-cream-cone-like shape of the front tooth, the elastic ended up migrating to the root of the tooth. This led to bone loss, and this patient eventually lost two of his permanent front teeth, McCamish tells Yahoo Health. Total costs to replace his teeth: $50,000.
McCamish also notes the potential dangerous effect of social media in perpetuating this trend. “The Internet can be wonderful with very pertinent, accurate information, but unfortunately, can be the source of misinformation, as well,” he says.
Orthodontists receive training to safely help patients have straighter teeth and a more aligned bite — an extra two to three years beyond dental school, in fact. If cost is the reason a person is considering DIY braces, “most orthodontists are glad to work with patients and parents to offer affordable payment plans over the course of treatment,” McCamish adds. “In addition, there are even some charitable organizations that many orthodontists belong to, and through them perform treatment for qualifying patients without a charge.”
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