DIY Danger: Orthodontists warn of kids trying to brace themselves at home

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A disturbing trend across the country has orthodontists sounding this alarm: trying to fashion your own braces at home can be dangerous.

In a survey among its members, the American Association of Orthodontists reports that nearly 13% of its members are seeing patients who have tried do-it-yourself (DIY) teeth straightening and some attempts have caused irreparable damage.

The methods and materials can involve rubber bands, dental floss, fishing line, paper clips, biting on pencils, creating fake retainers, and pushing teeth with fingers.

"I think it’s sad to see people try to perform those do it yourself orthodontics using different things," Dr. Yugal Behl, a Virginia Beach Orthodontist, told News 3 anchor Todd Corillo.

"What most people don’t understand is that moving teeth is a biological process that involves bone that dissolves and re-builds as teeth are moved into their new positions,” says DeWayne B. McCamish, DDS, MS, past president of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). “Moving teeth is best done under the direct supervision of an orthodontist after an in-person assessment, including complete diagnostic records."

Dr. Behl has treated a patient who tried using rubber bands to close a gap in the front two teeth and ended up causing significant damage.

"We saw the rubber bands were inside the gum and it had caused so much bone destruction and she almost lost the front two teeth," he commented.

Aside from gum infections, many DIY cases can lead to problems with the bone structure.

"Bone loss is my main concern and if you lose the bone structure, that tooth has no foundation and it’s going to come out," Dr. Behl stated. "Losing a tooth is a big thing. Trying to replace a tooth can cost you in excess of $20,000 and so many dental visits. So you got to be careful."

The AAO attributes the DIY trend primarily to social media.

“There are literally hundreds of videos on YouTube alone, with ‘tutorials’ on how to straighten your own teeth,” Dr. McCamish said.

Approximately 70% of DIY patients seen by AAO members who took part in the study were in a social media-friendly age group, between the ages 10 and 34. Social media usage in those age groups exceeds 80%.

Dr. Behl says many orthodontists will work with patients to make treatment affordable and the end result is priceless.

"It’s life-changing for a lot of people. Like the smile, the confidence they get, it’s like they almost start talking," he shared with a smile.

You can learn more here about the dangers of DIY braces from the American Association of Orthodontists.