If you have a teenager or young adult child who has a few crooked teeth, has not had braces and suffers from self-esteem problems, you are going to want to learn about the ongoing and unsettling trend of Do-It-Yourself (D-I-Y) braces.

What are D-I-Y Braces?

If you visit Youtube and input D-I-Y Braces, you might not be shocked at the videos and tutorials put up by teenagers (one even has 1.2 million views over the past few years) with what looks like, simple details of how to bring crooked teeth together, or push them in a different direction. But, you will be shocked at the damage, sometimes irreversible, that can occur with these D-I-Y braces methods!

Why are D-I-Y braces a trend? COST. Braces can cost thousands of dollars. But if you don’t want D-I-Y brain surgery or D-I-Y hip replacement, why would you want D-I-Y dentistry or orthodontics? According to today’s statistics, approximately 60 percent of Americans have dental insurance coverage, but many are not covered for procedures involving braces. Looking “good” and just like their peers is important for young people whose appearance insecurities sometimes lead them down very misguided paths.

Becoming popular in 2015 and still trending from 2016 to now, D-I-Y braces refers to the process of straightening one’s teeth using elastic bands or other implements (tiny rubber bands, elastic hair bands, dental floss, wires, paper clips and even fishing line) without the consultation or help of a dental professional. The videos have been created by young people who claim they are doing so because their family cannot afford to get them braces, and they feel driven to “help others.”

Young people investigating D-I-Y braces and videos could be curious or motivated to proceed with great error. One You Tube video title screams, “Cheap easy braces!! Without going to the dentist!!!!! Parents must BEWARE. "It's Russian roulette, and you're playing with how you're going to be for the rest of your life," said Dr. Dewayne McCamish, President of the American Association of Orthodontists. Thirteen percent of the association's members report having patients who have tried D-I-Y teeth straightening to avoid costly orthodontic work and end up costing even more to repair the damage and/or teeth, sometimes up to $10,000. In the worst cases, McCamish says patients have lost their teeth altogether, resulting in ongoing expenses for dental work, often for life.

Oral health professionals know that if you place items like rubber bands or unsterile materials on teeth and gums for any length of time, serious complications may occur including pain, swelling, infection, and the materials may be absorbed into the gums, resulting in the permanent damage or loss of teeth, healthy gums, nerves and even bone. Orthodontists say serious damage can happen quickly, sometimes in just a few days, and the effects can be irreversible.

Orthodontists advise that parents of teens discovered trying the D-I-Y braces method, seek professional dental help ASAP, because unprofessionally moving a tooth too fast can cause damage to the bone and gums (the teeth, with constant pressure, can become extruded or come out of the socket, and straightening implements can virtually strangle the teeth cutting off blood supply.) Also, when the tooth is not in the right position, it can cause root damage, tooth discoloration, misalign the bite leading to additional wear and damage, and there’s a high potential that the tooth will move back to its original position, but in a weakened condition.

Good D-I-Y methods of oral health care include twice-daily brushing, flossing and tongue-scraping, and I’ve written about holistic and trendy oil pulling, toothpaste and emergency toothbrush alternatives, and home remedies for toothaches.  But, when it comes to dental treatment, PLEASE SEEK PROFESSIONAL CARE.

Today’s teens and young people should have the gift of being tomorrow’s adults with healthy teeth. Looks matter, but good oral health care matters more!


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