Getting braces as a kid — or at any stage in life — is a dreaded experience for many. Now, some people are trying to skip the entire process altogether by attempting to straighten their teeth by themselves. Countless tutorials on YouTube are popping up telling people how to use objects like rubber bands and paperclips among other things to straighten their teeth.
This painful, at-home phenomena may be more widespread than you think — according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), nearly 13 percent of its member orthodontists have seen patients who have tried DIY teeth straightening.
“There are literally hundreds of videos on YouTube alone, with ‘tutorials’ on how to straighten your own teeth,” said AAO president DeWayne McCamish. “Moving teeth is best done under the direct supervision of an orthodontist after an in-person assessment, including complete diagnostic records.”
The gnarly damage these DIY teeth straightening techniques cause cannot be understated. One orthodontist reported a patient who tried to wrap string around their teeth, which then had to be extracted from deep inside their gum line.
These dangerous, at-home methods could also result in irreversible damage.
“It’s really a shame when someone comes in after attempting DIY orthodontic treatment and we determine that the damage they’ve done to their teeth is so extensive that teeth cannot be saved,” McCamish said.
Not only can the damage be permanent, but also costly. Over the long run, the cost to repair the damage done can exceed $20,000, McCamish explained. In fact, many of the orthodontists polled by the AAO said they believed patients could have actually saved time and money by getting professional help to begin with.
“If it’s a matter of economics, many orthodontists do an initial consultation at no cost and with no obligation,” McCamish explained. “It’s an opportunity to get the expert’s opinion about your problem, options to resolve it and, in so doing, avoid the unintended harmful consequences that could result from DIY treatment.”
Online tutorials may be great for some home redecorating or healthy cooking tricks, but should definitely not be used to fix your teeth.
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.