It may save money to fix a leaky faucet using YouTube as a guide, but when it comes to straightening teeth, a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach may cause more harm than good.
Responding to an exponentially increasing volume of online tutorials and websites advising consumers on how to straighten their teeth by themselves, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) has issued a series of television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) as part of a public health campaign to inform consumers about the risks associated with DIY orthodontics.
Mirroring a consumer alert found on the AAO’s mylifemysmile.org website, the PSAs spell out a simple message to the viewing and listening audiences: moving teeth is a medical procedure and needs personal supervision by an orthodontist. Orthodontists are specialists who, after graduating from dental school, receive two to three years of additional education in orthodontics at an accredited orthodontic residency program.
Some self-care offerings suggest closing gaps between front teeth using dental floss or rubber bands. Either procedure can cause changes in the bite (the way teeth meet). As one space closes, others may open. Neighboring teeth may become unstable and drift as a result of the way force is now being exerted on them as an individual bites, chews and speaks. A forgotten rubber band can slide under the gum line, unseen and unfelt, and destroy the bone and soft tissue that otherwise hold teeth in place. Affected teeth may simply fall out. Replacing them can require complex and costly dental procedures, which may need to be repeated periodically throughout a lifetime.
“Any time a dental procedure is undertaken by an untrained individual there is a substantial risk for irreparable damage,” says Morris N. Poole, DDS, president of the AAO. “The AAO is committed to the health and safety of the public, and I urge anyone considering any type of teeth straightening procedure to see an orthodontic specialist. The risks associated with `do it yourself’ orthodontics can, and should be, avoided.” Consumers can locate nearby AAO members, all of whom are orthodontic specialists, using the Find an Orthodontist service.
When an individual receives treatment from an orthodontist, there are regular in-person visits. At these appointments, the orthodontist monitors tooth movement, and makes necessary adjustments to advance the process. Orthodontists also assess the health of the patient’s teeth and gums at these appointments, and will alert the patient about actions to take if anything is amiss. Orthodontists’ collective goal is to help each patient achieve a healthy and beautiful smile that’s good for life.