Why Do-It-Yourself Braces are a Don't-Do-It-Yourself

Posted on: 31 March 2016

There's no argument that braces and similar orthodontic treatments can be costly. The price for them can land anywhere from $2,570 with dental insurance to $13,000 without, depending on the type of braces you get. However, a troubling trend where people are treating their crooked teeth by developing their own orthodontic products at home can actually cost you more in the long-term if you try it. Here's the lowdown on this dental trend and reasons why you should avoid it.

From Rubber Bands to 3-D Printers

Of all the do-it-yourself projects out there, performing one's own orthodontic treatment seems like the most unlikely thing someone would do. However, many people have done this exact thing, and there are YouTube videos and news articles to prove it. One young woman used rubber bands to close the gap in her front teeth. A college student used his school's software and 3-D printer to create a plastic retainer to straighten his crooked teeth.

Even more worrisome are mail-order companies requiring people to take their own dental impressions at home and send those impressions to the company, who then manufactures Invisalign-type aligners for them, all without the buyers meeting dentists face-to-face.

All of these alternatives cost the do-it-yourselfers significantly less than getting professional orthodontic treatments. The person who ordered his aligners through the mail only paid $600 for them, while the girl who closed her gap did so for the cost of the rubber bands. Unfortunately, these types of quick fixes can be catastrophically damaging and result in more oral problems.

The Consequences of Do-It-Yourself Orthodontics

Quite a few things happen in the mouth when teeth are moved around. The jawbone, gums, nerves, and blood vessels all rearrange themselves as the teeth move to their new spots. With DIY orthodontics, these structures may get damaged and result in terrible outcomes, such as broken blood vessels, severed nerves, and lost teeth.

For example, the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics noted that rubber bands can destroy the gums, bone, and roots and eventually cause the banded teeth to fall out. So while the price of a pack of bands may only be a couple of dollars, replacing damaged or missing teeth can cost upwards of $4,250 per tooth.

Another problem with do-it-yourself orthodontics is that not everyone's teeth can be fixed that simply. This is why being examined in person by a licensed orthodontist is an essential first step to fixing oral health concerns. Sometimes crooked teeth are caused by overcrowding; in which case, some teeth may need to be removed—or at least trimmed down—before braces can be used to straighten them. In other cases, straightening teeth in one area will cause gaps to form in others. This can have a negative impact on your bite, leading to problems with chewing and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues.

Lastly, part of the process of straightening teeth is maintaining the results. Without doing any follow up treatment, such as wearing a retainer to train teeth to stay in place, teeth may revert back to their original positions. You'll have gone through all of that pain and effort with a do-it-yourself method, only to end up back where you started.

Although straightening your teeth at home may seem like an easy and cheap option, especially if you can't afford to pay the cost of orthodontic work, it can lead to long-term problems that cost more to fix. If you're having trouble paying for proper dental work, there are many financing options available. It's best to consult with a dentist about those options and straighten your teeth the healthy way.

If you can't quite afford braces but want to correct a couple of crooked teeth, consider turning to a cosmetic dentist, such as David Jackson, DDS, for help. You might be able to use veneers or another cosmetic technique to correct the appearance of your teeth.