You can make something better, fix something broken, build something new, or just save some money over buying it pre-built. However, one area where the DIY approach is never a good idea is orthodontic treatment. Braces should only ever be done by the professionals.
In recent years, enterprising teens on various social media platforms have shown off their strategies for skipping the orthodontist by using household items like rubber bands, fishing line, paper clips, earring backs, and dental floss to straighten their teeth. They might think they’re the MacGyvers of guerilla orthodontics, but they’re putting their teeth at serious risk, never mind that they’re unlikely to get the results they want.
The trouble is that shifting teeth into their proper position is not simply a matter of applying pressure to cause movement. We orthodontists spent years and years learning all the complexities of the teeth, gums, and jaws, and there’s no replacement for that kind of education.
When we design a treatment plan for a patient, we factor in growth patterns in the bones and facial tissues, how wisdom teeth affect the position of the other teeth, and even the patients’ overall health. A kid with some paper clips does not have the knowledge or tools to do any of that.
There are numerous examples of DIY braces gone horribly wrong. One is David Campbell, who thought he could close the gap between his front teeth with rubber bands. Every night, the rubber bands seemed to disappear. What he didn’t know was that they had actually vanished beneath his gums and were working their way up the roots, strangling them. The cost of repairing the damage to his front teeth was much more expensive than proper braces would have been.
Root strangulation is just one potential hazard of DIY braces. Another is permanent damage to the enamel on the outside of the teeth. Orthodontists use special materials and tools to keep the enamel safe, but makeshift braces crafted at home have no such guarantee, and the teeth can be left more sensitive to temperature changes and tooth decay as a result.
Making your own braces might seem like a cool life hack, but the reality is that it’s incredibly dangerous. We only get one set of permanent teeth. You can’t afford to risk yours with amateur, junk drawer braces. Leave this one to the experts. Your teeth will thank you.
The best case scenario for DIY braces is that they simply won’t work, but at worst, they can cost a few teeth. As the American Association of Orthodontics says, “Moving teeth is a medical procedure and needs personal supervision by an orthodontist…Moving teeth without a thorough examination of the overall health of the teeth and gums could result in the permanent loss of teeth, which may result in expensive and lifelong dental problems.” We don’t want that for any of our patients!