A horrifying $5 do-it-yourself braces trend, popularized to millions of teens through YouTube videos, can cause permanent injury that can require reconstruction, and even surgery to repair damage. (See YouTube video here.)
This incredibly dangerous practice can provoke severe gum infection, tooth discoloration from severed blood flow to the teeth, root damage and, at worst, permanent tooth loss. The practice is encouraged by Youtubers as a “cheap and quick” solution for resolving orthodontic needs without seeing a professional.
“It seems very attractive that you could possibly move your own teeth and save money,” says Dr. Juan Rendon, DDS, MSD at Jefferson Dental Clinics. “Remember that the teeth are surrounded by different tissues like gums, bones and periodontal ligaments. Every time that a tooth is moved, those tissues need to reform and heal.”
“Cheap and easy braces!! Without going to the dentist!!!!” boasts one video that has received more than 800,000 views. The teen in the video explains how the pain from tying the bands tightly around her front teeth will last for several days.
Another YouTube Vlogger has drawn hundreds of thousands of views to her series of videos about closing the gap in her front two teeth using $5 hair bands, and offers viewers advice on replicating the process.
“The problem starts when you do not know how much force is generated with rubber bands or other gadgets. If the force is not appropriate it can cause gum damage, root resorption, damage to the tooth nerve and bone loss,” explains Dr. Rendon.
Dr. Rendon adds that your teeth may visually appear to be moving in the right direction, but there is little way to tell whether the roots of the teeth are actually moving, or if the teeth are simply tilting. The natural conical shape of the teeth, combined with the tension of the rubber band will eventually cause the band to slide up towards the gum line, causing serious complications.
This practice is on par with any other extreme do-it-yourself medical procedure: better left to professionals. Compare do-it-yourself dentistry to at-home stitches or a self-performed eye exam.
If you want your teeth to last for many years and look great, it is not worth the risk of trying to move your own teeth,” says Dr. Rendon.