Orthodontists warn against uptick in DIY teeth straightening

One man who used rubber bands to straighten his teeth shares his story.

ByABC News
March 10, 2017, 8:23 AM

— -- Orthodontists are warning parents and patients of the dangers in the recent trend of at-home teeth straightening techniques, saying that in some cases these do-it-yourself braces can cause irreparable damage to your teeth.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recently reported that 13 percent of its member orthodontists saw patients who have attempted DIY teeth straightening.

Some common tools used in at-home teeth straightening attempts include rubber bands, dental floss, fishing line, paper clips or other materials, according to the AAO. Recently, videos featuring amateur tutorials on how to straighten your teeth at home have also surged in popularity on social media.

“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,” DeWayne B. McCamish, DDS, MS, the president of the AAO, said in a statement. “By the time a layperson recognizes something is wrong with their teeth, it may not be reversible, even with professional help. The cost of dealing with replacing a lost tooth can easily exceed $20,000 over a lifetime and certainly be much less than ideal.

"You have to remember that the goal of good orthodontic treatment is obtaining a healthy, beautiful smile for a lifetime –- shortcuts can be disastrous,” McCamish added.

David Campbell, from Atlanta, Ga., told ABC News that at a young age his former dentist suggested that he attach rubber bands to his teeth in the evenings to try and close a gap in his front teeth by himself. At night, Campbell said he noticed the rubber bands kept disappearing, and he initially just assumed that they were falling off.

In reality, however, Campbell said he found out that, "the rubber bands were going up into my gums and killing the teeth at the root."

Campbell told ABC News that when he went to a different orthodontist, "They found about four or five rubber bands in the root of my gums" and that the rubber bands "had just strangled my teeth."

Dr. Nancy Rosen, a dentist based in New York, told ABC News that doing what Campbell did could cause damage to your teeth quickly, sometimes in just a couple of days, and that the results can become expensive.

"I think that in the end, you'll be paying double to correct all of the mistakes that you've made," Rosen said.

Campbell said that he eventually lost his two front teeth, and he estimates that he has spent between $40,000 to $50,000 on dental care over the years. He hopes to use his story to warn others to not make the same mistakes.

"It may look simple," Campbell said of DIY orthodontics, "but it can end up costing you thousands of dollars and a lot of heartache and pain."