The Dangers of DIY Orthodontic Treatment

diy orthodontic treatment

Published by Dr. Charles Gemmi

A Board Certified Orthodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. Charles Gemmi has been a practicing orthodontist with Orthodontics Limited since 2000 and is a member of the teaching staff at Einstein Medical Center. Orthodontics Limited is a Diamond+ Provider of Invisalign in Philadelphia and Hatboro, PA.

With the spread of social media and viral videos, a new dangerous trend has emerged: DIY orthodontic treatment. Now DIY, which stands for “do it yourself,” has become increasingly popular for crafts, fashion, woodworking, and similar activities. However, it should never be involved when it comes to medical, dental, or orthodontic treatment.

Unfortunately, many young people don’t realize the dangers this type of video advocates. Attempting to do any sort of DIY orthodontic treatment can result in permanent pain and damage to the smile. For more information, check out this detailed list of the dangers of DIY orthodontic treatment.

The Materials Used to Make DIY Braces

The most common type of DIY orthodontic treatment is DIY braces. Braces can be expensive, costing between $4,000 and $6,000 for uninsured patients. On the surface, braces seem simple: They consist of brackets and wires which apply consistent, gentle pressure to the teeth so they move into place. But braces are not as simple as these videos want people to believe.

In DIY videos, it is common for teenagers or young adults to use the following materials to straighten their teeth: rubber bands, fishing like, earring backs, and even chicken wire.

These materials are not designed to go on the teeth or last under the constant acidic assault of a person’s saliva. This means the material starts to degrade and can even break down. When this happens, pieces of metal and rubber can become lodged underneath the gum line, allow bacteria to penetrate the soft tissues.

The most common results are damaged teeth, an even more misaligned smile, permanent damage to the gums, and a dental infection. Some DIY individuals have even required oral surgery to remove pieces of metal trapped under their teeth.

Just like homemade DIY braces should be avoided, so should DIY kits bought online. These kits are not made by dentists or orthodontists and have no oversight or regulations. They often result in extensive damage to the smile, especially if they include any chemicals or require the user to wrap material around their teeth.

DIY Braces Only Straighten

Another problem is DIY braces are designed by uneducated individuals who don’t understand the entire purpose of braces. Many assume the only purpose of traditional orthodontic treatment is to straighten – nothing could be further from the truth.

Braces are designed to properly align the jaws in addition to the teeth and are supposed to reduce the pressure placed on the teeth, gums, and jawbones. While they will straighten the teeth, it is done by moving the part of the tooth connected to the jawbone until it is aligned and in a more comfortable position.

DIY braces do not do this. Instead, they only focus on closing the gaps between the teeth.

One of the most dangerous methods teenagers have used is placing a rubber band around two teeth to pull them together. While this can move the teeth towards one another, it also weakens their position in the jawbone. Some results from this activity have been permanent tooth loss, cut and damaged gums, tooth fracture, root damage, and even a cracked jawbone.

The Dangers of Gap Bands

Gap bands are perhaps the most dangerous form of DIY braces. These are inexpensive hair elastics teens can buy from a pharmacy or drug store. Videos show young people wrapping these around their teeth and instructing children to wear them at night. Disturbingly, the video creators even tell the kids that the band will hurt a lot, but to keep wearing them.

Gap bands do have an orthodontic equivalent – dentists used to wrap bands around teeth they intended to remove. Why?

Because the constant pressure and excess force applied by the elastic kills the root and gums, making the tooth fall out.

Gap bands are so dangerous because they are deceptively simple and seem harmless. Unfortunately, children only see the visible part of their teeth, called the crown, and not the important root underneath.

When gap bands apply pressure, they are pulling the root out of the jawbone and away from the gums, resulting in serious issues.

The Materials Damage the Enamel

Braces have advanced significantly since the traditional metal versions of the past. In modern times, the majority of braces are made of softer materials which are glued to the teeth. The glue bonds the material in place, but also protects the dental enamel from being scraped and damaged.

DIY braces do not have bonding agents or materials which have been softened for use on the teeth. Metal wires in particular will scrape along the surface of the tooth, wearing away the dental enamel. Over time, this increases the risk of tooth decay and infection. It also leads to permanent chipping, cracking, and even fracturing.

Even worse, some of the metals included in paperclips and chicken wire contain toxic chemicals and additives which will leach out over time when exposed to acidic saliva. This can result in enamel discoloration and potentially make the user sick.

Even rubber bands have this effect. Rubber does not absorb moisture and constantly rubs against the enamel when wrapped around the teeth. The pressure of the band slowly wears away at the surface, causing the same issues as metal.


Once you know how braces work, you begin to see why attempting to DIY any form of orthodontic care can be dangerous. Traditional braces move not only the visible portion of the tooth, but also safely realign the roots and the jaws themselves. Unfortunately, many older children and teenagers do not know this information and do not understand how they are hurting themselves.

Instead of trying to use the quick method to straighten a smile, it is important to seek out a qualified Philadelphia orthodontist near you. The majority of practitioners examine your jaw alignment and create a custom plan that reduces pain and maximizes impact in a safe manner.

Don’t try to take the easy route, and don’t listen to YouTube videos. Leave orthodontics to the professionals.

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