By Dr. Andrew Harner, California Association of Orthodontists (CAO) President

There is a growing trend among children and adults attempting to straighten their own teeth with items such as rubber bands, paper clips, and other household items. This is a huge concern for orthodontic specialists as the do-it-yourself approach often results in devastating consequences for the individual. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and the California Association of Orthodontists (CAO), the state component of the AAO, urge individuals to refrain from these dangerous practices and to seek the services of a CAO member orthodontist to perform any orthodontic treatment.

Nearly 13% of AAO members have seen patients who have tried do-it-yourself (DIY) teeth straightening. The reported ages of people attempting to straighten their own teeth range from 8 to over 60 years old. The AAO attributes the trend of DIY teeth straightening to social media video content, such as YouTube video tutorials.

The most common materials used to attempt do-it-yourself teeth straightening include rubber bands, dental floss, fishing line and paper clips – as well as DIY methods such as biting on pencils, creating fake retainers and using a rubber band to push teeth together.

Attempting any self-directed, DIY teeth straightening puts your teeth, gums and overall dental health at risk. Moving teeth without a thorough examination of the overall health of the teeth and gums could result in permanent tooth damage and/or loss of teeth which can result in lifelong dental problems and expense. Patients may think they are saving time and money by trying to straighten their teeth at home, but the damage caused by unsupervised treatment can ultimately cost more than seeing an orthodontic specialist from the very beginning.

Children should visit an orthodontist for the first time at age 7 to determine whether they need orthodontic treatment and to map out a safe and effective treatment plan if treatment is necessary. Seeing an orthodontic specialist for treatment is the only way orthodontic treatment should be undertaken and under no circumstances should anyone attempt DIY, at home or self-directed orthodontics.

If you or your child has attempted any form of DIY teeth straightening, please seek the advice of an orthodontic specialist immediately. Consultations are easy to set up and are quite often free of charge.

To find an orthodontic specialist in your area, enter your zip code into our CAO member orthodontist locator.