Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are normally a source of pride and accomplishment.
You love that feeling of getting something done all by yourself. You get the chance to unleash your inner creativity, use all-natural ingredients or materials, minimize waste, and (most importantly) save money.
Indeed, there’s much to be said for going DIY and a few ways that you can go wrong with it.
But there is one area you should never go DIY: straightening your teeth.
DIY braces have some serious risks that you need to know about before you attempt to save money and perform your own orthodontic treatment.
What Are DIY Braces?
You’ve probably wondered at some point:
“Can you get braces for free?”
While there are a few ways to save money on traditional orthodontic treatment, some people take things a step further by making their own braces.
DIY braces are basically any attempt to try straightening your own teeth without a dental professional’s supervision.
If you look up how to straighten teeth, you’ll quickly notice that most of your options are a bit expensive. So the appeal of going DIY is obvious.
And people will make DIY braces out anything they can think of. Some inventions involve the use of superglue, plastique trays without the shape of your smile, bits of wire, rubber bands, or even paperclips.
One college student even managed to 3D print his own set of clear aligners for just $60.
Are DIY Braces Safe?
No matter what DIY braces are made from, they are always unsafe if an orthodontist isn’t involved.
Orthodontists (and even some dentists) have several years of specialty training in moving teeth science. Moving teeth is a precise science and one that’s easy to get wrong if you don’t know exactly what you are doing.
So if you attempt to move your teeth at home without the supervision of a qualified dental professional, then you are setting yourself up for some serious problems. We’ll discuss those in a minute.
Are DIY Braces Different from At-Home Braces?
Not all braces that you can manage at home are as dangerous as DIY braces.
This is because you can get at-home braces from a dentist or orthodontist.
“At-home” braces usually refer to orthodontic treatment that doesn’t require you to visit an orthodontist for frequent adjustments. An orthodontist or dentist will still have to examine your smile and prescribe the treatment, but you’ll be able to manage most of your treatment right from your own home.
Teeth aligners, for example, can be prescribed remotely or in-office by a dentist or orthodontist. Once you receive your aligners, you simply wear them as directed and have a video chat with a dentist occasionally for a virtual progress check.
But this kind of clear aligner treatment is ultimately overseen by a professional, so it’s nowhere near as dangerous as DIY braces.
DIY Braces Gone Wrong: Why Did This Happen?
You likely have good motives if you want to attempt DIY orthodontic treatment.
You want straighter, healthier teeth, and you want to save money while improving your smile.
But there are a few reasons DIY braces fail and don’t go as expected.
Seeing a dentist or orthodontist before straightening your teeth is extremely important.
Teeth straightening isn’t safe for everyone, and you need to be sure that your mouth is healthy enough for braces before you can begin treatment. If you have untreated tooth decay or gum disease or problems with the bone in your jaw, then moving your teeth could make those problems worse.
And here’s the thing: you may not even know that you have a dental problem unless you see a dentist.
Dentists are trained to look for signs of tooth decay or gum disease. They also have X-ray machines and other diagnostic equipment to help them detect tiny problems before they become big issues.
A dentist or orthodontist can either clear you to begin orthodontic treatment or recommend treatment that will get your mouth to a healthier place before starting braces.
Additionally, checking in with a dental professional over the course of your treatment will allow them to make sure that your teeth are moving safely and according to schedule. Without their professional guidance, you really won’t know if your teeth are responding as they should to your DIY braces.
As mentioned earlier, straightening teeth is an exact science. Braces don’t work the same way for everyone. For your treatment to be successful, you need a treatment plan.
A treatment plan details exactly which teeth need to move, how quickly they can move, and in which direction they need to move. Even most cheap teeth aligners include a treatment plan designed by a dentist or orthodontist on their team.
If you just start putting pressure on your teeth with rubber hair bands without a professional treatment plan, you will have no idea what kind of outcome to expect. You won’t know whether your teeth are moving at a safe rate or how to control the direction they move in.
Even mail-order teeth aligners can be dangerous if the company doesn’t have actual dentists or orthodontists who can create a custom treatment plan for you.
So if you’re interested in straightening your teeth at home with clear aligners, make sure that the aligner company has a trusted process for creating treatment plans and monitoring your treatment.
The last problem with DIY braces is that they can cause lasting damage to your teeth or gums.
The orthodontic materials used by professionals have been carefully researched and tested. They won’t cause any damage to your teeth as long as a skilled orthodontist prescribes and places them.
But the objects most people use in DIY braces (like paper clips, glue, and rubber bands) aren’t sterilized, nor are they designed for safe use in the mouth. These things can even break down in saliva, releasing harmful chemicals. Glue and sharp objects can irritate your gums and other tissues in your mouth.
Some objects can irritate your gums to the point that they start shrinking away from your teeth. Others can wear away your tooth enamel and leave sensitive notches in your teeth.
Even when DIY braces successfully move teeth, they may do so much faster than regular braces do. That may sound like a benefit, at first. But it’s actually a problem since tooth roots can dissolve when you try to move teeth too quickly.
Finally, if DIY braces don’t move your teeth into exactly the right positions, you could end up changing the alignment of your entire bite. DIY braces can backfire and make your crooked teeth worse. What was once a cosmetic issue can turn into a functional one, and you could end up having difficulty biting or chewing your food.
Can At-Home Aligners Go Wrong? Why?
Is it safe to say that nothing will go wrong if you order at-home clear aligners from a reputable company?
Well, while you are better off doing that than straightening your teeth with paper clips, the process still isn’t fail-proof.
We’ve already discussed the dangers of DIY braces. Let’s now talk about what to do next after things have already gone wrong.
What to Do if DIY Braces Fail ?
Have you already attempted to straighten your teeth on your own and are starting to regret it?
If your DIY braces fail or just don’t seem to be getting the results you wanted, you need to drop everything and see a dentist right away.
Yes, seeing a dentist or orthodontist to reverse the damage will cost money. But it’s the best way to get your teeth back on track and keep the problem from getting any worse.
What to Do if At-Home Braces Fail?
Perhaps your dentist or orthodontist gave you an aligner to wear at home, and it’s not working so well.
If that’s the case, contact your clear aligner provider directly for help.
Do not try to take matters into your own hands by adjusting your aligner yourself! You could permanently damage it, and that could throw off your entire treatment plan.
The good news here is that teledentistry is getting more common these days. Your clear aligner provider should have some provision for you to check-in and contact them virtually using an app on your smartphone. You can send them pictures of your smile and your aligners and get advice on what to do next.
What Can Happen if Your Do-It-Yourself Braces Fail?
As mentioned above, there can be some pretty serious consequences for your smile if your DIY braces fail.
You risk experiencing:
Can At-Home Braces Have Consequences?
You will most likely have a safe and satisfactory treatment journey if you straighten your teeth with at-home braces provided by a dental professional. They need to properly assess your dental health, recommend the right treatment plan, and then monitor your treatment over time.
As long as that’s how things go, you shouldn’t experience any serious consequences.
Alternatives To Do-it-Yourself Braces
What should you do instead of trying DIY braces?
The safest route is to consider professional orthodontic treatments that you can afford.
Start by consulting with your local dentist. He or she may recommend classic metal braces or clear aligners like Invisalign. Check out our Invisalign review to learn more about this particular brand.
If you feel that Invisalign is still out of your budget, then try one of these Invisalign alternatives or check our list of the 6 best online clear aligner services.
Even some of the cheapest teeth aligners work just as well as Invisalign.
The point is that there are plenty of other ways to straighten your teeth at home safely. Going full DIY might save you some money in the short-term, but it could leave you with some very costly problems that you’ll regret in the long-term.
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Many things can go wrong when you don’t have a skilled dentist watching over your progress in person. For example, your teeth may not align properly. Or, other issues may arise, such as a crossbite (misalignment between the upper and lower teeth), jaw joint problems, and migraines.