La Grange, IL – These days, there’s a YouTube video for just about everything you can imagine. One recently sparked some controversy in the Oak Park orthodontics world and beyond.
A YouTube user named Jamila Garza posted a video about how she closed a gap in her teeth using nothing more than some rubber bands. The problem, though, is that Garza isn’t an orthodontist, or even a dental professional of any kind. But that hasn’t stopped her, and other YouTube users, from making videos proclaiming gaps can be closed and teeth can be straightened through the use of rubber bands around their teeth.
But what do professionals have to say about this DIY method?
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” say Dr. William Beam, a certified orthodontist. “Being able to close a large gap for the price of a few dollars in rubber bands sounds amazing. But it might also be dangerous.”
These rubber bands might not stay in place. In fact, they can shift and work themselves under the gum and can lead to tooth loss. But additionally, there can be underlying dental issues a patient might face that can only be found by visiting their dentist and orthodontist.
“Before we begin braces or any other orthodontic treatment, we do a thorough exam,” says Dr. Richard Battistoni. “We take X-rays, photos and impressions, but we also do a physical exam. Then, we put all of this information together to make a diagnosis and craft an ideal treatment plan. When you order a DIY kit online, or attempt to correct your issue with things you may have at home, you’re missing out on the critical element of seeing a specialist who understands the unique issues you may face.”
That includes issues such as bone loss or periodontal disease that may interfere with treatment. If you have untreated oral health issues, and attempt to move your teeth without the supervision of a professional, it can cause irreparable damage, including tooth loss.
Closing a gap between the front teeth seems simple enough, and YouTube videos and even websites selling tooth bands make it seem that way. But what they don’t tell you is that if you close a gap between your front teeth, you’re creating a gap somewhere else in your mouth. And that will affect the way your teeth fit together, which can then affect how you speak and eat. When your bite becomes misaligned, it can cause abnormal wear on your jaw and teeth, leading to cracked, chipped and broken teeth.
Orthodontists are also reporting seeing patients who attempted to use bands to close a gap, only to find the band recessed into their gums. In these cases, the patients have ended up with gum disease, loss of bone and the loss of teeth.
Closing gaps with rubber bands isn’t the only new trend popping up. Patients are also purchasing tooth straightening kits online. There are currently two companies prescribing aligners remotely, meaning all you have to do is do your own impression and send in a photo, and you’ll be sent a series of aligners that claim their use will result in a straighter smile.
“Again, this trend poses a lot of problems,” says Dr. Beam. “When we don’t physically see patients, we can miss important oral health issues that can impeded treatment. But more than that, aligners aren’t an effective means to correct all orthodontic issues. Wouldn’t you rather know that a trained and certified orthodontist is leading you through your treatment, rather than a customer service representative who may or may not have any sort of dental training?”
A picture and impressions done at home should not be the only way a diagnosis is reached. With an in-office exam, X-rays will tell the orthodontist if the bone supporting the teeth will respond well to a certain treatment. But it’s also important that you maintain regular checkups with an orthodontist during your treatment to ensure treatment stays on track and to address any issues as soon as they arise.
But the biggest problem, says Dr. Battistoni, one of the best orthodontists in the area, is the fact that consumers are relying on untrained people to offer advice for their orthodontic treatment.
“In some cases with these YouTube videos, we have minors advocating this type of home remedies,” says Dr. Battistoni. “Orthodontists dedicate years to learning about the science behind moving teeth. Orthodontic treatment is a medical treatment and should only be performed by a professional. We never want to see harm done to any of our patients or potential patients.”
The American Association of Orthodontics takes the topic of DIY orthodontics so seriously it is launching a public service campaign to educate the public about the dangers of taking orthodontic treatment into your own hands.
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