There are a lot of wonderful things to be found on TikTok – and a lot of bad dental ideas. From filing down your teeth to even out a smile or prep for veneers to trying to scale (clean the tartar from) them, there are a lot of terrible dental ideas that periodically trend there.

Perhaps most notorious are the various methods of DIY orthodontics. Like other bad DIY dental ideas, this can actually result in a lot of damage that will undoubtedly cost much more to fix than if you had just consulted an orthodontist in the first place.

Consider the case of a 9-year old boy whose parents tried to close the gap between his front teeth by yoking them together with a small rubber band. Within two days, the gap had indeed closed. The rubber band had also disappeared. The parents simply assumed it had broken.

But it hadn’t. The rubber band had actually worked its way up and under the gums, destroying the tissues that hold the teeth in place. More than 75% of the bone supporting his two front teeth had been lost. The teeth became loose. His gums were swollen. He was in a lot of pain. So his parents took him to a dental clinic, where dentists stabilized the teeth and diagnosed the boy with acute severe gum disease.

It wasn’t until three weeks later that gum surgery revealed the rubber band.

Ultimately, the boy’s two front teeth could not be saved. Instead, orthodontists focused on moving his two remaining incisors toward the middle to replace them. The teeth were built up to look like front teeth, and the teeth behind those were modified accordingly.

The total treatment time? Almost four years. All that from a little rubber band.

So yes, DIY ortho is a risky idea. But what about mail order orthodontics like Byte and SmileDirectClub?

Often, these companies present orthodontics as just a “cosmetic” procedure. But as the American Association of Orthodontists puts it, “moving teeth is a medical procedure that relies on complex biological processes and should be monitored in person by a trained dental professional.”

Some of the most important parts of orthodontic treatment can only be done in-person. Take x-rays, for instance. They’re the only way we can see the condition of the bone and other tissues supporting your teeth – tissues that are necessarily modified as teeth are moved. Only x-rays can let us evaluate the health of the tooth roots, which is critical, since moving teeth with unhealthy roots can result in tooth loss.

Similarly, moving teeth where there’s active gum disease can lead to gum recession, root shortening, or tooth loss. Proper periodontal assessment can only happen in-person, not through photos.

Yet another issue is that if something is wrong or treatment is not proceeding as it should, you may never know it until it’s too late. Your bite may change in unexpected ways, requiring extra treatment to correct. Orthodontists will tell you that this is a common occurrence.

An article in Today’s RDH sums up the matter nicely:

There is a reason orthodontists receive an additional 2-3 years of specialized education after dental school. Orthodontists are experts in straightening the teeth and aligning the bite. Many considerations are to be made prior to orthodontic treatment. A thorough examination, including dental radiographs, of a person’s teeth is needed prior to orthodontic treatment, or one could suffer permanent damage and tooth loss, which could cost thousands of dollars to remedy. It is also advisable that a complete dental cleaning precedes any orthodontic treatment. Once a patient is cleared for orthodontics, their course of treatment should be closely monitored until completion.

Dr. Parsi has been thoroughly trained to provide proper and effective orthodontic care. He’s a graduate of two-year Hands-On Orthodontics Training Program and certified in Invisalign. More, he regularly pursues ongoing education so he can keep enhancing the care he provides to patients who seek straighter teeth and a balanced bite, creating beautiful smiles biocompatibly and holistically.