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'Consumer Alert' issued over DIY orthodontics

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Tina Hicks has always felt self-conscious about the space between her two front teeth.

"The perfect smile for me is a smile with no gaps," she said.

Hicks says she had her perfect smile after four years of wearing invisible aligners, prescribed by her orthodontist.

"Sadly, I lost my retainers," she added. "I knew my gaps were going to re-open, and that's what started to happen.

Another set of braces wasn't in her budget, so Hicks decided to take treatment into her own hands, and logged online for advice.   A quick internet search of terms like "do-it-yourself orthodontics" will reveal thousands of YouTube videos, some with hundreds of thousands of views. which suggest moving teeth with inexpensive items, like clear hair bands, elastics, paper clips, and dental floss. 

The American Association of Orthodontists warns that these videos, which are not posted by dental professionals, can put your oral health in jeopardy.

"I have seen more than one instance where harm has been done - irreversible damage. I also can assure you that with the internet, and the availability of information that's out there for a lot of consumers, that there's going to be more occurring if the advice that's out there is followed," said Dr. DeWayne McCamish with the American Association of Orthodontists.

McCamish says that's because even if teeth and gums appear healthy on the surface, there can be underlying problems that affect treatment. Tiny elastic bands, pitched online as "gap bands," are considered one of the most dangerous "quick fixes."

"A tooth is shaped like an ice cream cone. That rubber band, as it goes up the teeth, it pulls that tooth out of the bone," McCamish said.

He added that can lead to permanent loss of teeth and expensive and lifelong dental problems. 

Hicks spent $20 on gap bands, and says while they worked short-term, she had to stop using them.  

"They were cutting into my gums. It was super painful," she said.

If cost is an issue, McCamish says most orthodontists will work with you on a payment plan to fit your monthly budget.  

"We are dealing with a medical procedure. We are dealing with how a person is going to be for a lifetime," he said.  "This is not today and tomorrow. This is forever."

On January 31, 2015, The American Association of Orthodontists issued a "Consumer Alert" on the risks associated with "DIY" orthodontics.  Read about it here: https://mylifemysmile.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Buyer-Beware-Press-Release.pdf.