The kid on one Youtube instruction video on how to create your own braces — one of hundreds of videos posted online offering steps to essentially be your own orthodontist — makes it look so easy as she snaps some old earring backs onto a paper clip she's bent into a semicircle so it will fit over her teeth. "And they actually look real. To me. I mean, probably not to you, but to me," she explains, as she opens her mouth to show off her new metallic grin.
The thing is, the odds are good that since most of the people doing these videos are children, they probably aren't actual orthodontists, which is a problem since it turns out that people are actually attempting to use these basic methods to give themselves straight pearly whites just like the ones flashed by people in toothpaste commercials.
Go figure that this approach isn't turning out well for some.
The American Association of Orthodontists recently published a study finding that an increasing number of orthodontists have been coming across do-it-yourself braces attempts that have gone awry. Now the Texas Association of Orthodontics has joined the crusade to get the word out that taking a crack at straightening your own teeth is a terrible idea.
You might think this was already obvious, but the study, published in February, found that about 13 percent of orthodontists say they've seen patients from eight years old to 60 years old with damage from using anything from paperclips to rubber bands, dental floss and fishing line to force their teeth to straighten. People have also admitted to biting on pencils, creating fake retainers and just pushing on their teeth with their fingers in attempts to force the choppers to slip into a uniform and orderly row.
Of course, orthodontists are not pleased with this finding, which makes sense since it can't feel good to know that people somehow believe that the years of education orthodontists receive to become skilled professional teeth straighteners can be replicated with a paper clip, a bit of wire and a Sharpie, as demonstrated in one Youtube video. (She uses pink paper clip wire to give the "braces" a little pop of color, though, which is pretty creative.)
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It's not impossible to make your own braces, though. In fact, last year Amos Dudley, an undergraduate student at New Jersey Institute of Technology, made his own braces using a 3D printer, as Business Insider reported. However, he didn't simply print up some braces, slap them on and then wait for the straight teeth to appear.
Dudley had to research orthodontic procedures and come up with a series of braces that would gradually shift his front teeth into a neat line of chops. It worked out, but it did so, at least in part, because Dudley wasn't trying to tug his teeth into a more aesthetically pleasing smile using fishing line or any other unorthodox method.
These cheap-fix approaches can backfire, and often do. In fact, just screwing up a single permanent tooth while trying to get yourself a Tom Cruise-ian set of ivories can be remarkably pricey. It can easily cost more than $20,000 to replace and maintain a single tooth.
“The cost of attempting to straighten your own teeth without the proper training, materials and tools can be extensive,” Dr. Jesse Teng, president of the Texas Association of Orthodontists, says. “Not only could you be costing yourself lots of time and money down the road, but you could potentially be causing irreparable damage that will affect your teeth and mouth for the rest of your life.”