The quest for straighter teeth goes back millennia, with Ancient Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman cultures all using some method of tooth alignment. If you too are suffering from a crooked smile, the good news is that technology has evolved over the thousands of years since then, and now professionals exist that are experts in successfully and safely straightening your teeth.
Despite the wide availability of orthodontia, online videos featuring teenagers claiming to have repaired their own teeth have become a cause of concern for dental professionals over the last decade. While YouTube and other video platforms can offer detailed, step-by-step instructions on everything from applying flawless makeup to changing a tire, online tutorials cannot make you an expert in tooth movement and the function of the jawbone.
Therefore, the American Association of Orthodontics warns against videos and websites that encourage people to attempt straightening their own teeth. Many young people do not realize that this practice of DIY braces is both ineffective and dangerous.
Two general categories of DIY braces exist: the ones made at home fashioned out of household items and appliances and the ones you purchase online without consulting a professional.
Don’t Try This At Home
Paper clips, rubber bands, earring backs and even fishing lines all are objects featured in many videos on homemade braces. Often, the teens in these videos advise using small rubber bands to tie the teeth together to close the gaps.
However, the teeth-moving process used in orthodontics is carefully designed to place slow and gradual pressure on the teeth at a very specific rate. Banding the teeth together on your own creates blunt force, which is significantly likely to cut off the blood supply, killing the teeth and causing them to fall out. It also can damage the bone that supports your teeth. Using rubber bands is especially dangerous because they can become lodged in the soft tissue of the gums, and they are invisible to radiographs, which makes them difficult to locate and remove.
Sharp foreign objects in the mouth also can puncture the gums, tongue or cheeks. If those objects were not properly sterilized, they could lead to serious infection. Foreign objects that scrape against the teeth also will cause erosion of the enamel that is essential to protecting your teeth from bacteria and other harmful microbes. In addition to elevating your risk of dental problems, worn enamel can lead to tooth sensitivity and pain.
Don’t Make a Bad Impression
DIY orthodontia also can involve clear aligners that you purchase through a website. They may look similar to Invisalign braces, but they have a completely do-it-yourself course of treatment. Most of these companies will not even require you to consult with a dental professional at all. Instead, they will mail you a DIY kit where you will take your own impressions of your teeth, which they will use to create your aligners and a treatment plan.
For some patients, this might not raise alarm bells in an ever-widening world of online shopping. However, some of these companies do not require–or even suggest–that you consult with a licensed orthodontist. It’s unclear who builds the aligners or how they ensure molds were taken correctly. There is no professional oversight of each step of the “treatment,” no adjustments for your personal development, and no one there to help if something goes wrong. Remember, an essential part of the orthodontic treatment plan is to receive regular and thorough in-office examinations.
Orthodontics is an advanced dental specialty, which requires up to three years of training after dental school. Following residency, aspiring orthodontists must pass board examinations and become licensed in their state before they can practice. There really is no substitute for the level of expertise and training of a board-certified orthodontist, and physical examinations are essential to providing the best outcomes.
While these mail-order braces companies may imitate Invisalign, it’s important to remember that the Invisalign system combines advanced 3-D computer graphics technology with traditional orthodontic techniques. Before the orthodontist creates your aligners, she will use these scans to develop a complete picture of your mouth. Then she will create a detailed treatment plan, outlining the exact movements she expects from your teeth over time.
Invisalign also controls the timing of the force that’s applied so that only certain teeth can move at one time. Most patients will wear a new aligner every one or two weeks. Each set of aligners will make slight adjustments to the tooth position. Your orthodontist will ask you to schedule regular appointments every four to six weeks to ensure that treatment is progressing as expected. This sort of hands-on, expert treatment is priceless.
One reason that some people are tempted by the idea of DIY braces is the cost-saving measures of avoiding an orthodontist. What they don’t realize is that the damage they do to their teeth could end up costing more to repair than a full course of treatment with braces.
Braces can be expensive, but it is much better to come up with a way to afford them than to risk your health and possibly even add additional emergency expenses. Unfortunately, most dental insurance plans don’t cover braces unless treatment is medically necessary. To find out if your insurance will cover all or part of your orthodontic treatment, check with your insurance company. If your plan doesn’t cover any or all of what you need, other options exist.
Many orthodontic practices will set up payment plans for patients with a solid credit history. Typically, payment plans will be interest-free, and the office will ask for part of the total upfront and spread the remainder into monthly payments. If you can afford the upfront costs, financing braces through your orthodontist’s office is the most straightforward and simple payment method.
Dental discount plans also can be a great way to save on your orthodontic treatment. These plans are different from insurance. You pay a monthly annual membership fee in exchange for discount pricing. If you have a dental discount plan, you can use it for any type of dental or orthodontic examination or treatment, including braces. You will be able to save between 50% and 80% off services if your dentist or orthodontist participates in the program.
Another option to consider is a medical credit card. These are specialized credit cards some providers offer patients to pay for specific healthcare costs. However, be certain that you will have the money to repay the balances on time. Interest on medical credit cards is typically deferred, so if you don’t pay within the grace period, you will owe interest on the entire amount of money originally borrowed rather than what is left to pay. CareCredit is the most popular medical credit card that covers dental work, and it typically comes with a 26.99% variable annual percentage rate and offers deferred interest for 6, 12, 18 or 24 months.
If you are considering orthodontic treatment, contact us today to schedule a complimentary consult with one of our board-certified orthodontists. We’ll craft a safe, affordable treatment plan for you so that you get the smile you’ve always wanted.