You may have noticed recently a seemingly endless flood of advertisements for DIY orthodontic kits. You know, the commercials for smile-correction trays that allow you to take your own molds, mail them off to some company and get clear aligners back. The companies behind this mail in-process promise you straight teeth and a great smile, all from the comfort of your home. But, this solution may give you more than you bargain for: jaw problems.
While orthodontic treatments are highly specialized and require a significant commitment in terms of cost and time, DIY orthodontics is probably something you want to avoid, according to Dr. Darin Ward, a Dallas, Texas, orthodontist. This approach actually could cost you more by causing permanent damage to your bite and your temporomandibular joints (TMJs), he said.
“Orthodontic care is not something that you should try at home. You want to ensure that your teeth are being moved correctly with consideration of your bite and jaw joints,” Ward said.
The mail-order smile experience, although less costly, may cost users more in the long run.
“If the aligner is off a millimeter, your bite will be off. This can lead to clenching and grinding and stress on the jaw joint,” Ward said.
Stress on the jaw joints contributes to temporomandibular joint disorder, which can lead to loss of jaw use and intensely uncomfortable symptoms.
“People living with TMJD often experience pain and inflammation in the affected jaw joints, headaches, and ear pain,” Ward said.
Many TMJD sufferers also face enamel damage and tooth sensitivity caused by clenching and grinding of the teeth.
“When your bite is off, your jaws will subconsciously try to find a ‘home’ position, and you will clench and grind the teeth to do so,” Ward said.
Ward says if patients are interested in straightening their smiles, they should see a trained orthodontist.
“Well-trained and experienced orthodontists understand how the jaws should come together and do not just focus on smile aesthetics,” Ward said.
The American Association of Orthodontists estimates nearly 13 percent of its members see patients who have tried DIY teeth-straightening treatments, and some had irreparable damage.
Ward cautions people on other DIY dental trends as well, including home whitening concoctions or using products you can buy online.
“Some products are not FDA-approved and could leave you with white teeth, but permanently damage your tooth enamel,” Ward said.
Source: Dental Products Report. The risks and rewards of mail-order braces. 14 December 2017.