Until about 20 years ago, there were very few options for orthodontic treatment besides braces. Thanks to recent advances in dental technology, there are now more options than ever — some of which don’t even require a single trip to the dentist. We’re talking about at-home teeth aligners like SmileDirectClub, which allow users to get remote dental care for a fraction of the cost.
Even so, some people are still searching for more affordable options, and a new trend has emerged in the form of “DIY Orthodontics.” In this guide, we’ll discuss what DIY orthodontics is, whether or not it’s safe (hint: it’s not!), and the differences between “DIY orthodontics” and at-home teeth aligners.
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What Is “DIY Orthodontics?”
Ever since Amos Dudley made his infamous homemade clear aligners in 2016, there have been several stories of ordinary people using DIY orthodontics to treat themselves at home. Currently, the two most popular techniques involve the use of either 3D printing or something called “gap bands.”
3D printing enthusiasts have taken impressions of their teeth, then used those impressions to print a series of clear aligners that attempt to correct a misalignment. Gap bands are a newer form of DIY orthodontia that involves the use of small rubber bands to close spaces or gaps between teeth. The idea is that, when placed around two teeth, these bands will pull them together, closing a gap.
Unfortunately, both of these concepts have been created and popularized by people with no orthodontic training or understanding of how teeth move. So, although some people have reportedly experienced success with these methods, without x-rays, there is no way to know if they caused any damage below the surface.
Is DIY Orthodontics Safe?
The short answer here is no. No orthodontic treatment administered by a non-dental professional can be considered safe. While it is understandable to want to find the most budget-friendly options, there are several reasons why DIY orthodontics are not a good idea.
- There is no dental professional to oversee your treatment. Orthodontists typically complete 10 total years of postgraduate education learning to safely and effectively move teeth. 2-3 of those years are dedicated explicitly to orthodontics, which shows how much there is to learn before you can safely provide orthodontic treatment.
- Tooth movement during orthodontic treatment must be extremely precise. If your teeth move too quickly or the wrong way, the repercussions could be severe. Potential issues can include damage to your teeth, bone, and gums or serious issues with your bite. Best case scenario, your teeth will likely have a high probability of relapsing (moving out of place after treatment).
- You may cause permanent damage. Moving your teeth incorrectly may cause permanent damage to your roots and gums. DIY Orthodontics can cause gum disease, bite misalignments, and even tooth loss in some of the worst cases.
- DIY orthodontics will likely cost you more money in the long run. If you create a complicated bite issue or do serious damage to your teeth, it will likely cost several thousand dollars for an orthodontist to correct. The cost of corrective treatment will likely be much more than was necessary before attempting DIY orthodontics.
- Gap bands can move up underneath your gum tissue and cause tooth loss. Using gap bands on your teeth can cause them to move up under your gums and seriously damage your roots. In the worst cases, the rubber band moves up under the gums and roots, resulting in tooth loss.
Why Do People Attempt DIY Orthodontics?
Reduced cost is typically the primary motivation for attempting DIY orthodontics. However, the threat of tooth loss or permanent gum damage isn’t worth saving a few bucks. Some people don’t understand the risks involved with DIY orthodontics. Or, they think it will be more comfortable or more convenient than traditional treatments.
Impatience is also a factor. Some people believe that traditional treatment will take too long, and are unaware of the newer, faster options on the market. To put things simply, they think that DIY orthodontics is their only option for a “quick fix.” Others believe that DIY orthodontics is the same or very similar to home teeth alignment, the newest orthodontic trend currently gaining traction in the industry. This is not true. Although home aligner companies are known for providing treatment without requiring trips to the dentist, they are not a DIY treatment option.
DIY Orthodontics vs. Home Teeth Alignment: What’s the Difference?
DIY orthodontics is not the only option for people who don’t want to spend several thousand dollars on treatment. There are plenty of legitimate alternatives available to accommodate smaller budgets, none more affordable than home teeth aligners. Companies like Candid and SmileDirectClub have excelled in this industry, in part due to their reasonable prices and financing options.
Home teeth alignment and DIY orthodontics may seem similar, given that they both offer the convenience of at-home treatment. But, there are several differences that make home aligners a much safer choice. The most important difference is that home teeth aligner treatment is designed and overseen by a licensed dentist or orthodontist, making it a safe and affordable alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment.
How Does Home Teeth Alignment Work?
Home teeth aligners are exactly what they sound like: aligners designed to correct dental misalignments from home, without the added cost or hassle involved in traditional orthodontic treatment.
The first step in the process is to take impressions of your teeth using a kit from your chosen provider. Then, you’ll mail the impressions back for one of their dentists to review. Some companies also offer the option of visiting a physical office to get your teeth scanned for free instead of buying a home impression kit.
After this step, your provider will design a series of custom aligners based on your impressions and send them to you within about one month. From there, it’s up to you to keep up with the treatment plan (wearing your aligners for the required amount of time each day, keeping up with oral hygiene, progressing through the series of aligners as prescribed) to make sure you achieve your desired results.
Most Affordable Home Teeth Aligners
Even though the industry is relatively new, there are already several home teeth alignment brands on the market today. And while all of them are very affordable compared to traditional orthodontic treatment, prices vary from provider to provider. If you’re simply looking for the most affordable treatment option available, you might consider AlignerCo. Their sticker price is just $1,145, hundreds below the industry average ($1,900). Plus they offer flexible financing options.
That said, when it comes to affordability, there are a few important things to consider besides upfront cost. If you’d like to do a closer price comparison, feel free to peruse our review of the 3 Most Affordable Home Teeth Aligners.
Most Convenient Home Teeth Aligners
As we’ve discussed, another major motivator for attempting DIY orthodontics is convenience. If you’re seeking the most convenient treatment possible, we recommend Byte or SmileDirectClub.
We consider Byte the most convenient option because Byte works so much faster than any other treatment method. Their average treatment time is half that of their competitors (just 3 months instead of 6) thanks to their “HyperByte” technology.
However, SmileDirectClub has a major selling point when it comes to convenience as well. They have hundreds of “SmileShops” across the country where patients can get their teeth scanned for free instead of completing a home impression kit. For a deeper dive into the most convenient home aligner options, check out our review of the 3 Most Convenient Home Teeth Aligners.
To put things bluntly: DIY orthodontics is not safe, and you shouldn’t try it. DIY treatment can cause severe and permanent damage to the teeth, roots, and gums, making it a much more expensive option in the long run. It’s important to remember that, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, DIY orthodontics and home teeth alignment are not the same thing.
The low price of treatment may make DIY orthodontics seem like an attractive option, but don’t be fooled. If you’re interested in orthodontic treatment, there are several convenient, low-cost options available that are much safer. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with a dentist to discuss your treatment options and design a plan that fits your budget and lifestyle!