There you are, staring down a gap between your teeth. You could live with it and still have a great smile—many adults do—but if you’ve decided to get treatment, you’ll probably start surveying your options. A quick glance at the price and timeline of orthodontic treatment might make DIY treatment like teeth gap bands seem appealing, which claim to close gaps in less than 60 days for under $50.
Stop right there. The truth is that gap bands are downright dangerous. This type of DIY treatment can cause irreversible tooth and gum damage, and we don’t even consider it a real teeth straightening option. Don’t listen to the vloggers who swear by them. Instead, read the rest of this guide for an honest look at gap bands and what they can do to your teeth. We’ll also provide some safe alternatives to gap bands that ring up much cheaper than traditional orthodontic treatment.
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How Do Gap Bands Work?
Gap band companies like Orthofill, Ora-band, and Teeth Gap claim that you can close a gap in your top front teeth in 30-60 days by wearing their bands for 12 hours per day.
They instruct users to place a band around the gapped teeth (typically just two teeth at a time), and wear it for 12 consecutive hours, using a new band every day. After the gap has closed, you’ll wear “retaining bands” or a retainer all day for 30 or more days to keep your teeth in place. These bands are made to treat gaps in your six front teeth on the top or bottom, and the companies don’t recommend using them elsewhere.
The companies don’t provide information or evidence of safety, aside from unsubstantiated claims that their products are 100% safe, claims that are refuted by the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), who advises against using gap bands.
Gap bands have been around since the early 2010s, developed by companies looking to provide an inexpensive treatment for people with mild teeth gaps who would rather not take on a full orthodontic regimen. It doesn’t appear that they’ve been developed by orthodontic professionals, yet they’ve only gained in popularity as YouTube personalities have shown off the results that they can supposedly achieve. This is concerning since they’re a dangerous teeth-straightening method, as you’ll see in the sections below.
What Can Gap Bands Treat?
They’re primarily intended to correct adult diastemas (gaps) in the front six teeth, most commonly between the two front, top incisors—a.k.a. midline diastema. Closing gaps between already-straight teeth is all they can do. They cannot treat crooked teeth, any type of crowding, or any bite issues like overbite or underbite.
Gap band companies advise that only adults over age 16 should use their products since your teeth might still be developing and shifting into your mid-teens.
Risks of Using Gap Bands
As we’ve already stated, DIY gap bands are not a safe way to move your teeth. You may have seen YouTube videos where smiling, gapless people sing their praises. Don’t listen to them. Yes, the bands have the potential to facilitate cosmetic smile improvements but under the surface, there are serious risks.
Gap bands don’t tend to stay in place. They can slip up your teeth and embed themselves in your gums. If this happens, the band can cause severe tissue and root damage, potentially resulting in tooth loss. Or, it might require periodontal surgery to remove an embedded band. This case study of an 8-year-old boy from Greece shows a worst-case scenario and has been used as a prime example of gap bands’ devastating risks. And the AAO agrees that DIY gap bands’ risks are too great to give them any credibility.
By using gap bands, you’re putting your finances at risk alongside your dental health. They might seem like a cheaper alternative to braces or clear aligners, but consider the cost of periodontal surgery or tooth replacement. The American Academy of Implant Dentistry estimates that it costs $3,000 to $4,500 to replace a single tooth. So, if anything goes wrong, you might end up paying significantly more than you would with traditional orthodontic treatment.
Are Gap Bands Ever Safe?
If we’re talking about do-it-yourself gap bands? No. Anyone attempting to apply bands at home is simply guessing at the outcome and the effect it will have on their mouth. Even if it seems like a minor adjustment or a tiny gap, self-administered bands have the potential to cause great harm.
That said, according to this study there are occasions when an orthodontist might use elastics to help adjust your teeth. Give the risks associated, these instances are rare, but with proper administration and oversight, they can be effective. That decision, however, is completely up to your orthodontist.
Safe (& Affordable) Alternatives to Gap Bands
By this point, you’ve hopefully steered away from gap bands as an effective treatment. You have a few safer alternatives, and the one you choose depends entirely on your priorities.
You always have the option of time-tested, in-office treatments like braces or Invisalign. These come with hands-on oversight from a dentist or orthodontist and can treat just about any type of misalignment. So, if your diastema is part of a larger issue, like an overbite or crossbite, in-office care might be a better option. These are also the most expensive options and might run you $3,000 – $5,000 (on average).
If gap bands appeal to you because of their affordability and convenience, consider at-home aligners from a company like Byte or SmileDirectClub. These clear aligner plans are remotely created and monitored by licensed dentists and orthodontists but don’t require any office visits. As a result, they’re cheaper than braces or Invisalign, often around $1,800 – $2,000 total. These aligners can’t treat more severe misalignments or bite issues, but they’re well-suited for gaps in your front teeth (and other mild cases of crowding/spacing).
Our Recommendation: Go with Byte
If you’re looking for a fast, affordable, and safe way to close gaps in your teeth, we recommend checking out Byte. Of all the clear aligners on the market, Byte boasts the shortest average treatment plan length (just 4-5 months). Plus, they put a lifetime guarantee on your new smile, all for a fairly affordable price. They may not be as cheap as gap bands, but you’ll save money in the long run by avoiding the damage gap bands cause.
On the surface, gap bands might look like a quick, cheap, and easy fix for minor teeth gaps. Even though some YouTube personalities have shown off what seem like effective results, know that DIY band treatment comes with significant risks. We strongly advise you to go with another option, like at-home aligners. You’ll get a dazzling new smile with the reassurance of a dentist orthodontist behind your treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are gap bands safe?
No. They are a DIY treatment, which means that there’s absolutely no involvement from a dental professional. Without that professional expertise, moving your teeth can cause significant damage under the surface.
Plus, gap bands can slip up your gums and embed themselves in the gums, causing severe tissue and root damage, and potentially resulting in tooth loss. See our article on the dangers of DIY orthodontics for a deeper dive into the risks.
What are the best alternatives to gap bands?
If you’re considering gap bands to correct a mild gap between your front teeth, go with at-home aligners from a company like Byte or SmileDirectClub instead. These companies allow you to complete your treatment entirely from home, and they’re created and monitored by licensed dental professionals. So they’re not just safer, they’re much more effective too. Check out our review of the Top 5 At-Home Aligner Brands for more info.
Are gap bands effective?
Even though gap bands can move your teeth, they don’t move your teeth safely. So we’d say no, they aren’t effective. Don’t listen to vloggers who say that they’ve achieved perfect results, because there’s no way of knowing how much damage might be occurring in your gums and jaw. You’re much better off going with an in-office treatment like Invisalign, or an at-home aligner service like Byte.
How do gap bands work?
Theoretically, gap bands apply consistent inward pressure on two adjacent teeth, pushing them together and closing the gap. However, without the expertise of a licensed dental professional behind your treatment, there’s no way to ensure that your teeth with move as expected.
Who should use gap bands?
Nobody. Gap bands are not a safe teeth-straightening treatment, and we advise against using them. Instead, take a look at our review of the top 5 at-home aligners, which are a much safer and more effective alternative.
What do gap bands treat?
Gap band companies say that they can close mild gaps in the front six top and bottom teeth. They cannot treat crooked teeth, any type of crowding, or any bite issues like overbite or underbite.