It’s a troubling trend that seems to be growing: teens who aren’t allowed to get braces are deciding to do it themselves. Instead of the metal wires and brackets, teens think they can move their teeth with rubber bands, dental floss, and other methods of binding teeth together.

Now the American Association of Orthodontists has issued a warning that this practice can lead to serious complications, including damage to the teeth, gums, and bones. The results can be discolored teeth, lost teeth, and even potentially lethal infections.

young woman with metal braces shows off her big smile

It Takes Training and Knowledge to Move Teeth Properly

One of the problems with the Internet is that it can spread a little knowledge, and there’s nothing more dangerous than that. Teens watch an Internet video and see that elastics (rubber bands) are used by orthodontists in the movement of teeth, and they think they can do it, too. It seems simple enough: apply a rubber band over two teeth that have a gap between them and watch the force pull the teeth together to close the gap.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to orthodontics than that, and what teens don’t know will definitely hurt them. A minor complication can be something simple like a bruised tooth. A bruised tooth will become discolored. If the teen is lucky, the bruising will go away. But in many cases, the tooth is permanently discolored and may need to have a or dental crown placed to cover the discoloration. If the tooth suffers too much damage in the move, it may even die, and may have to be replaced with a dental implant.

Sometimes the elastic will migrate down the teeth into the gums, where it can cause serious infections. These will damage bones, cause receding gums, and can be life-threatening. Invasive oral surgery is required to remove the rubber band.

Keep an Eye Out

It’s a good idea to periodically inspect your child’s oral health and hygiene. This will give you an opportunity to look out for rubber bands or dental floss wrapped around your child’s teeth. Also watch out for irritated or bleeding gums. This may be a sign that there is sometimes something there, but your child removed it recently. Discolored teeth are another warning sign.

Orthodontic Care Should Be Left to the Professionals

If your child is unhappy with the appearance of a crooked smile, it’s best to listen to their concerns, and, if possible, address them. We offer a number of payment options that make it easy to fit cosmetic dentistry, including braces, into your budget.

If you can’t fit it into the budget now, talk to your child about the risks of trying to move teeth themselves and make a plan for getting orthodontic care in the future. Kids are less likely to take the risk if they have a sense that they will get braces, Invisalign, or other orthodontic care in the future.

If you are looking for braces in Orange County, please call (949) 551-5902 for an appointment with an Irvine cosmetic dentist at Rice Dentistry.