The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), St Louis, has issued an alert to consumers considering do-it-yourself orthodontic treatment products. The alert comes in response to a recent New York Times article about the use of such products. The AAO warns that they may be putting their teeth, gums, and jaw bones in jeopardy.

This alert is predicated by the uptick and availability of do-it-yourself teeth-straightening products available online and in retail stores. The “quick fix” offerings include rubber bands that are promoted to close a gap between teeth. The AAO warns that at best, these products can be a waste of consumers’ money, and at worst, they can cause extensive damage to teeth, bone, and soft tissue that could require expensive and extensive restoration by a multidisciplinary team of specialists.

Any time a dental procedure is undertaken by an untrained, unsupervised individual, there is a substantial risk for irreparable damage. “The American Association of Orthodontists is committed to consumer health and safety, and urges anyone considering any type of teeth-straightening procedure to see an orthodontic specialist,” says Robert E. Varner, DMD, president of the AAO. “The risks associated with do-it-yourself orthodontics can, and should, be avoided.”

One type of DIY orthodontics is the consumer use of elastics. Consumers are being told that by simply putting a special rubber band around teeth that gap, the space will close. Because of the known risks, clinicians consider the unsupervised movement of teeth using just elastics to be below the standard of care, and it can result in permanent tooth loss.

Consumers should be made aware that aligning jaws, straightening teeth, and correcting bites should begin with a comprehensive examination by a clinician. Throughout orthodontic treatment, and through regularly scheduled appointments, clinicians assess the movement of teeth, bone, and soft tissue, making the necessary adjustments to advance the process.