Tempted to try those DIY TikTok braces? Here’s why you shouldn’t.

September 8, 2023

The appeal of DIY, at-home teeth straightening is pretty clear.

Instead of paying thousands of dollars to fix gapped or crooked teeth, all you have to do is use everyday elastic bands to pull your teeth into place.

No consultation fees, aligner trays, uncomfortable metal wires, or extra dental visits. Those are wins for affordability, convenience, and comfort — or at least it might seem that way.

If you’ve seen that now-infamous TikTok video series where it looks like that woman genuinely fixes her front teeth in under a week, you’ve probably wondered whether it was legit and questioned why orthodontic treatment works the way it does.

Yes, elastic bands can shift your teeth, but they’re not the same as braces or clear aligners like Invisalign. Keep reading, and we’ll explain why.

Why you can trust us

Guided by a group of 5 experienced dentists, Poco Comfort Dentistry features nearly 100 years of combined dental experience. We’ve successfully advised and treated hundreds of patients using braces and clear aligners, including popular options like Invisalign and ClearCorrect.

Wait, what’s this about DIY TikTok braces?

If you haven’t seen the original videos - which are now unavailable - and you’re just reading this out of curiosity, the concept of DIY braces went viral on TikTok after a user documented herself using elastic bands to close a gap between her front teeth.

According to her, this method only took 3 days to work, and she spent practically nothing on it.

Compared to typical orthodontic treatments, which cost thousands and can take months to years to deliver results, it’s no wonder the videos went viral to the tune of 9+ million views.

Dentists and even other everyday TikTokers chimed in to caution against the method, but by then it was too late: the idea of DIY braces was out in the wild.

But does it actually work?

It’s easy to be dismissive and think, “Come on, DIY braces with elastic bands? Who would believe something like that?”, but it isn’t quite that simple.

Most people *are* naturally skeptical about big claims. The reason why DIY braces took off on TikTok is because they look like they work.

It’s true. Applying a whole lot of pressure with elastic bands can cause fast tooth movement, and that’s what people saw.

Nobody wants to feel like they’re paying too much for something or that an industry is price-gouging them, so when people thought they had exposed the field of orthodontics and uncovered a “hack” that could save them thousands of dollars, they got excited about it.

“But wait,” you might be thinking. “If the tooth gap actually shrunk, what’s the problem?”

Well, if things had gone wrong, that woman would’ve had to pay much more than the cost of orthodontic treatment to fix the new dental problems.

Oh, and no — this isn’t a case of big rewards requiring big risks, either.

As other dentists pointed out, as soon as she removed the elastic bands, her teeth would have quickly shifted back to their original, gapped positions anyway.

So, now that you’ve got all the background details, we’ll take a closer look at the risks before diving into the science of why this DIY orthodontic treatment doesn't deliver on its promises.

DIY orthodontic work is extremely risky

The DIY elastic band method is basically a problem of too much, too soon.

Normally, a tooth is firmly anchored into your jaw bone. Moving it means pushing the entire tooth structure - including everything below the gumline like the tooth’s roots - through solid bone and soft tissue (like your gums).

When that tooth movement happens too quickly or forcefully (like when a person wraps their teeth with an arbitrary number of elastic bands) the supporting areas don’t have time to heal and adapt to the tooth’s new position.

That’s a serious problem because…

It can cause permanent pulp damage

It’s easy to forget, but there are blood vessels and nerves inside of a tooth. That’s why toothaches are so painful!

When a tooth moves too quickly, the flow of blood can be restricted or even cut off, potentially resulting in pulp dying inside of the tooth (which is called pulp necrosis). That leads to visible discoloration, permanent weakening of the tooth, and greater vulnerability to cavities.

There’s a high risk of gum infection

Even though the elastic bands aren’t directly applying pressure to your gums, the force they put on your tooth continues up into the gumline.

Gums aren’t meant to endure the kind of sustained pressure that moves teeth within just a few days, and you’ll almost certainly see inflammation and bruising as a result of the strain. Once they’ve been weakened, it’s an open invitation for plaque bacteria to gain a foothold, eventually leading to gum disease.

You could lose one or several teeth

It isn’t just your gum health that you’re putting on the line — you’re risking the teeth they hold, too.

By rapidly forcing a tooth through your gums, there’s a very high risk of severely weakening the periodontium, which includes the gum tissue that surrounds a tooth and keeps it stable, plus the periodontal ligament, which links your tooth roots to your jaw bone. If there’s too much damage, you could end up losing one or more permanent teeth.

Breaking down the basic science of tooth movement

So why does professional orthodontic treatment work while the DIY method doesn’t?

Like we mentioned before, it’s about giving the cells in your gums and jaw bone the proper amount of time they need to heal and accommodate changes to tooth position. 

When steady force is applied to a tooth and the periodontium (the surrounding gum tissue and ligament), it triggers what’s known as osteoclastic activity in the jaw bone. This is where existing bone mass breaks down, creating space for your teeth to move into the gap.

Osteoclastic activity is balanced out by osteoblastic activity. This is the buildup of bone mass to fill the space that the tooth used to occupy.

Professional orthodontic treatment is timed so that you’re never losing too much bone mass or damaging the surrounding tissue. 

Not only that, it also accounts for the time it takes for bone to fully harden around your teeth once they’re in their final positions. With elastic bands, you’d have to continue wearing them for months to give your mouth time to heal — a conveniently ignored truth that gets lost while people fixate on a three-day timeline.

Finally, unlike a set of elastic bands, professional orthodontic treatment is completely coordinated with the mechanics of your mouth. That’s why braces and clear aligners are able to fix issues with bite alignment while straightening your teeth.

Can’t get orthodontics now? Try dental bonding

This won’t work for every case, but if you’re looking to close a gap between your front teeth, and orthodontic treatment isn’t a possibility at the moment, bonding can provide a medium-term solution.

Haven’t heard of dental bonding before? 

It’s the process of adding a composite material to your tooth, shaping it so it looks natural and aesthetically pleasing, then solidifying it into a secure, durable part of the tooth. Here’s a quick rundown of how it stacks up against full orthodontic treatment.

The advantages:

  • It costs much less than orthodontic treatment
  • You’ll see the results within one or two visits

The drawbacks:

  • It’s not permanent and will only last for 4-8 years
  • It won’t fix crowding or bite alignment issues

If you’re mostly thinking about orthodontic treatment just to touch up your smile, but are also trying to be mindful about your budget, bonding can be a great “in-between” choice.

On the other hand, if your dentist has recommended braces or clear aligners for health reasons, it’s probably better to continue saving up for orthodontic treatment or to look into getting financing for your treatment.

Some life “hacks” are great — this isn’t one of them

Whether they’re on YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok, the whole point of these kinds of popular online tips and tricks is that they make things better for you.

With their fast results, DIY TikTok braces might seem that way at first, but all they really do is put you at risk of permanent smile damage and an even bigger dental bill than you’d have gotten if you’d just picked orthodontic treatment in the first place.

Remember: bonding is a great medium-term option for closing front teeth gaps, and financing or insurance can help to cover the cost of orthodontic treatment if that’s a better choice for you.

Whatever you do, though, *please* don’t start putting elastic bands on your teeth. (Please!)

Need help deciding between orthodontics and bonding?

It can be a tricky choice, especially once you start thinking about what you want for your smile in the long-term.

If you’re in the Tri-Cities, and you’re looking to talk to a dental professional about your options, we’d be happy to have a chat with you. Our team has years of experience with bonding, braces, and clear aligners, so we can help you find out more about each option without going to several different clinics.

Ready to get started? You can book a no-obligation consultation by calling our dental office at (604) 474-2510 or messaging us online.

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