Believe it or not, some patients have attempted DIY dentistry on themselves or on their loved ones. If you’re appalled by this idea… good! Like car airbag installation, parachute packing, or heart surgery, dentistry should never be an amateur DIY pursuit.
Trends in DIY Dentistry
Despite most reasonable people agreeing that dental treatment should be left to dentists, plenty of patients across the globe have tried to solve their own dental issues with often catastrophic results. While it’s easy to poke fun at these misadventures, these victims usually have legitimate reasons for their attempts. Many Americans are fortunate to have good access to professional dental care, but this is not true of many other nations. Additionally, the cost of dental treatment drives some to try self-treatment.
Most dentists will fill thousands of cavities during their careers. It is a very routine procedure. But, what if you’re suffering from a painful cavity and cannot get to a dental office? One truck driver decided to do the job himself. He “cleaned out” the cavity using a dental pick and an electric toothbrush. He then decided to “fill” the cavity with a metal adhesive designed for automotive work. Once he was able to visit an actual dentist, the tooth had to be pulled.
The above example is certainly extreme, but patients do poke, prod, and scrape at suspected cavities all the time. While most will not try to fill their own cavities, many attempt minor, at-home dentistry before seeing a licensed dentist.
Dental veneers are a versatile solution for many common cosmetic dental complaints. However, veneers can be somewhat costly, and some dental insurance plans will not cover this treatment. Whenever there is an opportunity, someone will exploit it. So, it’s no surprise that unscrupulous manufacturers have started offering one-size-fits-all mail order veneers. These “veneers” typically range in price from $10-$30 and are made of weak materials that are not designed to endure the stresses of long-term use.
Dentists are seeing the same trend with mail order nightguards for bruxism—another term for teeth grinding during sleep. Again, these nightguards are supposedly mass-produced solutions for the problems resulting from bruxism, including teeth wear and jaw pain.
Who doesn’t want a dazzling smile? Many dentists offer professional teeth whitening as both in-office treatments or as take-home kits. But, some patients are now turning to DIY teeth whitening using common household items like baking soda and charcoal. Even with common stories of people using incorrect ingredients or the wrong proportions, the internet is rife with instructions on how to produce your own whitening pastes or treatments.
There was even a case of a teenage patient who created her own “whitening tray” in an attempt to mimic professional whitening systems. She made the tray out of inferior plastic, and it promptly warped around her teeth. Fortunately, she had no permanent damage to her teeth or to her mouth, but the outcome could have been disastrous.
Dangers of DIY Dentistry
For most DIY dentistry attempts, simple failure is the best case scenario. If you produce your own whitening solution in your kitchen and suffer nothing more than teeth that are still yellowed, consider yourself lucky. For many, the results of DIY dentistry can cause lasting harm to both their oral and overall health.
Tooth Loss and Infection
Adult teeth do not regrow, and neither does gum tissue. If you go digging around in your mouth, you risk losing teeth or causing damage that necessitates tooth extraction by your dentist. You can also cause severe harm to the periodontium—the soft tissue, ligaments, and bone that support your teeth. Surgery is often needed to correct such damage.
Have you noticed that your dentist wears gloves and a mask and that everything in the treatment area is sparkling clean? This is because oral infections are a serious concern. Sticking strange things in your mouth can cause an infection. Oral infections do not threaten only your teeth and gums but can also spread throughout your body, endangering your life.
One Size Does NOT Fit All
Legitimate veneers, night guards, and other dental work are all custom-made. Your oral anatomy is like your fingerprints—unique to you. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution in dentistry, and mass-produced veneers and oral appliances are not worth the money…no matter how cheap they appear to be!
Using these products can do much more harm than good. An appliance that is not designed for your individual mouth can push your teeth out of their correct alignment, can alter your bite, and can even harm your jaw joints.
Talk to Your Dentist
Dentists understand that each patient has different needs and that all face unique challenges. A good dentist is willing to work with their patients to address concerns about appearance, discomfort, cost, and more. Take the time to speak with your dentist before turning to amateur dentistry or to questionable products. You could save yourself a lot of time, frustration, money, and pain.
- American Dental Association. “DIY Dental Treatments: What Your Dentist Thinks.” 29 November 2018. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diy-dentistry
- Jadun, S. et al. “DIY Dentistry: Clip-on Veneer.” British Dental Journal. 27 April 2018;224:557.
- Kwon, S.R. et al. “Efficacy of do-it-yourself whitening as compared to conventional tooth whitening modalities: an in vitro study.” Operative Dentistry. January-February 2015;40(1):E21-27.
- Misra, S.B. et al. “DIY Dentistry.” British Dental Journal. 22 April 2006;200:417-418.
- Omran, A. “DIY Whitening.” British Dental Journal. 25 August 2017;223:239.
- Solana, K. “ADA launched public awareness campaign discouraging DIY dentistry.” American Dental Association. 2 August 2018. https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2018-archive/august/ada-launches-public-awareness-campaign-discouraging-diy-dentistry