The Dangers of Gap Bands and DIY Braces: An Open Letter to Teens
Normally we spend a lot of time talking to your parents and other adults about you. We talk about how important it is to have a healthy smile that’s properly aligned. How a gorgeous, healthy smile can help you to be more successful in your future career opportunities, as well as socially and personally. That’s all true, but we’ll come back to this later.
Today, we, the Orthodontists at 1st Family Dental, are talking directly to YOU about something extremely important that’s going on for a lot of you right now.
Gap Bands and DIY Braces are a Dangerous Trend
Gap bands. Teens all over the U.S. have been attempting to “straighten” or remove a gap between their teeth on their own, using orthodontic rubber bands or other elastics.
Typically, the desire is to close a gap between the front teeth, called a diastema. It’s been going on for a while, and we’re concerned it will continue. In fact, there’s a very popular YouTube video made by a teen who says it “worked” for her. There’s even a site that sells “gap band” products, and clearly markets to teens. We’re not surprised that there is very clear “liability limitations” on their website about the possible damages caused by their product. That’s because we’ve seen the results, and they are not good. In some cases, the damage is following some teens and young adults for the rest of their lives.
Straightening Teeth using Orthodontics is a Lesson In Precision Mechanics and Biology
Our teeth are a living part of our bodies. It may not seem that way since the crown, or what you see on the outside, is hard and made of bone, but they are. Each tooth contains living tissue and nerves, set inside our jaw bones and held in place by our gums and other connective tissue. Our teeth and jaw are designed to line up with each other in order to function properly. When they do, your teeth fit together perfectly, like puzzle pieces. It’s easier to chew, and to keep them clean and healthy.
Straight teeth also look fantastic. When your teeth don’t line up properly, orthodontic treatment may be needed to move them into their proper places.
Moving teeth is a delicate and complex process. Orthodontic treatment, like braces or Invisalign, takes place over time. Moving teeth too fast, or at the wrong angle, can cause permanent damage to the nerves and delicate connective tissue and blood supply. This can result in tooth loss. Closing a gap between two teeth without considering the rest of the teeth can throw the rest of the jaw’s alignment off, or cause major problems somewhere else in the mouth.
More Than What You Can See: Lifelong Consequences for Gap Bands Gone Wrong
Successful orthodontic treatment consists of a lot of measurements, calculations, and recalculations, and the commitment by each patient to take good care of their teeth and come back for regular adjustments. The results often result in a total facial transformation.
On the other hand, the results of DIY orthodontia like gap bands can be devastating and lifelong. Braces and aligners like retainers and Invisalign are designed to protect your teeth while they move. Wrapping an elastic around your teeth will NOT achieve the same result. In fact, it can harm the gums and connective tissue, and result in irreversible damage and tooth loss. If you want to see what kind of damage gap bands can do, click here. Caution: this content shows dental damage close-up, and may not be suitable for sensitive viewers.
You Have Options: Braces and Alternative Orthodontic Treatments Are Available
The results of good orthodontic treatment can be amazing. More than amazing, they can be life-changing, just like they were for our patient Julissa. A while back we wrote a blog for parents of teens who needed braces but didn’t want them, because the long-term benefits are so important. It’s worth a read.
If you have concerns about how your smile looks, or if you have any symptoms that may indicate that orthodontic care might be needed, consider this: The best thing you can do is discover your options. Traditional braces are one possibility, but alternatives such as clear braces or Invisalign are available, too. And sometimes, our patients who do have a gap between their teeth discover it is totally healthy, and they embrace it as a part of their individual beauty.
Please, before you try something yourself that can have permanent consequences, see an orthodontist first. In some cases, teens will discover that orthodontic treatment isn’t necessary, or if it is, complete results are possible in a much shorter time span than they may think.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Ruin Their Smile
Here’s a message to our current braces patients: If you have a friend who wants to have some of your elastics to try something on their own, tell them no. Not because you don’t care, but because you do. Ask them to come with you (with a parent’s permission) for a consultation while you get your adjustment done.
Orthodontic consultations at 1st Family Dental are ALWAYS free. They only take a few minutes and don’t require any commitment to start. Patients under the age of 18 require the consent of a parent or guardian to have a consult, so please bring a parent with you.
October is Orthodontic Health Month.
We’re celebrating it by giving away Amazon.com gift certificates worth $500 for anyone who comes in for a consultation before October 31st, or refers a friend who comes to see us.
We offer FREE Orthodontic consultations and care at every 1st Family Dental location. If there’s something we can do to make it easier to find us, or to get a consultation done for you, please let us know.
If you have any questions at all about gap bands or DIY orthodontic treatment, please don’t hesitate to ask us. We’ll get back to you ASAP.