Don’t DIY Your Dental Health, Dentists Say

News

It shouldn’t need saying, but dentists are warning people not to operate on their own teeth, after a video of someone filing her teeth went viral.

A 19-year-old woman from Florida decided to use a nail file to even out her front teeth – and thousands of viewers watched. If this had been a one-off event, it might be dismissed as one person having a not-so-bright idea. But apparently, this isn’t the first such video to make the rounds.

According to a Washington Post article, a Pennsylvania teen, aged 16, was bored one night this past August and she recalled seeing a video of another teen filing her own teeth, so she decided to give it a try, recording as she went. She knew it wasn’t a good idea and said as much as she proceeded to work the file against her top front teeth.

After she stopped recording, the teen continued her DIY (do-it-yourself) dental work and filed her bottom front teeth, too. This time, however, the results were not what she had anticipated. She filed so much off that she began to feel sensitivity to cold that she hadn’t before.

“I probably filed it down way too much just because it was the most crooked, so I filed it until it was in line with the rest of my teeth,” she said in the article.

Medical Daily reached out to the American Dental Association (ADA) to see what they thought about this newest viral activity. “By filing teeth yourself, you’re removing valuable protective enamel, thus increasing the likelihood of cavities as well as possibly developing increased sensitivity to hot and cold,” the ADA wrote in an email. The damage done could result in the loss of one or more teeth, they added.

“Some DIY health trends on social media, like the current trend of filing your own teeth, can cause permanent damage,” said the ADA. “That’s why it’s so important to talk to your dentist about concerns you may have with your teeth, rather than trying out DIY treatments. Dentists examine each patient and provide customized treatments that help treat the root of the problem.”

DIY dental care industry

A whole industry has sprung up to help people perform aspects of dental care – aside from the normal brushing and flossing – on themselves, including orthodontia (braces), teeth whitening, cavity filling and even extractions.

Orthodontics

Companies that offer do-it-at-home aligners do not examine your teeth thoroughly, and tooth movement could cause other problems in the mouth. In an article published last year, Miami dentist Monica Gonzalez, DMD, described a patient who used an ill-fitting device and is now at risk for an infection in her mouth because of the way the device positioned one of her back teeth. The dentist said it’s not that the products don’t work – it’s that not everyone is a candidate for the products.

“There are times it will work. We just have to make sure we don’t have consequences that will be worse in the end,” she said.

Whiteners

Teeth whitening systems were among the first DIY products to become popular. They come in various forms, from strips to forms you bite into, and even special toothpastes. The Cleveland Clinic advises that you speak with a dentist before trying a kit, to ensure the product will not damage your teeth.

Most kits use hydrogen peroxide, but this can damage the tooth’s outer layer, called the dentin. The damage may be temporary, but more research is needed.  “We don’t know yet whether this is something that will have a long-term effect on tooth health,” Anne Clemons, DMD, a dentist at Cleveland Clinic, said in the article.

The article suggests ensuring that any tooth whitening system or product is ADA-approved. Follow the directions (just become some is good doesn’t mean more is better) and check with your dentist. “If you want a brighter smile, teeth whitening products can be good tools — but they aren’t a substitute for good dental hygiene,” Dr. Clemons said.

Extractions

Several dental offices and dentist blogs are trying to educate the public against dangerous DIY trends related to the teeth, including DIY tooth extractions. Given that pulling a tooth is technically considered surgery, it needs to be done by a professional who can (1) tell if the tooth really does need to be pulled; (2) pull it and be able to deal with any possible complications; and (3) prevent or reduce the risk of infection, as a pulled tooth leaves an open wound through which bacteria can enter the body.

Cavity fillers

Google “DIY cavity fillers” and you will find many articles and blog posts on the dangers of these products. All agree that cavities must be filled – sooner than later – but doing it yourself is not a good idea. You may save money up front, but you might end up having to pay a whole lot later to fix other problems. Cavities that aren’t treated properly can result in serious infections that can affect the whole body.

According to the Children’s Dental Health website, “Even with the safer temporary wax which you’ve always been able to buy at the pharmacy, without a dentist, you only know where the pain is, you can’t tell the specific cause or location. Using a DIY method risks more deeply burying the underlying cause of the pain and extending the amount of professional care needed to correct the issue.”

The take-home

It’s true, dental care can be expensive. But if you need to see a dentist and are short on funds, there is help. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers a page detailing some lower-cost options, such as going to a dental school. Dental students perform procedures under the close supervision of their professors at reduced cost. Dental hygiene schools may offer cleaning and preventive exams as well. There are also various state and local resources that might be applicable.

“It’s important to keep up with your regular dental visits as they are important to keep your smile happy and bright,” the ADA wants you to remember. “For more information, check out the ADA’s website for consumers, MouthHealthy.org.”

And please, don’t file down your teeth at home.

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