As a dentist, you know your role in some people’s lives is the stuff of nightmares. Over a million Americans suffer from odontophobia, a fear of the dentist, and more than half avoid dental care because of it. In previous decades, people who had a fear of dental work or simply didn’t have access to care would resort to home remedies to curb their pain, such as using clove oil to soothe an achy tooth. Occasionally, people would attempt tooth extractions in extreme circumstances. These days, what was once a “case by case” issue has become a widespread phenomenon, largely due to the broad reach of the internet. Searching Google or YouTube for “DIY Dentist” yields literally thousands of articles, websites and videos all promising to help users “fix” their teeth without the aid of a dentist. The trend seems to have initially risen to popularity overseas in Great Britain, however more and more Americans are resorting to these risky methods. Here are three popular, but dangerous, DIY dentistry trends:
- At-Home Tooth Extractions
It seems this trend stems from economic hardship. The videos circulating the web are of men and women, self-medicated with alcohol or an over the counter topical anesthetic, pulling out their teeth with pliers or other assorted tools. Sometimes, this is accomplished with the help of a friend, however in this video it seems to have been a group affair. The willingness to capture these painful moments on camera speaks to a misguided confidence in home dental “care”. One wrong move (and let’s face it, they are ALL wrong moves) could yield a cracked tooth with the root remaining painfully in the mouth, damage to the surrounding healthy teeth or an aggressive oral infection, endangering the very life of the participant.
- Homemade Braces and Gap Banding Teeth
These trends are largely followed by teenagers. Orthodontia can cost thousands of dollars, and for some youths braces are a sign of wealth or achieving perfection. Around the world, young people are finding new ways to create their own braces to enhance their style, from applying fake braces to appear as though their family has made a hefty investment in their looks to placing rubber bands on their teeth to forgo braces altogether. Although one of the first beauty vloggers to capture this trend did find success with her banding experiment, not all users can report such achievements. One man was instructed by a dentist to use elastic bands to straighten his teeth back in the early 80’s. After the band slipped under his gums, it proceeded to constrict the root of his teeth and slowly pull them free from his mouth. He now has a perfect smile, thanks to veneers and prosthetics.
- Tooth Filling and Repair with Household Items
This trend may be the strangest of all three, because unlike the first two examples, this bizarre procedure does have a less expensive alternative. The average cost for a dental filling in America is $200, well below the cost of a new smartphone. For a crown, it’s less than $1,000, which, while not exactly cheap, is still less than the dental care needed to repair mistakes made during DIY dental procedure. The company Dentek also makes a safe, over the counter temporary filling kit that can be purchased for less than $15, yet online there is a wealth of individuals offering filling and crown replacement solutions comprised of fimo, wax and even hardware store caulk. Many of these materials could end up being harmful to the user. Some users manage to get their hands on actual dental materials, but still botch their procedure. This instructional webpage boasts the use of such dangerous chemicals as sodium hydroxide and nitric acid, yet is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors.
Clearly not all do it yourself dental treatments are bad. If a patient has a loose crown or a lost filling, there are several over the counter treatments that can relive their symptoms until they are able to see you. Some people, however, will only pay you a visit after their DIY treatment goes wrong, costing them a pretty penny to undo their damage. Talk to your patients, particularly your younger, teen clients, about the dangers of do it yourself dentistry. Be sure to provide plenty of examples and evidence, so more suspicious patrons understand the seriousness of this issue. By taking the time to discuss this harmful trend now, you could save them pain, stress and money in the future.