Do it yourself dental products aren’t always what they appear to be

By Dr. Stephanie McGannDMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times

Don’t get fooled.

There are a lot of crazy things going on in the world right now, and now we need to watch out for the return of the “snake oil” salesmen.  While we all know that the myriad of “lose weight while you sleep” pills are bogus, now we have to beware of folks preying on unsuspecting people with dental needs.  Everytime we dentists see a new DIY way to fix a smile or heal a cavity, we shake our heads knowing that some individuals will fall for this, spend money and often make their problems worse. The pandemic has brought out a whole lot of new and improved DIY schemes. So I’m going to share a few of these that are going around the internet just to help the buyer beware.

The Night guard: Here’s a company that will send a DIY impression kit and for a fee way less than a dentist they will make you not one night guard, but one for the top and one for bottom. First let’s clear up the language.   A night guard is a catchall name for an appliance usually worn on the top teeth at night to protect the teeth from clenching, grinding or other habits.  These guards need a certain thickness of material to open the bite and protect the teeth. The company that is all over the internet right now appears to be making retainers, thin plastic molded appliances that are designed to keep teeth from moving. They are not anything protective from any of the above.

Snap on Veneers: These are not veneers, they are not really attractive, they mess with the bite, and are not recommended to wear when you eat. For what they are, they are DIY halloween teeth.  The sad thing is most people who buy these really need dental care, and when hiding their teeth under these plastic covers they are allowing their problems to get worse. Once again a company thinks you can make your own impression for a fee they can just make it look good.

DIY dental filling kits: A quick google search found more than 20 different kits on the market. None of them are any more than just poorly formulated temporary filling that has to be mixed and placed in the tooth without leaving it too high.  As a trained dentist this is not something I could do on myself, not sure how the average consumer is going to do any more than make a mess.  Yes I’ve seen a few of these come into the office with patients (the diy didn’t work )  I could make a list of how easy this is to screw up but just let’s say, we never see any of it still in place for more than a few days.  It’s placed directly on top of decay so it has the potential to cause a nasty toothache or even dental abscess.

Replacing missing teeth: There is a DIY kit for that too,  it even comes with a video on how to make your own replacement for a missing tooth. However, you can’t see the video until after you buy the kit. I have no clue how this might work, I suspect it doesn’t.

Grin Bling: Just when you thought it was safe Grillz are back and now they are studded with diamonds or CZ and sold as jewelry.  Everywhere from Etsy, Amazon and Walmart have kits to make your own blinged out smile. If you really want bling, most dentists can bond some bling to a tooth or even a denture without causing damage.  Some grills are so poorly fitted that when they are removed it’s just decay underneath.

DIY Dental Bleaching: Baking soda and Clorox won’t whiten your teeth but it will give you a nasty upset stomach or worse.  Don’t do stuff just because the internet says so, Please

Super Glue for denture repairs: Fun fact, cyanoacrylate, the ingredient in super glue, will damage the acrylic of a denture making a normal denture repair a much larger project if possible at all. Please don’t use superglue.

Self extractions: The most common outcome when someone tries to take out their own tooth is a tooth broken off at the gumline. Now it’s even more painful, probably infected and needs an oral surgeon to remove the root.  Don’t ask a friend for help, because when it goes south they can be in trouble for practicing dentistry without a license.

DIY orthodontics: This is the scariest of all. Moving teeth through bone and soft tissues is a medical procedure, it has plenty of things that can go wrong. Often these DIY solutions are being done on teenagers by parents looking for the cheapest option. Just not worth the risk in my opinion.

My late father had an expression, use the right tool for the job. It’s never cheaper in the long run to perform dentistry on yourself. Visit your dentist and take care of small things regularly. Make a plan and execute even if it is a little bit at a time.  If you need a dentist and don’t know where to start both the American Dental Association and the Academy of General Dentistry have dental search options on their websites.

Dr. Stephanie McGann, who has more than two decades of dental practice experience, is a resident of the Unionville area and owns and practices at Rainbow Valley Dental, in Valley. She is a past President of the Chester/Delaware Dental Society and she is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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