Due to dental clinics being closed for routine appointments and treatments, an alarmingly high number of patients are looking to take matters into their own hands. As a result, they're turning to unsafe products and companies offering a "quick fix".
The idea of allowing patients to self-diagnose and treat themselves for various procedures is a frightening concept to many dental professionals, myself included. DIY products are fraught with problems and have the ability to be extremely harmful. Most of these products and companies are unregulated too, offering little protection to consumers.
Dentistry work extends far beyond the condition of your teeth. A dental professional will consider your overall oral health before performing any procedure. What works for one patient may not be a good for another. When major dental procedures are attempted in your bathroom, the results are not only detrimental to your teeth, but your entire body can also feel the effects.
Here are a few DIY dental treatments and products that you should always leave to a professional:
Home-delivery & DIY braces
Straightening teeth with braces doesn’t only focus on reducing gaps, but they're also designed to align the upper and lower teeth to reduce wear and lessen pressure on the jaw. Those who attempt to create their own braces don’t take into consideration the overall structure and health of their mouth.
There are numerous companies that provide clear aligners to help straighten teeth under the supervision of a dentist. You should never order aligners without a proper diagnosis as to whether or not you need them.
Choosing the cheap and easy option of DIY braces can cause serious damage to your teeth. They can cause painful bone damage, tooth wear and even tooth loss. They can also damage your jaw and gums, not to mention the bacteria from foreign objects that can cause infections in your mouth. You could event potentially find yourself back in the dental chair with a hefty bill just to repair the damage!
Ultimately, Orthodontics is very complex and should only be performed by a professional.
Clip-on veneers were designed as a cheaper alternative to traditional permanent veneers. They can be worn at the wearer's leisure and don't involve filing down the teeth to be attached.
While this might seem ideal, it option comes with serious risks. I don’t recommend putting anything in your mouth that hasn’t been approved or made by a dental professional. The material that clip-on veneers are made from could be toxic and the design can scratch and permanently damage your teeth and gums. There’s also an inhalation and choking risk if poorly fitted.
These types of devices appear to sit on top of the teeth, meaning that plaque, bacteria and food debris can get trapped around and underneath the clip-on teeth, which over time will increase the risk of dental decay, gum disease and erosion, especially if eating and drinking with them in place.
Whitening is a popular procedure, but should only be carried out by a dental professional who can either make you custom whitening trays or carry out an in-surgery treatment.
The active ingredients to whiten teeth (Hydrogen Peroxide and Carbamide Peroxid) are only legally available in products from a dental practice. This was made law in 2012 to ensure whitening was regulated, meaning that what you see online or in a shop will have no effect on the colour of your teeth.
I do not advise whitening strips. They are not custom-made for your teeth, so they come with a risk. There have been cases where users have burnt their gums or experienced extreme sensitivity. I would not advise buying any whitening products online or from anyone other than a dental professional.
Whitening or charcoal toothpaste will not actually change the colour of your teeth or physically whiten them. Neither contain whitening ingredients but instead aim to remove surface staining with abrasive particles. However, there is no evidence to prove its effectiveness on stain removal. In fact, it may even contribute to negative aesthetic effects as the charcoal particles can become embedded in cracks in the teeth or restoration margins around crowns, veneers and fillings, attracting further yellowing and staining over time.
I have even seen the particles embedded into the gum margin. Sometimes when people use these toothpastes there seems to be a tendency to ‘scrub’ while brushing, which over time can cause abrasion and permanent damage to the enamel and gums. It’s worth noting that these products can often be missing key ingredients required to maintain healthy teeth, such as fluoride, which protects against dental decay.
Manual and Electric Scalers
Poor oral health can lead to bad breath, dental decay, receding gums, gum disease and even tooth loss. When dental plaque is not removed effectively, it can build up on the teeth and gums. Over time, this can become hard, and is then referred to as tartar or calculus.
Performing a DIY ‘scale and polish’ must never be done. Such cleaning must only ever be carried out by a professional (I don’t even scale my own teeth!) The instruments that hygienists use are specialised medical instruments and it takes training to learn how to use them safely and effectively. Dental hygienists and therapists attend university for 2-3 years to receive extensive training on how to use dental scalers and other instruments safely.
Manual scalers, which require a scraping force in order to be effective, can remove significant amounts of enamel when used incorrectly, resulting in exposure of the softer underlying tissue known as dentine. This can increase your risk of dental decay and cause sensitivity.
It's not just the hard surfaces at risk eitherl, catch your gums and they will bleed. This can increase your risk of infections and sepsis as well as permanently damaging the gums and cause recession. As for the electric ultrasonic scaling tools available, these are even more hazardous for your teeth and gums. The sharp tip can vibrate up to 12000 times a minute and produce heat which can cause burns to your soft tissues - essentially the equivalent of trying to use a tiny chainsaw in your mouth.