Dentists warn of the dangers of DIY dental care

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Do-it-yourself dentistry is ruining mouths and costing families a lot of money. Now, a patient and dentist from Southwest Florida are warning you what to watch out for.

Nancy Kate Barr is from Cape Coral and has worn retainers since she was 15 years old. Recently, she needed new ones.

“I was calling around dentists in the area,” she told WINK News. “A lot of them were wanting quite a bit of money for retainers.”

She made the decision that hundreds of people make every year and sought help online. Eventually, she connected with a company that helps you do it yourself. “They sent a make-your-own-retainer kit in the mail,” she explained.

Making the impressions needed for her replacement was not easy.

“They said, ‘you made them completely wrong,’” she explained. Instead of trying again, she got a refund and turned to a local expert, Dr. Phillip Kraver.

“When you talk about DIY dentistry, there are a lot of different ways patients take matters into their own hands for their oral health,” Dr. Kraver explained. He helped Barr get the retainers she needed without hurting her smile for about $150. Not everyone is so lucky. Dr. Kraver added, “one of the things that scares me the most right now is orthodontics.”

He says online methods that claim to straighten your teeth can actually do a lot of damage. Teens are putting plastic rubber bands around their teeth and promising others it will close any gaps in videos posted online. Serious damage can be done when those rubber bands work themselves into the gum line and the bone. “Even small movements in your teeth can cause a lot of problems to the whole system,” Dr. Kraver said.

That’s leading to lost teeth and costly repairs, but it’s not just straightening.

“In my practice, we’ve seen a lot of enamel wear and gum recession from aggressive brushing with very strong whiteners,” Dr. Kraver went on to say. That includes activated charcoal pastes which claim to give you a whiter smile, but Dr. Kraver says they actually do the opposite. “It’s not really whitening the tooth itself,” he explained. “It’s just stripping the enamel off and getting to the deeper levels of the enamel.”

He says rather than try to aggressively whiten or straighten your teeth, your best bet is to visit an actual dentist’s office.

“We can tell you what’s good, what’s bad and what to look out for. We can guide you through treatment that will give you the best ultimate outcomes,” Dr. Kraver concluded. That’s exactly what Barr says Dr. Kraver did for her. “I would’ve just wasted more of my money,” Barr said. “Who knows if I would’ve been able to make the right impression?”

Dr. Kraver says generally, those teeth whitening strips you can buy at the grocery store are safe to use; they’re not removing the enamel from your teeth. Just watch out for products containing chlorine dioxide, which can destroy your enamel. To be 100 percent sure, talk to an actual dentist before making any changes to your teeth.

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