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Why DIY Braces Are An Extremely Bad Idea

Why DIY Braces Are An Extremely Bad Idea

Dr. Michael Layton
February 17, 2015

In the west, wearing braces is not considered cool, while in Asia, it’s the latest fashion trend. Status is very important in Asia and no more is this more evident than among the youth. Teenagers are purchasing faux braces for $100 from black market non-orthodontic professionals. These imitation dental braces are being funded by vanity-driven youth culture regardless of the health costs.

The faux Do It Yourself Braces orthodontic market is prevalent in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China. Cultural icons like Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon are not the only must have accessories - the cool factor has branched out to orthodontics. Braces are sold at open air markets that can be found in many major cities and towns. Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty are two of the more popular brands being purchased. This trend is also encouraged by the celebrities Earn the Star, a Thai pop singer and the icon Gwen Stefani who was photographed with them in the late 1990’s. The non-orthodontic trend is now catching on with teens and preteens in the western world.

Are you considering Do It Yourself braces (DIY) instead of professional orthodontic braces? You may want to think twice. Adolescents that embrace popular trends among their peer group do not stop long enough to consider the inherent health risks. Wearing braces in countries like Thailand and the Philippines is a sign of wealth and prosperity among teenagers because of the initial expensive cost.

The axiom do it yourself successful surgery should be followed by a picture with someone standing in the corner with a “Dunce cap”. This applies to people who think that watching a few YouTube videos on how to beautify your smile or straighten your teeth, is more effective than consulting with a professional who has had 10 years of medical school.

Do It Yourself braces use some of the following non sterile medical materials:

  • rubber bands
  • paperclips (straightened into a U-shape with pliers)
  • friendship bracelet beads (again adjusted with pliers)
  • superglue (toxic in its liquid form)
  • orthodontic wax
  • dental floss
  • numerous other non dental grade materials

There are a myriad of reasons to reconsider this non-orthodontic treatment. Before going any further lets review the oral prescribed dental apparatuses that are currently used to correct malocclusions and other abnormalities.

Do-It-Yourself Braces Are Illegal

The Philippine Dental Association released the following PDA statement:


Notice is hereby given to the general public not to patronize do-it-yourself dental products sold directly or through the internet by certain companies. These products include among others such items like the 'D.I.Y. Braces Orthodontic Kits'.
It is of high probability that self-installation of the so-called do-it-yourself products will lead to potential injury to the user in the absence of professional supervision.
In the interest of public safety, kindly report incidence, circumstances or suspicion of unauthorized/illegal practice of dentistry. - Philippine Dental Association

Thai authorities have also clamped down on sellers of illegal braces, the punishment is up to six months in prison and $1,300 or 42,439 Thai Baht fine.

Even though selling fashion braces is illegal, black market sellers have branched out by selling them online. The internet is a big place and tracking down and shutting down every site is a monumental task. Black market goods are not regulated and sellers don’t care about the buyer just the profit that can be made.

Health Concerns - DIY Braces

"Some people put the fashion (braces) on by themselves, which is dangerous because they could come loose and slip into the throat," said Rasamee Vistaveth, secretary-general of the Consumer Protection Board, which is under the prime minister's office. - CBS News report

It has been reported that 2 teenagers in Thailand have already died resulting from infections related to fashion braces. DIY braces that are glued onto the teeth using superglue or other adhesive can be toxic to the human body. The metal used in blackmarket DIY braces has also been found to contain lead which is also toxic to the bloodstream. Other health concerns are people who experience sores in the mouth from the wires.

Brief summary of possible health issues related to lead poisoning

  • lead poisoning
  • thyroid infection
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • abdominal pain
  • developmental learning issues
  • vomiting
  • rapid weight loss
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • memory loss

Medical grade orthodontic braces are fitted by a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or dentist to ensure the correct alignment of the upper and lower teeth. DIY braces don’t have a proper arch wire and they are not fitted by a professional, the brackets are not positioned properly to put the right amount of pressure on the teeth. Purchasing black market DIY braces at the market does not come with the luxury of having them adjusted by a dental professional. Wearing these braces can result in the misalignment of perfectly straight teeth. Fashion braces do more harm than good. This is one fashion trend you may want to reconsider.

Risks for Real Braces

  • Decalcification and cavities: Improper cleaning results in white marks on the teeth, food and plaque should not be left over to cause cavities. A diet low in sugar, daily brushing and a fluoride mouthwash can reduce decalcification and teeth erosion.
  • Relapse: The shifting of teeth after braces have been removed. Certain patients are provided with retainers after dental therapy, teeth can gradually shift position depending on the age of the person.
  • Root resorption: The shortening of the roots while wearing braces. Dentists and orthodontists will take x-rays to determine if root resorption has occurred during wearing braces.
  • Periodontal disease: Gum disease and the bone tissue are affected detrimentally by a lack of oral hygiene. People with pre-existing periodontal disease are not good candidates for braces. All periodontal diseases should be treated first by a dental professional before braces can be discussed.

As you can see even under the care of a dental professional there are many risks inherent in orthodontic braces. The above list is just a sample of possible problems experienced by authentic brace wearers. Subjecting your oral health to a passing trend will jeopardize your existing and future dental health. There are many health variables to consider even with the monitoring of a board certified dentist. Purchasing DIY braces from the open markets prevalent in Southeast Asia and from black market websites offers no health guarantees. Fashion brace wearers risk infection and the possibility of misaligned teeth.


Do It Yourself braces is like the blind leading the blind. Saving money for teeth that require professional orthodontic therapy is a sensible course of action. Attempting to save a few thousands dollars for professional orthodontic treatment for a temporary aesthetic fix that doesn’t correct the underlying issues is a recipe for disaster.

Putting your oral health at risk for gum disease and the possibility of misaligned and losing your existing teeth is not worth it. For any oral corrections always consult a dental profession. YouTube and Google are not viable sources of information for amateurs without any medical expertise when it comes to teeth adjustments. Does it make sense to follow a trend that will have dire negative consequences which will have to be corrected by a Doctor of Dental Surgery at a later time? The question of should a person get DIY braces because they can not afford the genuine article should be deliberated on. If finances are an issue investigate dental programs or a monthly finance program with a professional dentist whose work is reputable.

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