The Dangerous Underbelly of Youtube’s DIY Tooth Straightening Fad

Would you try to straighten your own teeth after watching a YouTube video? Apparently, some people have, enough that a consumer alert has been posted — and a woman in Bangkok was arrested.

Prominent YouTuber Jamila Garza, a 24-year-old from Everett, WA, is at the forefront of the DIY orthodontics trend. In nine videos, she describes a technique for closing a front tooth gap using only $5 rubber bands.

Garza isn’t an orthodontist. She’s a fashion design student. But enough people have watched her videos to attract the attention of the American Association of Orthodontists, which issued a consumer alert about the practice in January.

The alert cautions people to “be wary of any suggestions to move teeth with rubber bands, dental floss or other objects ordered on the Internet.” Other orthodontists have warned against the safety of the practice, pointing out that rubber bands can slide up teeth and loosen them at the roots. This can lead to permanent tooth loss.

Unfortunately, Garza isn’t the only voice on the internet advocating for DIY teeth straightening. Another young woman has received over 198,000 views for her homemade braces video, and the website even sells rubber bands for at-home teeth straightening.

The consequences of YouTube dentistry have spread as far as Thailand, where 21-year-old Thararat Thaptimtae was recently arrested for illegally straightening teeth in her dorm room. According to the Bangkok Post, police and public health officials raided her room after some of her customers (mostly teenagers and vocational students) complained about dental infections.

Thaptimtae had no dental background, and she admitted to police that she’d learned her lucrative trade by watching online videos.

Professional orthodontic treatment may be expensive, but the prevailing opinion seems to be that it’s worth the cost to avoid the high risks of self-care. As long as there’s money to be made, these videos will likely continue to circulate, so it’s up to consumers to protect themselves.

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