HEADLINES Published February4, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Do-It-Yourself Tooth Straightening? No. Mail Order Orthodontics? Maybe.

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Getting straight teeth may not be something that you can do at home.
(Photo : Jennifer Polixenna Brankin, Getty Images)

You can order lots of things online: books, your groceries, the latest movie. You can watch videos that will teach you how to do anything: knitting, hula-hooping, the latest dance step. But straighter teeth appear to be the latest thing you can either order online or learn to do at home from a video.

First, let's consider mail order plastic aligners. Clear plastic aligners that can take the place of metal braces have been use by orthodontists and dentists for years to straighten moderately crooked teeth. The aligners are made from a mold of your teeth and you wear them almost continuously. You use new aligners every few weeks to progressively bring your teeth into correct positions.

Now, two companies, SmileCareClub and CrystalBraces, are offering clear aligners by mail. You use a kit to make impressions of your teeth that are mailed along with photos of your teeth to the company, which then sends you plastic aligners. Instead of $4,000 to $6,000 with an orthodontist, the cost is $900 to 2,100, depending on how crooked your teeth are.

The downside is that plastic aligners don't work for everyone.  And by not visiting a dentist, unseen problems in your mouth may go undiagnosed and these can compromise the whole process, not to mention your overall dental health.

Mail order aligners make more sense than trying to straighten your teeth yourself. People have been watching YouTube videos that show you can close a front gap in your teeth using elastic bands.

Do not try this at home. It is not a good idea, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. Using elastic bands or dental floss or anything else at home to try to bring your front teeth together can cost you those teeth. The bands can work their way under your gums and loosen your teeth at the roots. Instead of a small gap between your teeth, you would have a large gap where your teeth work. It isn't worth it.

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