Having regular dental appointments is just one of the aspects of our lives that Covid-19 has interrupted. Many New Zealanders have delayed dental treatment for reasons like cost, alert level restrictions, concerns about their personal health and safety, or have had to wait much longer for an appointment because of lockdown backlogs. This has prompted a growing trend around the world for DIY dentistry as people take their dental care into their own hands. But there is a good reason why dentists are so highly trained and unfortunately the risks of home dentistry can be substantial.
As with everything, we tend to take to the internet to search for remedies and advice on every conceivable topic these days. DIY dentistry is no different: there are a massive number of solutions to dental problems online, including video tutorials! You can watch people extracting their own teeth, giving themselves fillings and mending cracked teeth or dentures with superglue. Search for any dental problem and there are a multitude of ill-advised alternatives to seeing a qualified dentist. But the risks of home dentistry are very real and include permanent tooth and gum damage, damage to your overall health and of course much greater costs for fixing a problem you have made worse by waiting or trying to treat it yourself.
Here are just some of the risks of home dentistry ‘solutions’:
- Filing your teeth with a nail file to smooth an uneven or chipped edge, leading to tooth damage and possible infection.
- Using baking soda or home bleach as a home remedy for teeth whitening – which doesn’t whiten your teeth but can certainly cause gastrointestinal problems.
- Repairing cracked or broken dentures with superglue is potentially very dangerous because you could ingest the harmful chemicals. Additionally, dentures should always be professionally repaired to make sure they remain well-fitting and comfortable to wear. Ill-fitting dentures are hard to chew with and tend to rub sore, irritating spots on your gums.
- Home tooth extractions are never a good idea as the tooth could break off at the gum line. The remaining root tip acts like an infected splinter, which is both painful and often much more expensive to treat than a normal extraction would be.
- While it may be tempting to use an over-the-counter mouthguard to wear at night to protect against teeth grinding and clenching, because it has not been custom-made to fit your mouth it can cause your teeth to shift and affect your bite over time. It can also rub on your gums and cause ulcers.
- The old-fashioned remedy for toothache of placing an aspirin or paracetamol tablet directly onto the tooth can leave you with an aspirin burn. And of course, the problem causing the toothache won’t have gone away.
Home dentistry is never a good idea. It can lead to tooth damage, gum damage, risk to your overall health, and more expense in the long run when your dentist needs to treat you for a problem made worse.