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The internet is awash with tutorials on how to use so-called "gap bands" to straighten your teeth. Here's what you need to know.

Barbara Stepko
March 03, 2015

Have you heard about the woman in Washington State who claims to have closed a gap in her front teeth in 44 days using DIY braces—specifically, five dollars worth of hair elastics?

“I’ve got some news for you,” Jamila Garza proudly proclaimed in a video she posted on YouTube in 2012, flashing a toothy grin. “My gap is officially closed.”

Apparently all that cost-efficient tinkering struck a cord; there were multiple videos documenting the various stages of the process, which got more than 100,000 views, ABC News reports.

Tempted to go all MacGyver with your own chompers? Don’t even think about it, say those in the orthodontic community, who warn that people can do major harm to their mouths, not to mention open themselves up to world of pain.

“An awful idea” is how New York City cosmetic dentist Gregg Lituchy (one part of Lowenberg Lituchy & Kantor) describes Garza’s resourcefulness—or, as he calls it, “unsupervised orthodonture."

RELATED: 5 Weird Reasons Your Teeth Hurt

The problem, Lituchy says, is that the average person doesn’t know what’s going on underneath their gums (at the roots of the teeth they’re trying to move) and that can lead to a host of issues.

For example, if one of the teeth you’re trying to adjust has less bone around the root, it may move more easily (read: at a faster rate) than the other tooth, meaning they won’t line up evenly. Or, you could end up with spaces between other teeth. “An orthodontist who is constantly adjusting the elastics will take all of these factors into consideration,” says Lituchy.

What’s more, he explains, the rubber bands could slip under the gum, causing it to became inflamed or infected, which could lead to loosened teeth or even tooth loss. You’re getting the not-so-pretty picture, right? The American Association of Orthodontists even issued a consumer alert in the fall on so-called "gap bands." (Beware: Not for the easily icked-out.)

Look, at-home hair highlights and manis are one thing, but this is one area of beauty—and health, for that matter—that’s best left up to the pros. Mess around with your mouth and there is no amount of laminating or drilling that’s going to make things right.

RELATED: 20 Things That Can Ruin Your Smile

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