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Patients Get What They Pay for with Do-it-yourself Dentistry

As so-called "do-it-yourself" dentistry becomes popular online, dental experts warn the dangers far outweigh the potential cost savings.
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
PUBLISHED: Tuesday, September 27, 2016

But there’s a huge risk in using temporary fillings as a permanent treatment. Leaving these fillings in place can trap bacteria, resulting in infection and decay of the affected tooth and surrounding gums. In his private practice, Vallecorsa saw this first-hand with a new patient who’d filled her own cavities with what appeared to be a “temporary, putty-like material, clearly not done by another dentist. It looked like the temporary filling had been in place for a couple months, but it was hard to know the exact amount of time it was in place.” This filler was purchased from a local pharmacy, and the patient installed it herself in a few of her teeth.



Upon removal of the temporary material, Vallecorsa saw the decay was a “lot worse than if she’d just come in and let us do it in the first place. (The patient) had just sealed in the decay, sealed in any sort of infection, which just made it worse when (she) did come to see us.” While the patient’s outcome was positive – she’s now doing well after other work was completed – Vallecorsa stressed the patient’s “cavities were to the point where…they were already wide open and she’d just kind of filled them herself. It creates more work for us when we have to go in. If she’d let it go for another few months, eventually she’d have symptoms on the tooth and we’d probably be doing more extensive treatment rather than just replacing and cleaning out and doing the filling.”

Perhaps the most alarming trend in DIY dentistry is involves tooth extraction. This is a dangerous procedure when attempted at home – patients can break off part or most of their tooth, leaving the root behind and possibly exposing the nerve or causing severe infection. Another quick search online results in a complete set of instructions for tooth extraction, written by an “old country doctor”. Another person recommends using a flathead screwdriver and a pair of pliers to remove a tooth, even though he then discourages the original poster from attempting to remove a tooth using this method.

As Morris N. Pool, DDS of the American Association of Orthodontists says, “anytime a dental procedure is undertaken by an untrained individual there is a substantial risk for irreparable damage.” Dentists are in a unique position to education patients on the dangers of DIY dentistry when patients are seen for treatment. It’s hard to know what people are reading online, but having discussions about what people are reading can help influence patients toward more positive outcomes. As Vallecorsa advises patients, “(we) are getting much more questions, which is good. It generates good conversation. Bring your questions to us - you’re going to save yourself a lot (more trouble) than if you try to do something yourself at home and end up with a much bigger problem.”


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