A smile is one of the first things we notice about other people. That’s why many of us spend a great deal of time straightening, brushing, and cleaning our pearly whites.

Unfortunately, some orthodontia, which can be used to align teeth or close gaps, can be quite expensive. In fact, traditional braces can start around $5,000. That’s why some people turn to less expensive — and less conventional — methods for closing the spaces between their teeth.

One such method is gap bands. These are elastic bands that are placed around two teeth to bring them closer together.

Gap bands aren’t typical treatment, and they can lead to serious consequences, even loss of teeth. Read on to find out why gap bands are used and how they can permanently affect your smile.

Don’t try this at home

The use of gap bands is highly discouraged by dentists, orthodontists, and many other medical professionals. That’s because gap bands can cause significant damage to your gums, roots, and bone around your teeth.

Ultimately, you could lose your teeth. The process to replace those teeth can be very expensive and time-consuming.

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Gap bands are small elastics or rubber bands tied or looped around two teeth to close a space or gap. Orthodontic bands used with traditional braces are often used as gap bands, but they’re not designed for this DIY method.

Online tutorials and testimonials show teenagers and young adults promoting their newly perfect smile and suggesting they used this DIY dentistry technique to adjust their teeth.

Some videos even demonstrate how to apply the bands around teeth. They give advice on how it’ll feel and what you can expect in terms of pain or adjustment.

Certain companies are even selling gap band products to people looking for home treatments for unaligned teeth. In many cases, these products are elastics from traditional orthodontia care.

It’s important to note that the companies selling these products have no safety reviews or evidence to support the claims they’re making about gap bands.

That’s because there are no studies or research that examines how gap bands work and if they can be effective for correcting teeth spacing issues. In fact, the research that does exist on gap bands looks at how harmful they can be for your gums and teeth.

Be aware!

Gap bands aren’t standard treatment from dentists. They’re not recommended to alter or fix teeth alignment.

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Yes, gap bands can be dangerous. Gap bands that slip off teeth and into the gums can cause significant pain and discomfort. In short, they can even begin to damage the gums and destroy the bone and soft tissues that hold teeth in place.

Gap bands can work their way around the roots and tissue that hold teeth in place, which may make the teeth more mobile. The teeth may ultimately fall out, research shows.

One case story

In one case story, a young boy from Greece used a gap band to close the space between two teeth in the front of his mouth. In a few days, the gap was gone, but so was the band.

Shortly after that, his two front teeth began thrusting out from his jaw. Doctors placed an archwire on the front teeth, a traditional orthodontia treatment, to help stabilize them. However, the teeth grew more mobile.

Surgery soon revealed the elastic band the boy had used to close the gap between his teeth had moved up into his gums. It was wrapped around the top of the teeth, where the bone and soft tissue hold the teeth in place.

The boy had lost 75 percent of the bone support for those two teeth. Ultimately, he lost both of his front teeth, too.

The gap band the parents thought might be an inexpensive and easier solution to traditional braces ended up being more expensive and more complex because of the damage the bands did to their son’s teeth and mouth.

Today, people looking to close gaps between your teeth or adjust your smile have more choices than ever. Traditional wire-and-bracket braces may still be standard, but alternatives exist, too. These includes clear ceramic braces and clear tray aligners like Invisalign.

An orthodontist is a type of doctor that specializes in teeth alignment and care. Orthodontists regularly meet with potential patients to discuss the number of options that might work to get the results you want.

You can also seek out several opinions. You may not have to settle for something if it’s not the option you prefer.

Orthodontic treatment does take time, but it still remains the safest and most successful way to correct your teeth alignment and appearance.

Trained healthcare providers can ensure your teeth are moved at a speed that’s comfortable but effective. They can also help you prepare for a lifetime of good dental health so the investment you make in your teeth will pay off for many years to come.

Elastic bands are a part of traditional orthodontic care, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe to use as a home remedy for aligning teeth. Putting a rubber band around two teeth to close a space or gap between them isn’t standard treatment.

In fact, the use of gap bands is highly discouraged by dentists, orthodontists, and many other medical professionals. That’s because gap bands can cause significant damage to your gums, roots, and bone around your teeth.

If you’re concerned about a space between your teeth, talk with an orthodontist about your options. Technology has brought about several new choices for braces and alignment care. That means you may be able to adjust your smile for less and faster than you may assume.

Since your smile is one of the first things people notice about you, a little care and work can go a long way for the future.