I went to the dentist today. It was just a cleaning and checkup. A dental hygienist cleaned my teeth and the dentist stopped by to check on her work and ask me if I had any questions for him. My dentist has a deal where you pay $200 a year upfront and two cleanings a year are free and other services are discounted 20%. I took that deal but perhaps I’m doing it wrong. I just read a Kaiser Health News article on DIY dentistry. Apparently, DIY dentistry is a big thing on TikTok:
There are DIY tooth replacement kits and bedazzled grills available online for under $25, and recipes for homemade toothpaste and whitening treatments. The TikTok hashtag #DIYdentist has 2.6 million views. It’s enough to make any licensed dentist or orthodontist cringe.
Why anyone would take advice from a random TikTok video is beyond me. An actual dentist could presumably make promotional videos showing how to better care for your teeth but DIY sounds like a bad idea. This is made worse by the fact that it would be difficult to do anything to your own mouth other than brush and floss.
The professionals wholeheartedly agree that DIY dentistry is a very bad idea. Dental care can be expensive, and orthodontic treatment is usually considered cosmetic and not covered by dental insurance — which 65 million Americans don’t have. And, according to the 2020 “Annual Review of Public Health” report, people who are low-income, uninsured, members of racial minority groups, immigrants, or living in rural areas are more likely to have poor oral health.
A lot of the DIY dentistry mentioned in the article is cosmetic. People bedazzling their teeth with fake gems, buy grills (an appliance of dubious merit slid over teeth that has gold or fake gems). In some cases, porcelain veneers are being sold to people who try to glue them on themselves. Some of the services are even being performed at “beauty bars.” According to Marietta, Georgia dentist Dr. Amber Bonnaig:
“A major contributing factor is lack of access to dental care.”
Over the years I’ve done a few things to reduce my cost of dental care. Back when I worked across the street from Baylor Dental College I utilized the dental school for some procedures. I wrote about getting porcelain crowns and a dental implant at a dental clinic in Costa Rica. I’ve known people, especially retirees, who’ve gotten dental care in Mexican border towns.
Something that would help a lot of people is allowing dental hygienists to practice independently and to expand their scope of practice. In addition why not allow dental therapists to operate in all 50 states, not just in rural Alaska. Dental therapists have less training than dentists and are allowed a limited scope of practice in some areas where there is a shortage of dentists.
To learn more about dental therapists see: Low-Cost Dental Care Ignites Wide Debate, What Are Dental Therapists? and Dental therapists: a solution for better access to dental care.