(KSDK) — A beautiful bright smile is almost magical. A symbol of health and status, it's no wonder that some people will go to extremes to get one, especially teens.
But 5 On Your Side discovered some kids are so desperate, they're doing their own dangerous dental work.
After more than 30 years as an orthodontist, Dr. Rolf Behrents thought he'd seen everything people will do to have perfect pearly whites.
"[One] patient had taken an electric hand-drill and had drilled a hole in their teeth. Instead of going to the dentist, they put screws in their teeth. I can't imagine how much pain they were in," said Dr. Behrents, director of Saint Louis University's Center for Advanced Dental Education.
But then came the online tutorials. Kids and teens teaching others how to make fake braces. YouTube has pages and pages dedicated to it.
"The people [in the videos] are talking very quietly, like mother is in the next room and I don't want her to know what I'm doing," said Dr. Behrents.
And now DIY braces kits, rubber bands and brackets are sold and advertised on the internet, encouraging kids to try to fix their own dental problems.
Often ending with a mouth of pain.
"I put orthodontic band aids around my two front teeth," said David Campbell, who tried to fix his own teeth as a child.
But his DIY braces turned into a near permanent nightmare.
"I would do it at night and wake up in the morning. The rubber band would disappear. Come to find out, the rubber bands, due to the shape of my teeth, were actually going up into my gums and wrapped around the root of my teeth. My teeth actually ended up dying. I had to wear a retainer with two teeth on it, for eight to 10 years," said Campbell, who now speaks out on behalf of the American Association of Orthodontists, warning of the dangers of DIY braces.
And Dr. Behrents, who has 67 case files similar to Campbell's, said some kids have paid another price: money.
"There's some reports as many as four teeth at a time lost. That can be 10s, 20s 30-thousand dollars worth of work to fix," said Dr. Behrents.
And if potentially losing your teeth isn't enough of a deterrent, the consequences could get even worse.
"Some cases around the world they've used bad materials, and a patient died," said Dr. Behrents.
"Now I have veneers and a bridge. Roughly, we've spent $40,000 to $50,000 over the last four decades to get the smile I have now," said Campbell.
And a warning for parents-- there are a number of companies that sell do-it-yourself braces and other products online. They are usually made in China and other foreign countries and are often marketed to kids and teens.