Sammy CaiolaThe Sacramento Bee

In this age of do-it-yourself everything, orthodontists say teeth straightening is one task you should leave to the professionals.

Inspired by social media, some people are turning to rubber bands, fishing line and paper clips to perfect their own pearly whites – a practice that orthodontists warn could lead to gum irritation, misalignment and tooth loss.

A quick search on YouTube reveals thousands of tutorials about how to straighten teeth without braces, many posted by users who appear to be teenagers. People online say they’ve successfully closed spaces in their smiles by stretching small rubber hairbands over their teeth to pull them closer together. Others recommend do-it-yourself molds and retainers, which are widely available for purchase online.

While these beautifying projects might be cheap at first, they carry a risk that could ultimately cost thousands of dollars, said Dr. Jeffrey Kwong, an El Dorado Hills orthodontist. If a rubber band slides to the top or bottom of the teeth and wedges into the gum line, retrieving it is nearly impossible without professional help, Kwong said. If left