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DIY dentistry: What you should know [before you take the plunge]

DIY dentistry has received increased airplay in the media lately – and for all the wrong reasons.

If you’ve ever tried DIY dentistry and it hasn’t gone well, you probably don’t need to read this blog.

However, if you’re among the percentage of optimistic souls (incredibly, over half the population) who are prepared to give DIY dentistry a go, then my strong recommendation is you read on. And a word of warning before you do. Reading this article may just make you fall in love with your dentist or hygienist.

DIY dentistry is…..pretty much never the answer

COVID has changed many things in our daily lives and it seems the appetite for DIY dentistry is one of them.

While there have always been a few people prepared to take on their teeth with barbed wire, nail files, and super glue, COVID has seen this number increase.

Putting aside a fear of seeing the dentist, which keeps many from seeking the care they need and deserve, DIY dentistry is driven more by a desire for an immediate solution – or a way to avoid the financial investment associated with quality care.

Regardless of the reason, I’m going to make a bold statement right here: DIY dentistry is never the answer.

Let’s tackle these issues in a little more detail.

Fear of the dentist is not an invitation to do dentistry yourself

If there’s one thing I can share as a practising dentist of 30 plus years, it’s this: When people with a fear of the dentist first visit me, they rarely embrace the experience. No, they are more likely to curl up in and cry in the corner. And truthfully, I get it.

I have cared for people who sit at every point on the spectrum of fear, from the mildest of concern to fear so debilitating they can barely walk through the front door.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the experience – and so have these patients who’ve been brave enough to work with me. Every fear of the dentist once faced can be overcome.

For many patients, it’s a case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.

If your past experience of seeing the dentist has been traumatic, painful, or unpleasant, and that’s all you know, it’s difficult to imagine receiving care from either a dentist or hygienist that can be a manageable – and yes, even enjoyable – experience. But you know what? It can be.

Once you’ve had the experience of being cared for in a safe, welcoming place, you start to build trust in the people who provide it. You also experience the benefits of receiving the right treatment at the right time. In the case of quality dental care, these are significant.

Your teeth start to look and feel better.

Your health improves.

Your confidence grows.

You might even smile more.

Imagine that.

Regardless of how fearful you feel about seeing the dentist, whether it’s for treatment of an acute concern like a toothache or broken filling, or for maintenance care, like a regular hygiene clean, I want you to know that if you take the first step with a dentist or hygienist who cares about you as a person, you will be so glad you did.

And it will put all your faith in DIY dentistry into perspective, allowing you to see it for what it is. An entirely inadequate solution to your fears.

The cost of dental care made me do it

So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the cost of dental care.

Cited as the number one reason people opt in for DIY dentistry, particularly since the emergence of COVID, I can put this idea into perspective for you too.

One patient cancelled their appointment, believing that it was an unnecessary expense – even though he was desperate to remove the black staining on his teeth. Instead, he took to his teeth with a green dishwashing scourer. The result? The black stains didn’t go and he experienced severe sensitivity. When he came in to have both issues treated he enthusiastically agreed, You can’t put a price on quality dental treatment. 

Another patient decided to fly solo and take on his broken filling because he couldn’t get an immediate appointment. He felt the discomfort from the broken filling brushing against his tongue was too much, at least when compared with his wife’s nail file, which he used to ‘polish’ the filling. Causing more damage to the filling (and his wife’s nail file), this fellow soon found himself receiving the care he could have invested in first.

A third patient was desperate (his word) for a clean. His teeth felt rough and he did the logical thing, right? Wrong! He used a screw to clean them himself. In doing so, he caused painful damage to his gums. Thereafter he decided that dental care is best left to professionals and made an appointment for a clean with one of our hygiene team.

And I could go on.

In each of these examples, the decision for DIY dentistry was based on the false idea that it would save money. When we look a little closer, we can see this belief is misplaced.

DIY dentistry will cost you. A bit like putting off regular hygiene clean and maintenance, DIY dentistry allows small issues to become complex, more expensive and often painful problems. Sure, you might get lucky, but the chances are high you won’t.

I live and work by a philosophy that prevention is far better than cure, and so does the entire Dental as Anything team. I also know our patients who love and value themselves enough agree with me. That’s why they are willing to invest the relatively small amount of their hard earned dollars in caring for their teeth. By working together with us, they get to experience just how good it is to, well, feel good.

Of course, there are people who find it genuinely difficult to meet their dental costs, however there are solutions for this too. Find a dentist you can relate to and explain your circumstances. Ask if there is a way to meet your costs over time. I don’t know a single dentist who wouldn’t honour that kind of commitment simply because we know the benefits of quality care.

My final take-away on the topic?

Avoid DIY dentistry. You deserve better. 


Dr Mark Miller is the principal dentist at the Helensvale dental practice, Dental as Anything. Together with his wife Angela, and the broader team, they are committed to supporting their community of patients with dental care that makes a difference. Whether you have a fear of the dentist, have considered or tried DIY dentistry, now could be the ideal time to call and make a time to visit. Working to the philosophy that preventive care is ‘the way’, the Dental as Anything team will walk with you every step of your journey to a better relationship with your dentist or hygienist – and your own teeth and oral health. Ready now? Call (07) 5573-0188 or email us on welcome@dentalasanything.com.au

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