Hacker Straightens Own Teeth

So you say your wonky smile has you feeling a bit self-conscious? And that your parents didn’t sock away a king’s ransom for orthodontia? Well, if you have access to some fairly common fab-lab tools, and you have the guts to experiment on yourself, why not try hacking your smile with DIY braces?

First of all: just – don’t. Really. But if you’re curious about how [Amos Dudley] open-sourced his face, this is one to sink your teeth into. A little research showed [Amos] how conventional “invisible” braces work: a 3D model is made of your mouth, each tooth is isolated in the model, and a route from the current position to the desired position is plotted. Clear plastic trays that exert forces on the teeth are then 3D printed, and after a few months of nudging teeth around, you’ve got a new smile. [Amos] replicated this hideously expensive process by creating a cast of his teeth, laser scanning it, manipulating the teeth in 3D modeling software, and 3D printing a series of intermediate choppers. The prints were used to vacuum mold clear plastic trays, and with a little Dremel action they were ready to wear. After 16 weeks of night and day wear, the results are pretty amazing – a nicely aligned smile, and whiter teeth to boot, since the braces make great whitening trays.

Considering how badly this could have turned out, we’ve got to hand it to [Amos] for having the guts to try this. And maybe he’s onto something – after all, we’ve advocated for preemptive 3D scanning of our bodies recently, and what [Amos] did with this hack is a step beyond that.

[LupusMechanicus], thanks for the tip!

49 thoughts on “Hacker Straightens Own Teeth

    1. Do it too fast and you can permanently destroy the bone of your jaw.

      My sister had an orthodontist mess up and after a few months there wasn’t enough socket left in her jaw to hold the affected teeth.

      She had to have surgery done to install posts into the lower part of her jaw to mount fake teeth to.

      I don’t know the details about how it happened but that seems like a bad enough worst case to warrant a disclaimer.

      1. I’ve seen various similar complaints about this type of issue involving Smile Direct Club because the “othodontist” you are supposed to have access to is either non existent or not qualified or whatever. Most people get stuck with braces for an average of 2 years for a reason. It’s brilliant but it definitely needs a warning as bad results will end up costing 100K to repair.

        1. I had braces for 2-3 years and that was too fast and aggressive caused the roots to shrink the dentist only noticed it 12 years later when they compared some x-rays taken when I was a teen.

    2. Those clear trays won’t work for everyone either. I got my braces with a mix of porcelain and metal hardware. For the first six to nine months, my teeth wouldn’t budge and I shattered two porcelain and popped off two metal brackets. I only suffered pain the first week or so. Finally, one day I heard a crunching sound and my teeth started to move…. slowly.

      What was supposed to take 18 months ballooned into three years and six or so months, at least four more broken brackets and shattered molar before I could even consider the retainer.

      In any case, it would be nice to see the strangle hold on this industry relaxed a little bit. At the same time, I wouldn’t want some brainless schmuck messing about in my mouth.

    1. If you move the teeth too fast it can pinch the root, and over time it possible that the affected teeth may die. The effect isn’t immediate and may be noticed a few years or decades later.

    2. Here is what goes wrong:
      You don’t have a plan designed by an orthodontist and move the teeth in a bad way, too fast or too much angle/rotation on a particular tooth that it misaligned the other teeth. IE a situation where headgear would be appropriate but invisalign is used.

      You “straighten your teeth” but because you don’t line up your bite properly you develop premature wear.

      I think this is good, I’d love to see this industry disrupted and the prices come down to a reasonable level. Invisalign shouldn’t cost more than $300.00-$400.00.

      1. There are ways that the industry could be streamlined – for instance, I really doubt an orthodontist sits down and manually plots the series of adjustments needed. Instead, I’m betting they have a software package that does most of the heavy lifting for them. Assuming this is the case (one helluva assumption) the orthodontist is really only needed to review the output to make sure the software isn’t messing something up.
        The rest of the work – impressioning, xrays, cleaning (it sounds like a tremendously bad idea to skip cleaning shortly before the procedure) can all be done by a much less trained and lower-paid dental hygienist. Still, considering all of the checkups along the way I don’t think a $400 price point is realistic.

        1. Check out the prices for dentistry in Mexico. Obviously you are going to be more careful when selecting a dentist in Mexico, but with due diligence you’ll get equal care at a fraction of the price.

  1. I always imagined using that plastic you can boil to mould it. I think they sell mouth guards pre-formed this way already – you boil them and press them to fit your teeth. Could you not do that on a modified mould of your desired straightened teeth? The plastic has spring/give, so it shouldn’t put too much force

        1. I think that moderate force over a long enough time will work.
          I find that the natural springiness of gums is amazing; after 3 weeks of not wearing my retainer (I’m meant to wear it one night every 2 weeks) my teeth are noticably in different positions.
          Then I wear my retainer, and it really hurts.

        2. I’ve always thought this was possible because of the teeth being more naturally more susceptible to ‘guidance’ when they are growing. Kind of like a tree growing around a fence sort of thing? Anyway I may very well be wrong.

  2. The method I used was applied at a young age, was more gradual and parent-approved. My front teeth were crooked and overlapping. I played tuba for 15 years, which put a little pressure in the right direction on the two teeth in question.

  3. Once I wanted to do it in my previous work. I had access to all this expensive and good stuff (Creaform Exascan, Objet Connex 500 and vacuum forming). But a dentist told me that if I did it wrong, basically I could loose one or more tooth by “root resorption”. I was about to do it, then, I understand the Doc made a point and I didn’t really need it.
    My slightly crooked tooth is my smile’s charm. (said nobody)

  4. There are two companies doing this process. Invisalign (Align Technology) and ClearCorrect. There used to be OrthoClear – there’s a fascinating legal tale behind why there is ClearCorrect and no longer OrthoClear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear_aligners

    The inventor of Invisalign got ousted from his own company, started OrthoClear, lawsuits, bought out and shut down for $20 million.

    Invisalign does the scanning in dentist and orthodontist offices in the USA while their treatment plans are done in Costa Rica with aligner manufacturing done in Mexico.

    ClearCorrect does the treatment plans and aligner manufacturing in Texas. Started by a dentist who had switched to using OrthoClear because they cost less and for other reasons he figured it was a better company. He had 400 patients in the midst of OrthoClear treatment and could not get more aligners for them.

  5. My sister straightened her teeth a bit more actively than intended. The night before an orthodontist appointment, she realized she hadn’t been tightening her braces and “made up for it.” In the middle of the night she woke up with bloody gums and excruciating pain. The next day her orthodontist told her she had accelerated the process by about a year and she was lucky she didn’t break the bones in her upper palette.

  6. why the disclaimer?
    this is one os the safer things shown on hackaday.

    most of what could, even in the worst case scenario, go wrong is cosmetic and reversible, just about the biggest danger was being allergic to any materials used.

    1. Yeah it might be expensive to fix, but totally reversible. Implants are easy to make, even if you fuck up every tooth in your mouth..

      I seriously love that they can pull every single tooth out, bolt in 12 titanium screws, wait a couple of months and glue a permanent perfect smile on those 6 anchoring points, top and bottom, that will last a lifetime, doesn’t look synthetic (beside the perfect smile as 65 year old politician), and will work just as well as regular teeth, with the same normal cleaning procedures.

      Let’s not talk about the costs tho. But it’s impressive anyway.

      1. Yea most of those last 10 years or so until you need to replace the caps, they’re often connected together so hard to floss, and sometimes the jaw structure can’t support so many screws. Not so perfect….

        1. thing is most of what could go wrong about this is further misaligning your teeth and beyond the absolute extreme that is reversible by the very procedure that messed them up, just make sure to go to a dentist the second time.

  7. I once knew an old British ex-merchant mariner that used to draw out his own teeth with pliers rather than having it seen to. This is definitely a step up in DIY dental work.

  8. realigning your teeth is caused by inflammation. You basically force the ligaments holding your teeth in their sockets to become inflamed by pushing or pulling on them, either with braces or appliances like this guy is using. The inflammation causes the socket to erode in the direction you are moving your teeth and to rebuild the space left behind. That’s why braces hurt like hell when you first get them, but your body sort of adjusts to the pain. There are certain things these types of appliances cannot do though, such as lifting teeth that are sunk down into the jaw, as they cannot get a grip on the tooth surface like braces do. and there is a risk you could force a tooth to fall over rather then move in the direction you want. But that can happen at the dentist too.

  9. I find it interesting that people have a problem with Dan’s disclaimer not to try this yourself. It’s as if they don’t think there’s any science in moving teeth and common sense is all that you need. I disagree. I think both in whether you should move the teeth with this method, and how each stage of the molds is made, you need a lot of background knowledge and experience to avoid complications.

    This is like disclaimers not to play with Microwave Oven Transformers (MOTs). People who understand how they work and how to work with them safely still do and that’s fine, but for beginners a warning is a good thing. I know MOTs can kill you, and this dental hack is unlikely to, but metaphor is made based on the need for background knowledge and I think it holds up.

    1. I think it is, in large part, due to the insane level of mystery built up around dental care. We don’t go see the Earlobe Specialist every six months, so why are teeth in such a unique and specialized position?

      And why does it cost so damn much?

      In short you’ve got the perfect conflation of factors that should invite the curious hacker mindset.

      1. It costs a lot because that’s how their business is set up. It’s a monopoly. You cannot legally do dental work without a license, without years of schooling, etc. It’s the same with medical doctors. They restrict the number of people who can do this stuff, restrict the knowledge and that (used to) let them charge as much as they can. It was the doctors/lawyers/anyone who wanted to professionalize in order to elevate their status and protect their income.

        Physicians did this in the early 20th century. oh yeah, secondarily, it raised quality by eliminating the quacks with the miracle waters and requiring a certain minimum of knowledge and training. But quality is number 2 on the list of reasons.

  10. ++ for the hack value.
    but — for the society that makes this necessary.
    we should live in a WORLD where dentists and general health care is free.
    it is free where i live (austria) or at least affordable.
    we need this everywhere on the planet.


      1. There’s plenty of stuff that’s free. “You idiot.” e.g air, seawater.

        Also you don’t know he didn’t pay more health care contribution through tax than the treatment costs.

        The fact that whatever my, my families or friends employment position, financial situation or medical condition it will be attended to without even having to think about how it will affect current or future financial position is invaluable.
        I’ve talked about this a lot as the negative reactions I read online to America getting some free health care really shocked me.
        No one I know from poor to very wealthy said would give that up for reduced taxes.

        I’ve not read one convincing argument to not have a tax funded health care system.

    1. At least basic “Krankenkassa” stuff is free. Especially in dental care you have to pay many things yourself, even the anesthesy, if it is not something like root canal treatment.

  11. My wife who is from Europe never had braces and few could afford them if they were even available. She had a few (albeit) minor issues and her parents had her sit and push on her teeth with a Popsicle stick whenever she was watching TV.

    Her teeth have better alignment than mine even with my years of extractions, expansion springs, headgear, braces and retainers. No software was involved when I had braces – personal computers did not exist. Dentist sat down and tightened/twisted the wires for a few minutes and then 3 days of pain if my teeth even touched. Not fun, but definitely improved my bite and alignment. Cost my parents a pretty penny though.

    Could be a good idea for a few minor corrections.

  12. I agree with the warning HaD included in this post. Forced repositioning of teeth over time is not a simple thing, each tooth is a case unto itself. Bad results can be very very bad indeed. The best results are managed by a trained person with lots of experience. The practice of corrective Orthodonture is as much an art as a science.

  13. I too am irritated by the monopoly mindset; Dentists will always have a job for life if they leave too many teeth in a congested mouth.
    Teeth & bite will align if there is enough space. It would be very simple to extract all four #6 (for example) as the adult ones erupt in a teen mouth. It is just that dentists are not comfortable being proactive in this manner ( probably ethics or some such balderdash).

  14. This is really cool but at some time really scary! Did you know that the dentist that places your braces or creates your Invisalign has a LOT of training? I received my orthodontic treatment in Fairfield, CT and they explained that if the tooth is moved too quickly or even incorrectly it could cause irreversible damage to the jaw and structures that support your teeth and smile! I understand wanting to save a few dollars here and there but I’m not quite sure this is where I’d be pinching penny. Glad it worked out for the hacker though, quite remarkable!

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