By Kayla Orange
An alarming trend on the social media platform TikTok is catching significant traction, teaching millions of viewers about DIY dentures made with InstaMorph. The brand itself makes clear that its plastic is explicitly not safe for internal use, a message that’s repeated by the TikTok instructors seconds before it is ignored.
WHAT EXACTLY IS INSTAMORPH?
InstaMorph is one of the many applications of the biocompatible and biodegradable polymer known as Polycaprolactone (PCL). This strong polymer material can be heated and modeled into a desired shape and is typically sold in the hobbyist market. It’s ideal for small-scale modeling and repair of plastic objects. A bag of InstaMorph contains small beads of plastic that can morph into any shape after they’re heated to 150° F. Since InstaMorph comes in white and is used for replacement parts, the leap to dentures is not hard to fathom.
Different users on TikTok, a social media platform on which people share short videos, have created instructions on creating DIY dentures to fill in gaps or cover up chipped teeth. InstaMorph allows users to create unique shapes from the plastic material. This makes it fairly simple to create a false tooth, sparking interest among many who can’t afford, or lack dental insurance for, professionally made dentures.
Professionals warn against the many risks involved with homemade denture solutions, which have been shown to cause severe complications in some patients. In 2017, the ADA House of Delegates passed a new policy, explaining that the Association “strongly discourages the practice of do-it-yourself orthodontics because of the potential for harm to patients.”
This move by the ADA highlights the recent spike in DIY dentistry and the danger it represents. According to a recent survey by the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), “about 13 percent of its member orthodontists are seeing patients who have tried do-it-yourself teeth straightening, with some of those attempts causing irreparable damage.” The AAO is already attributing this rise in DIY dentistry to social media, citing YouTube and other tutorial videos as the primary culprits.
HOW POPULAR IS IT?
InstaMorph’s products are primarily sold through Amazon marketplace, with several TikTok users and other social media influencers listing the site as the cheapest and most convenient option. There is currently no information online regarding increased demand for InstaMorph products. Happy Wire Dog, LLC, the parent company, trademarked InstaMorph over a decade ago, boasting multiple uses. Unfortunately, the product’s versatility may also be a reason for its recent widespread misuse.
The abuse and/or misuse of products is nothing new, as people have long sought new or unique ways to use products that the manufacturer did not originally intend. The problem arises when product misuse harms customers or causes significant damage. Unfortunately, with the rise of social media, previously isolated cases of product misuse now have the potential to become widespread issues. Recent TikTok videos on DIY dentures have gathered millions of views and exciting comments from people ready to make their own dentures.
PROBLEMS NOTED BY THE AMERICAN DENTAL ASSOCIATION
As a result of this dangerous DIY trend, the ADA has already begun an ADA-led public awareness campaign on, “the potential concerns to patients when using do-it-yourself treatments.” Some reviews on Amazon start identifying the problems involved with using InstaMorph as a DIY denture. When eating or drinking hot beverages, the tooth can melt a little. Others complain about a poor fit and report their “denture” loosening up. These loose dentures indicate the first real problem with InstaMorph (or other homemade) dentures: they pose a choking risk. Furthermore, amateur dentures have been shown to cause severe dental problems down the road.
Especially during quarantine, dental professionals must educate their patients on the potential consequences of DIY dentistry. According to the ADA, “U.S. dental care spending could decline by up to 66 percent in 2020 and 32 percent in 2021.” This expected decline is likely due to increased restrictions from COVID-19 and the rising number of patients choosing to forgo their regular dental visits during the pandemic. More and more people are deciding to either delay necessary treatments or skip them altogether, leading to dangerous complications and increased cases of attempted “DIY dentistry.”
The popularity of InstaMorph comes from a desire to find a cheap shortcut to dental health – in other words, people are either struggling to afford proper care or are simply choosing to take the risk in hopes of saving money. As we know, costs associated with dental care are commonly misunderstood by the general public. The average price of a dental flipper is about $300 - $500, while a bag of InstaMorph currently costs about $15. For many patients who may be struggling financially, this can be extremely tempting.
Therefore, it is crucial that dental professionals continue to educate their patients about the risks of DIY dentistry. Patient safety is our number one concern, and it is up to us to ensure that patients are aware of the risks associated with these dangerous new trends.
About the Author: Kayla Orange has been writing for dental blogs since 2013, primarily focusing on cosmetic dentistry and the innovative home aligner market. Before beginning her writing career, Kayla worked as a dental assistant and obtained a bachelor's degree in Biology from Howard University.