Debunking Viral “Dental Hacks”
The social media platform TikTok has popularized “life hacks” – tricks and tips on how to improve your life with simple “hacks”. Unfortunately, DIY dentistry is among the many damaging trends that have emerged on TikTok, and dentists are seeing the aftermath of the harmful impacts such hacks have had on oral health.
TikTok Dental hacks can range from seemingly innocent (rubbing banana peels on your teeth to whiten them) to outright dangerous (using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to whiten teeth). These “dental hacks” are often posted by unlicensed influencers and individuals and target impressionable young viewers, and many can cause long-lasting damage to teeth, the mouth, and your overall wellness.
Among the most popular dental hacks on TikTok:
Filing Your Teeth
Using a nail file to smooth a chipped tooth or smooth rough edges can remove the enamel that protects your teeth. Not only can this yellow your teeth and make them more susceptible to stains, it could also cause chronic sensitivity. Removing too much of the tooth can also affect your bite and create a wide range of problems including jaw pain and molar grinding.
Hydrogen Peroxide as a Whitener
Whitening hacks are very popular and include activated charcoal, oil pulling, acidic fruits, and hydrogen peroxide. While many of these products are at best ineffective, some can be harmful. Hydrogen peroxide can be carcinogenic, and many DIY bleaching methods can cause severe gum recession and enamel damage. Bleaching products can also vary widely in strength, and online products may not be regulated. Your best bet is to discuss whitening with your dentist before trying any products on your own.
Removing Plaque with Scrapers
Plaque scrapers, like those used by your dental hygienist, are widely available, but your dentist would rather you don’t use them on your own. These tools are very sharp and can cause damage and bleeding if used improperly. Trauma to the gums can trigger gum recession and root exposure, resulting in increased sensitivity. You can also injure the tongue and cheeks or cause an infection.
Make Your Own Braces
There are hundreds of videos showing people tying teeth with rubber bands to close gaps and shift teeth in their mouths. Moving your teeth is an extremely complicated process that requires knowledge and planning. When your teeth move, the condition of your gums, bones, and teeth are all affected. Without the proper knowledge and experience, you can do permanent damage to your jaw, cause tooth loss, and suffer unnecessary pain.
Using moldable plastic to replace missing teeth may seem like a good idea, but it can be unhygienic and dangerous. The moldable plastic collects food, bacteria, and plaque that gets caught and wraps around the teeth nearby, increasing inflammation of the gums and bone. In addition to a higher risk for permanent recession and bone loss, DIY dentures can also pose a choking risk – the plastic is not as secure as a real denture and can easily be inhaled or swallowed.
To protect yourself and your family, discuss any “dental hacks” that you see on social media with your dentist. It can be hard to know which viral hacks are harmful and which are just nonsense, but your dental professional can help you take the best possible care of your teeth.