Debunking TikTok's unsafe DIY dental hacks and myths that may cause permanent damage
From teeth whitening to filing your teeth at home, TikTok has grown as the go-to medium for introducing hacks and thousands of videos have circulated offering un-verified dental advice.
Here at Doop toothbrush we wanted to debunk the popular dental hacks and myths circulating the app, so we partnered up with 5 specialists - Dr. Ashley Niles of Niles Family Dentistry; Dr. Paul Springs, licensed dentist and specialist in prosthodontics; Dr. Joseph Salim, owner and founder of Sutton Place Dental Associates; Dr. Adrienne Hedrick from Longmont Dental Loft, and co-founder of Bristle, Brian Maurer, to reveal which dental TikTok videos you should be fact checking before ruining your teeth.
1. Filing your teeth at home
Several TikTok users have started using nail files to straighten their uneven teeth. tiktokers have received a large number of views for "straightening" their teeth following the steps shown here.
Dr. Niles warns people against this hack:
‘’You risk wearing down your tooth's enamel, which is there to protect your teeth from sensitivity. When the enamel wears down, it can expose the dentin, the layer beneath the enamel. When the protective enamel coating is gone, it will result in the tooth's nerves becoming sensitive to hot and cold, sweets, and other foods and drinks.’’ When using a nail file you could cause permanent damage to your teeth. This can lead to infection, illness, and other dental/overall health problems. Dr Niles states “using an old nail file can expose you to millions of bacteria from your nails.”
2. Whitening teeth with banana peels or strawberries
This hack includes rubbing the inside of a banana peel all over the surface of the teeth to brighten them easily. Here, you can see a tiktoker taking advantage of the trend and displaying his instant results.
Licensed dentist, Dr Paul Springs, explains ‘’The theory for banana peels whitening teeth is that they have high potassium and magnesium content that rubs off and binds to teeth, but there is no evidence for this being effective. The theory that strawberries whiten teeth is that due to their acidity, the acid will clean away stains, which is true, but acid does so by eating away the enamel that protects your teeth, so it's the worst possible way to do it.’’
3. Bicarbonate of soda to whiten teeth
The current craze is to use bicarbonate of soda, to whiten one's teeth. Here, you can see some users have started combining baking soda with toothpaste, and some have claimed to 'see a big improvement in the first week.'
Licensed dentist, Dr Paul Springs, commented on this trend and stated: ‘’For the most part, baking soda mixed in a paste with water is safe to whiten teeth, but you have to be extremely gentle with it and it shouldn't be used often. The way it works to remove stains is by grinding off surface stains, but this removes tooth enamel, which causes a host of problems if used too frequently or applied too forcefully. Never apply plain baking soda directly to the teeth, even using a paste of baking soda mixed 1:1 with water to avoid it being too abrasive causes irreversible damage.”
4. Mouthwash and tooth decay
One dentist has gone viral for criticising the habit of using a mouthwash after brushing your teeth, claiming that it might eliminate the important fluoride present in toothpaste. “Using mouthwash after brushing your teeth is going to give you tooth decay”, London-based dentist Anna Peterson warned in a TikTok clip with over 1.8 million views, which can be viewed here.
Dr Niles states: ‘’No, using mouthwash after you brush your teeth cannot cause tooth decay. When you brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, there's a highly-concentrated amount of fluoride left on the teeth. Some people believe that mouthwash can cause tooth decay because it washes off the higher-concentration amount of fluoride from the teeth. However, there is no evidence to support this. In fact, mouthwash that contains fluoride can be a great protective barrier for your teeth after brushing.’’
5. Chewing Ice
ASMR videos on TikTok are particularly popular. Chewing ice is a trend that many people on TikTok have tried and others find it extremely satisfying to watch. An example of this adverse effects trend can be found here.
Dr. Salim, DMD explains: ‘’Chewing on hard ice cubes can chip and even break enamel, the extremely hard and glossy ivory-white substance covering and protecting our teeth from the outside. As a result of enamel being damaged, both cold and hot foods may cause sharp or persistent pain. The soft tissues inside your tooth will also be more prone to bacterial infections. Enamel functions as a barrier, and dentin (found just below enamel) is softer and more prone to dental decay.’’
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
Claudia Snell, 18, posted a video of her using the chemical on her teeth and received more than 12.4 million views. This involved rubbing bleach straight on their teeth with a cotton bud, in an attempt to make them whiter. It has been reported there’s been a huge spike in sales for hydrogen peroxide and there has also been an increase of dentists on TikTok debunking this and many others who have tried it, here.
Dr Hedrick from Longmont Dental Loft, states: ‘’When it comes to hydrogen peroxide there are different strengths and higher concentrations can be bad for your gums. If you use a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash or within toothpaste it will be perfectly safe. However it would be such a low concentration it most likely wouldn’t have much impact on whitening teeth. Hydrogen peroxide is a liquid so it’s not abrasive at all.’’
7. Sodium lauryl and triclosan
Health coaches and some other individuals on TikTok have raised the attention of ingredients in our everyday toothpaste. This has been labelled as a conspiracy as to whether some ingredients can be damaging to our oral hygiene long term. This can be viewed here - where it is pointed out that triclosan in some toothpastes can be harmful and it has been shown to cause some hormone disruptions.
Licensed dentist Dr Paul Springs comments on this and states: ‘’Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a common toothpaste ingredient because it's a good surfactant that removes food debris well, just like detergent helps wash dishes. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is no longer used in any major US toothpaste brands since 2019, when Colgate removed it from their Total line, though it is still legally allowed as an ingredient in toothpaste, so it's good to check the ingredients list just in case.’’
8. Tongue scraping
For many people tongue scraping isn’t part of their dental hygiene routine. Many people on Tik Tok have outlined the importance of adding this step to your routine, while others have spoken openly to explain why it is not necessary in your routine. A TikTok video that you can view here, shows a tiktoker vigorously tongue scraping.
Brian Maurer, Co-Founder of Bristle stated: ‘Studies suggest that tongue scraping can be effective in reducing the bacteria coating on the tongue, though it did not find that tongue scraping inhibited plaque formation.’’ Studies support daily tongue scraping (in addition with brushing and flossing). Healthline has a great how-to guide that can be followed.
Our research and consultation with Dentists has clearly shown that TikTok can be a medium of mis-information if not vetted carefully, and it's crucial to follow the advice of your dentist instead of following any misleading 'hacks'.