Five dental TikTok trends you probably shouldn’t try at home

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Image source: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

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Image source: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

TikTok is full of videos showing off DIY skills, from upcycling tips to cooking tips. Meanwhile, a growing number of TikTok videos offer tips that can help you save money and time at the dentist. But did they deliver?

Here are five popular dental trends on TikTok and why you can approach them with caution.

1. Homemade whitening solution

Many TikTok videos offer tips on whitening teeth. It includes instruction on making your own whitening toothpaste using ingredients like hydrogen peroxide (a common household bleach) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

In the clip, the influencer says, “Then you pour in the hydrogen peroxide. There's really no measure.”

But hydrogen peroxide is toxic when swallowed in high doses, burning the gums, mouth and throat, and corroding teeth.

High doses of hydrogen peroxide can seep into holes or tiny cracks in teeth and inflame or damage the nerves and blood vessels in the teeth, causing pain and even nerve death. This is why dentists must follow rules when offering whitening treatments.

Sodium bicarbonate and hydrogen peroxide are among the ingredients in commercially available whitening toothpastes. While these commercial products may be effective at removing surface stains, their ingredients are carefully designed to keep your smile safe.

2. Oil pulling

Oil pulling involves putting a tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth and swishing it around for up to 20 minutes at a time. It has its origins in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional therapy in the Indian subcontinent.

Although brushing and flossing should be done after oil pulling, I have some patients who feel that oil pulling can replace these practices.

There has been some research into the potential of oil pulling to treat gum disease or other oral conditions. But overall, the evidence supporting the effectiveness of oil pulling is less certain.

For example, studies testing the effectiveness of oil pulling have been conducted on school-age children and people without dental problems, often measuring plaque growth over days to weeks.

Chlorhexidine is an ingredient in some commercial mouthwashes. In one study, people who rinsed their mouths with chlorhexidine mouthwash (for 30 seconds twice a day) had less plaque on their teeth than people who performed oil pulling for 8 to 10 minutes.

Ultimately, you're unlikely to make a noticeable improvement in your oral health by adding oil pulling to your daily routine. If you are limited on time, it is best to focus on brushing your teeth and gums while flossing.

3. Use rubber bands to repair gaps

The TikTok star showed his followers how he used cheap clear rubber bands to close the gap between his front teeth in just one week.

But this person may be one of the lucky few who has successfully used a band to close the gap between his teeth without incident. The front teeth are smooth and taper to a cone-shaped root near the gums. This can cause the strap to slip and disappear into the gums, surrounding the tooth root, causing infection and pain.

If this happens, you may need surgery, which involves cutting your gums to remove the band. If the band causes an infection, you may lose the affected tooth. Therefore, it is best to leave this type of work to a dental professional with orthodontic training.

4. File or cut the teeth to shape them

My teeth hurt just watching this video.

Cutting or filing your teeth unnecessarily may expose a second, more sensitive layer of the tooth called dentin, or it may expose the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth. People who undergo this type of surgery may experience symptoms ranging from tooth sensitivity to severe toothache that requires root canal treatment or tooth extraction.

You may notice that your dental drill sprays water as it cuts to protect your teeth from extreme heat damage. The drill bit in this video is dry, with no water used to cool down the heat generated during the cutting process.

It also may not be sterile. We want everything to be kept clean and sterile to prevent one patient from spreading infection to another person using contaminated instruments.

The important thing is, once you cut or file a tooth, it's gone forever. Unlike bones, hair, or nails, our teeth do not have the ability to regenerate.

5.DIY fillings

Many people on TikTok have shown using materials made from heated, molded plastic beads to fill cavities or replace gaps between teeth. DIY fillings can cause a lot of problems – I’ve seen this happen firsthand in my clinic.

While it may seem simple to us in dental procedures, the science behind filling materials and how they are bonded to teeth to fill cavities is complex.

Filling the cavity with a material made from these beads is just as effective as using tape on sand. Not to mention that cavities under untreated “filled” teeth will continue to grow.

I know it's easy to say “Go to the dentist and look for that cavity” or “Go to the orthodontist to fix a gap in your tooth that you don't like,” but actually doing those things can be expensive. However, if you end up needing treatment to fix the problems caused in your home, it may cost you more.

So what’s the take-home message? Stick with the funny cat and dog videos on TikTok—they're safer for your smile.

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