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TikTok and the rise of ‘dental hacks’

TikTok is littered with alarming DIY dentistry including Clean Magic Eraser to “whiten” teeth and rubber bands to “close” teeth gaps. The rise of the social media platform TikTok during the past year has led to an increase in do-it-yourself dentistry that dental health professionals are warning against due to the harmful impacts it can have on your mouth.

Unlicensed influencers and individuals provide oral health “advice” regarding flossing, plaque removal and dentures in an effort to help viewers save costs on expensive treatments or quickly enhance their appearance.   

Performing your own dental treatments, can cause significant, long-lasting damage to your mouth and teeth, as well as your overall health. It’s important to remember that good dental hygiene can prevent many oral health problems and keep your mouth healthy. We suggest brushing routinely, avoid bad habits like nail biting or teeth grinding, and consult your dentist about any treatments that go beyond this kind of routine preventive care.

Here is a lowdown on some of the latest TikTok’s more popular dental hacks:

Hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening

Coffee, tea and medications can all be sources of dental discolouration. While a popular TikTok video promotes hydrogen peroxide as a teeth-whitening technique to combat discolouration, we strongly recommend against its prolonged use and suggest people who want a brighter smile use professional treatments. Prolonged bleaching with high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide bought online, especially when used multiple days in a row, can lead to highly irritated gums and sensitive teeth.

Nail file teeth filing: 

Another popular DIY dental hack involves using a nail file to even out teeth or change the overall shape. A nail file is not intended to be used for teeth - it can cause severe damage to enamel, which protects teeth from sensitivity, pain, cavities and discolouration. In addition, using unsanitary tools like this can introduce bacteria in the mouth. For people who may be unhappy with the shape or size of their teeth, we recommend a consultation with the dentist to discuss options. 

Hair flossing: 

Using hair as a tool for flossing is also a trend circulating on social media. Flossing daily can help eliminate plaque between teeth and prevent calculus from forming at the gum line, but it is important to use the correct tools because using the wrong ones, such as strands of hair, can cause trauma and lead to irreversible harm to the gums. 

Plaque removal: 

While plaque scrapers are widely available outside of the dentist, dentists don’t recommend using them at home by yourself as one viral TikTok trend suggests. Plaque scrapers are sharp, and improper use can puncture and damage the gums, as well as cause excessive bleeding. Gum trauma can prompt gum recession, root exposure and increased sensitivity to foods, beverages and pressure. It can also injure the tongue, cheeks and other areas of soft tissue, or bring on an infection.

DIY dentures: 

Using mouldable plastic as a solution for missing teeth is another viral hack users on TikTok have suggested. However, it is recommended to avoid the use of mouldable plastic to replace teeth as it is unhygienic and will result in food, bacteria and plaque getting caught around the plastic and around the teeth nearby. This can cause inflammation of the gums and bone, which can lead to permanent recession and bone loss. In addition, DIY dentures can pose a choking risk. Mouldable plastic is not as secure as real partial dentures, making it easy to inhale or swallow. 

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