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Dentist Warns of Six ‘Dangerous’ TikTok Trends You Should Never Try at Home


Doing things yourself is a great way to learn new skills, feel empowered and save money. However, when it comes to teeth, it’s usually best to leave it to the professionals.

Roughly 1 in 5 American adults turn to TikTok before their doctor when seeking health advice, according to research by prescription company CharityRx. DIY dentistry has amassed millions of views across the app as users search for at-home hacks and quick fixes to improve the appearance of their pearly whites.

However, while many licensed dentists and orthodontists have taken to TikTok to share their expertise, most of these trends are doing more harm than good.

“Sadly, when talking about health trends, TikTok can sometimes cause more problems than benefits, as self-experiments, especially in these areas, can lead to accidents, pain, and further damage,” Dr. Smita Mehra, Principal Dentist at The Neem Tree Dental Practice, told Newsweek.

Newsweek spoke to Mehra about six of the most dangerous TikTok dental trends, and why they should be avoided.

Man looking at teeth in mirror
Many of us are self-conscious of our smiles. But at-home dental hacks on social media are not the answer.

PeopleImages/Getty

Tooth filing

“With this trend, users have shared videos of themselves filing down their teeth at home with nail files, in an attempt to straighten them,” Mehra said. “For those with ‘uneven teeth’, this has become a cheaper and quicker solution than seeking professional help.”

However, the long-term health consequences of this trend are rarely discussed. “Unlike nails, teeth do not regenerate, and filing them yourself can diminish your enamel, causing irreparable damage,” Mehra said. “It also leaves the sensitive dentin layer below unprotected, which is not meant to be exposed. This can make you susceptible to tooth decay later down the line.”

The trend may also exacerbate the problem it is claiming to fix: “It can also misalign your teeth,” Mehr said. “This is because using a nail file will change the shape and size of your teeth, which can cause problems with chewing your food properly and speaking. Needless to say, this is a highly dangerous and damaging practice and doesn’t actually straighten them.”

DIY teeth whitening

In an age of social media and beauty filters, many of us are feeling more self-conscious than ever about the color of our teeth. According to U.S. census data, roughly 37 million Americans used teeth whiteners, spending billions of dollars on at-home whitening products every year.

The hashtag #teethwhitening has been used over 300,000 times on TikTok, but many of these “ingenious” hacks are ineffective and often dangerous.

“From brushing your teeth with apple cider vinegar to mixing a solution of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, there is an influx of information available on TikTok on how to whiten your teeth at home,” Mehra said.

“Many DIY whitening methods can involve using baking soda or hydrogen peroxide, which can erode tooth enamel if misused. Once the enamel is worn away, it cannot be restored, leading to increased tooth sensitivity and a higher risk of cavities.

“Highly concentrated whitening agents can also cause chemical burns requiring medical intervention, if used in excess. Additionally, at-home teeth whitening can affect dental restorations such as crowns, veneers, and fillings differently than natural teeth, so it’s best to consult with your dentist for teeth whitening solutions, before attempting anything you see on TikTok.”

At-home mouth piercings

Out of all of the trends Mehra has seen on the app, at-home mouth piercings are, she says, the most concerning.

“It’s easier than it’s ever been to pierce parts of your body at home, with online DIY kits available to you at the click of a button,” Mehra said. “But whilst it may be more cost-efficient and quicker than going to a professional piercer, if done incorrectly, it can put your health in danger.

“TikTok has a piercing filter, which can show users how they would look with one. This has led to an influx of people impulsively piercing parts of their mouths at home. However, it’s important to understand that your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. Performing a piercing in a non-sterile environment greatly increases the risk of infections, which can lead to abscesses, swelling, and pain in the mouth.

“Apart from bacterial growth, bleeding and nerve or muscle damage are potential consequences, as well as permanent scarring. [And] in the confined space of the mouth, if you notice significant swelling after piercing at home, it can obstruct the airway and make it difficult to breathe.”

DIY fillings

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, roughly 91 percent of American adults have at least one dental filling. On average, the procedure will set you back a couple of hundred dollars, which is why many have turned to social media to look for at-home alternatives.

“Videos circulating TikTok recently are advertising at-home filling kits, or using non-dental supplies, like bentonite clay, to create solutions at home,” Mehra said. “DIY filling kits, or home remedies that use materials not suitable for dental use, are dangerous for your oral health for a number of reasons:

  1. “Performing a filling at home and without proper sterilization can introduce bacteria into the cavity, which can further exacerbate the existing issue.
  2. “Without dental assistance, if the filling material is not applied correctly, it can lead to cracked or broken teeth, requiring more extensive and costly dental repairs.
  3. “The decay in the cavity needs to be removed correctly with a drill, and then properly filled requiring precision and dental knowledge.
  4. “Incorrect application can result in an inadequate seal, allowing bacteria and food particles to enter the cavity, which can worsen the initial decay.”

Closing gaps with rubber bands

According to the American Dental Association, as many as 1 in 4 adults have gaps between their front teeth. And yet, many of us are self-conscious about spaces in our smile. Again, many people are turning to social media for solutions.

“Using rubber bands to close gaps between teeth at home, often referred to as ‘gap bands’, is another social media trend that can lead to severe dental issues,” Mehra said.

“They can cause significant pain and discomfort, as they are not designed for orthodontic purposes. The pressure applied to the teeth and gums can lead to persistent pain and difficulty when eating or speaking.

“Even if the rubber bands initially close the gaps, they do not address the underlying alignment issues. This can lead to an orthodontic relapse, where the teeth move back to their original positions or become misaligned in other ways.

“If you are looking to resolve any gaps in your teeth, it’s important to seek orthodontic assistance rather than taking matters into your own hands.”

Oil pulling

Along with some of the more questionable health hacks, social media users are also turning toward historical dental practices.

“Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing oil around in your mouth for around five minutes, as a way to remove bacteria and promote saliva production,” Mehra said. “Whilst it is a technique older than any social media platform, oil pulling has recently gone viral on TikTok, amassing over 167 million videos under the category.”

This technique alone is not dangerous and some studies have suggested that it might help reduce the buildup of dental plaques. However, there is not enough evidence to confirm these benefits.

“Although the practice itself is safe, the information on TikTok regarding the technique has been misleading—and people are substituting their normal cleaning routine with just oil pulling,” Mehra said.

This is where the real danger lies. “Oil pulling does not effectively remove plaque from the teeth and more research is needed,” Mehra said. “If used as a replacement for brushing and flossing, it can lead to a buildup of these substances, increasing the risk of cavities and gum disease. Any benefits of oil pulling, such as fresher breath or a cleaner mouth feel, are generally temporary and not a substitute for regular dental hygiene practices.”

If you do want to try a DIY mouthwash, Mehra recommends using a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in with a cup of water to help manage bad breath. “The acetic acid has antibacterial properties that eliminate the odor. It also helps to balance the PH within your mouth, which reduces the chances of oral bacterial growth,” she said.

However, this should not act as a substitute for regular brushing.

Is there a health problem that’s worrying you? Let us know via health@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured in Newsweek.