Everyone wants a beautiful smile, which might explain why do-it-yourself dental hacks have been trending on TikTok, with many users sharing their personal teeth whitening, teeth straightening, and even tooth extraction techniques.
For some, the motivation might be to save money rather than go to a professional or purchase pricey but clinically tested products. However, improving your dental aesthetics on your own comes with its own cost. Though some of these trends may seem harmless, they can lead to irreversible damage to your oral- and even your overall health. And that can mean more money coming out of your pocket in the long run--and possibly a permanently altered smile.
Here are 7 popular DIY dental TikTok trends to avoid:
I. Whitening Trends
Brushing with abrasive solids
In their quest for the perfect smile, TikTok users have been brushing their teeth with baking soda, activated charcoal, or turmeric--sometimes as frequently as twice per day. But at high frequencies and in uncontrolled proportions, brushing with solid particles is like rubbing fine sandpaper on your teeth. It strips down your enamel, which ironically, can lead to yellower and less shiny teeth. And although these ingredients appear in many approved hygiene and whitening products, they do so in scientifically determined proportions and are of medical-grade quality.
Overuse of hydrogen peroxide
Another popular TikTok trend is gargling with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide for as long as 30 minutes to whiten their teeth. As impressive as it might be to gargle anything for that long, hydrogen peroxide (aka H2O2, a chemical cousin to water) is a powerful oxidizing agent, bleaching agent, and antiseptic--that means it is very reactive. Diluted hydrogen peroxide may be used as a rinse, and it can be found in commercial bleaching kits and some kinds of toothpaste. Still, overexposure to this chemical can lead to gum damage or burns, and tooth sensitivity.
II. DIY orthodontics
Braces, and other orthodontic techniques that aim to improve the alignment of your teeth, can be a temporary inconvenience. But DIY teeth straightening methods can be downright dangerous and may lead to root fracture, gum- and bone damage, tooth loss, and associated medical issues. Common DIY orthodontic methods promoted by TikTokers include using rubber bands, paper clips, fishing lines, and even hair ties.
Instead, leave the job to professional orthodontists, who train for more than eight years, and are experts at the anatomy, physiology, morphology, and biomechanics of the gums, teeth, and jaws. They also take x-rays (radiographs) and photos of your mouth before taking any action. That’s not something you can do in your home and by yourself.
III. Tooth filing/shaping
Some TikTokers are using nail files to shape the edges of their teeth and remove bumps on the surface. However this can cause permanent damage to the enamel, the dentin below it, and the pulp, putting your teeth at risk for sensitivity, fractures, and tooth decay. Once significant amounts of enamel are gone, they are gone forever.
And just because some people may be able to get away with filing down their teeth without negative ramifications, that doesn’t mean it will work for you. That’s because everyone’s oral anatomy is unique: for some people, filing their teeth down by as little as 2 millimeters could expose the tooth’s pulp--and its pain receptors!
IV. DIY Prosthodontics
Dentists use carefully fabricated dentures and crowns to replace missing teeth or augment fractured teeth. On Tik Tok, some users are promoting the use of InstaMorph--a moldable clay that hardens into a plastic bead--to make a flipper (a type of denture) to replace missing teeth. But over-the-counter materials like InstaMorph are difficult to clean properly and can trap food, bacteria, and plaque, which can lead to gum inflammation and bone loss. And because they are not custom fabricated, materials like InstaMorph can come loose while you are eating, or sleeping, making them choking hazards.
V. Filling cavities at home
Some TikTokers are patching their own tooth decay with toothpaste and baking soda, and even with super glue and other unsafe materials. Although receiving a dental filling is a relatively routine procedure, if done incorrectly, it can lead to major infections and tooth damage. A bad dental patchwork can also throw off the alignment of your upper and lower jaw, also known as your occlusion, or your bite. An improper bite affects your speech, your ability to chew, can cause tooth fractures--and can also lead to TMJ disorders.
In a dental office, a professional will first clean out or remove decay from the tooth and disinfect the area around the cavity. Then, they will ensure that they place an uncontaminated medical grade filling material that will last years. They will also make sure that the filling surface is smooth, which prevents poor occlusion.
Ideally, it’s best not to perform your own surgery, but some brave TikTokers are even attempting to extract their own teeth! Extracting baby teeth (which are designed to fall out as we age) is fairly easy, but adult teeth extend deep into bone and are much harder to remove “cleanly” by nonsurgical methods–meaning, without leaving the root of the tooth in the bone. As with any surgical procedure, tooth extractions can lead to infections and excessive bleeding if not handled properly.
VII. DIY teeth adornments
Adorning your teeth is becoming a popular trend. Many are using super glue or nail glue to attach these adornments, but there are some factors to consider when you attach gems, ornaments, or fake nails shaped like vampire fangs to your teeth. The first factor is these gems can harbor plaque buildup. If gems are close to the gums this can cause inflammation and in general plaque buildup can cause bad breath. Also, when you decide to remove these objects, you may unintentionally remove enamel, or fracture your tooth because super glue is not recommended for internal use. If you want to place an ornament safely in your mouth, you should consult your dentist first; they may be able to do it for you safely.
It may be tempting to save money by trying some of these DIY dental trends. But if you want a better smile, your first step should be to maintain and develop proper dietary and hygiene habits. Brush, floss, and rinse regularly to avoid stains and cavities. Avoid foods that stain your teeth, and reduce the consumption frequency of sugary and acidic foods and drinks, which can wear down your enamel and can invite unhealthy bacteria. Then, you should educate yourself on the long-term implications of DIY dental hacks, many of which can lead to irreversible damage to your teeth--and to your overall health.
And when you need advanced dental aesthetics improvements, you should always consult a professional.