Dangerous TikTok dental trends you need to avoid

Social-media users are sharing ways to avoid the dentist, from DIY whitening to homemade braces. But experts warn a glittering smile can come at a permanent cost.

TikTok can be a valuable source of information.

Many of us turn to the app at some point for handy tips from cooking to cleaning.

But the latest craze of DIY dental work can be very harmful for your health and experts are sounding the alarm.

Homemade braces and orthodontics

Some TikTokers are trying to straighten their teeth by wrapping rubber bands and hair ties around them.

University of Queensland emeritus professor Laurie Walsh has seen patients who have done “massive damage” to their mouth by attempting such practices.

“In the cases that I’ve seen, it’s actually led to complete loss of bone around those teeth, where the teeth have basically fallen out, which is an enormously high price to pay,” Prof Walsh says.

Tooth filing

Perhaps the most horrifying DIY dental stunt on social media involves people using a file to shave off parts of their teeth to create a more even smile.

But doing this at home without proper dental equipment will create permanent damage.

Prof Walsh says the process creates heat, which, without the proper care, puts the entire tooth at risk.

“Once the increase (in temperature) inside the tooth passes five and a half degrees, the statistical chance of the nerve inside the tooth dying goes up quite dramatically,” he says.

When filing a tooth at home, it’s also impossible to match the accuracy of a dentist.

“If you just pick up an angle grinder and … take off maybe a millimetre or maybe more, straight away you’ve probably taken off 50 times more than you probably needed to and you can’t just simply put it back,” Prof Walsh says.

DIY tooth whitening

People are turning to radical ways to achieve a pearly-white smile, including using hydrogen peroxide, charcoal and baking soda.

While these items may help your house sparkle, they may have the opposite effect on your teeth.

Hydrogen peroxide, for example, can be harmful to soft tissues, including lips, gums and tongue.

University of Queensland lecturer Dr Arosha Weerakoon says people should never create their own whitening solution out of hydrogen peroxide.

“Peroxide is something, if you don’t use carefully, can actually burn your gums, so people can end up with chemical burns,” Dr Weerakoon says.

She also advises against using abrasive household products like baking soda.

She says these substances damage tooth enamel, which will have the opposite effect of whitening them.

“All the baking soda is going to do is just scrub your natural tooth surface away and make your teeth even more sensitive,” she says.

Why people are turning to DIY therapies

People may seek DIY dental treatment because they fear the cost of dentistry or have dental anxiety, which affects about one in six Australian adults and one in 10 children.

Dr Weerakoon says those who are scared of spending a lot of money should book a consultation with a professional first as this won’t be overly expensive.

“I think most people underestimate or overestimate the cost of, say, just a check-up or a consultation, which is really not much in the scheme of things.”

A short consult can also be good for dealing with dental anxiety.

It can be “incredible to know you’re not going to have anything done”, Dr Weerakoon says.

And for those who are nervous, she says building rapport with your dentist before treatment can make a world of difference.

Written by Bryan Hoadley.