9th October 2020

The Oral Health Foundation is becoming extremely concerned for the safety of some TikTok users, following a rise in the number of influencers posting dangerous DIY dental advice.

The charity estimate that bogus health advice has been seen by more than 20 million people on TikTok and if replicated, could cause severe and long-term damage for a person’s mouth.

Some of the most harmful videos sharing DIY dental hacks have been liked by just under 3 million TikTok users leading the charity to be alarmed by the potential effect influencers on TikTok are having on their audience.   

Here are four of the most ill-advised TikTok dental hacks and why you should not try them yourself.

  1. Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar every day

To kick things off we start with a video from a user by the name of @allievaccaro2. In the video, which has over 6 million views and 1.1 million likes, she claims to have taken a shot of apple cider vinegar every day for two weeks. This resulted, she claims, in losing six pounds of weight.

The promotion of apple cider vinegar for weight loss is not new but it is still just as harmful to teeth as it’s always been.

As Dr Carter points out:

“Undiluted apple cider vinegar is acidic enough to weaken the enamel on your teeth. Weakened enamel increases your vulnerability to tooth decay and cavities. It can also lead to increased tooth sensitivity. Individuals with a particularly heavy consumption of undiluted apple cider vinegar also may experience swelling or burns inside their mouths.”

  1. Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide

This one you may have heard of as it hit the headlines earlier this month. In the video, which has just over 20 million views, the user @Clauds244 demonstrates how to mix a solution of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide, brought online for £4 on Ebay, and apply it to your teeth.  The video recommends a course of treatment every day for four days.

Concerningly, the influencer starts the video by saying: “if you’re a dentist don’t tell me this is wrong, just save me the grief, the damage has already been done”.

Dentist and President of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Ben Atkins advises against the home use of any ingredient containing hydrogen peroxide.

Dr Atkins says: “The legal limit of over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide in cosmetic products in the UK is 0.1%, and for good reason.  For somebody not trained in dentistry, applying hydrogen peroxide can cause chemical burns and has the potential to cause serious and permanent damage to the teeth and gums.  

“The chemical in its pure form, is not designed for dental use and should be avoided.”

  1. Rubbing banana skin on your teeth

This one is in a similar vein to our first on the list and is also just as ineffective and damaging.  The claim is that by rubbing the under-skin of a banana on your teeth, you can whiten them. Just like the other claims made before, they are being made by people with no medical or dental training.

Dr Carter adds: “Banana skins contain fructose which is a sugar and when it comes into contact with plaque on the teeth can form acid and lead to the softening of tooth enamel.

“Despite the user’s claims, there is no evidence that the properties of banana skin will have any whitening effect on the teeth and will probably just result in several trips to the dentist.”

  1. Filing down uneven teeth

This shocking video is just one of a handful seen on TikTok in recent days of users using nail files on their teeth. In the video below a user by the name of @miadio starts by saying my “I’m going to file my teeth with a nail file because they are not perfect”.

Dr Atkins says: “Using a nail file on your teeth will permanently remove the enamel.  This enamel does not ‘grow’ back, so this could lead to expensive restorative work being necessary to re-build the teeth.

“Another danger is that you’ll expose the nerve of the tooth which would lead to both pain and sensitivity.”

The Oral Health Foundation is concerned by the trend of DIY dentistry across social media. Social media is an area of special concern because of the age of the majority of users, and especially on TikTok. The latest figures show that the majority of TikTok users (32%) fall into the 10 – 19 years old age bracket. This is such a young, impressionable age and one where you are not going to be as aware of the risks associated with these videos.

The charity believes many influencers pressure young people to prioritise aesthetics and appearance over their health.

“In an attempt to save money, many young people are drawn in by ‘hack’ videos on social media that seemingly allow you to cut corners and achieve results similar to that of going to the dentist,” adds Dr Carter.

“This is a false and irresponsible message. Such shortcuts come with added danger and can lead to permanent damage to your oral health and will not give you the results you are looking for.”

The charity advises that people looking to improve the appearance of their smile talk with their dentist before embarking on any kind of oral health treatment.

Your dentist will be able to tell you what is and isn’t safe and what is and isn’t legal.

Alternatively, the Oral Health Foundation has a Dental Helpline on 01788 539780. The Dental Helpline is staffed by fully trained dental professionals ready and willing to offer you free and independent oral health advice. It is open from Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm.