Five dental TikTok trends you probably shouldn’t try at home

Arosha Weerakoon, The University of Queensland

TikTok is full of videos that demonstrate DIY hacks, from up-cycling tricks to cooking tips. Meanwhile, a growing number of TikTok videos offer tips to help you save money and time at the dentist. But do they deliver?

Here are five popular dental TikTok trends and why you might treat them with caution.

1. Homemade whitening solutions

Many TikTok videos provide tips to whiten teeth. These include tutorials on making your own whitening toothpaste using ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide, a common household bleaching agent, and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

In this video, the influencer says:

And then you’re going to pour in your hydrogen peroxide. There’s really no measurement to this.

But hydrogen peroxide in high doses is poisonous if swallowed, and can burn your gums, mouth and throat, and corrode your teeth.

High doses of hydrogen peroxide may infiltrate holes or microscopic cracks in your teeth to inflame or damage the nerves and blood vessels in the teeth, which can cause pain and even nerve death. This is why dental practitioners are bound by rules when we offer whitening treatments.

Sodium bicarbonate and hydrogen peroxide are among the components in commercially available whitening toothpastes. While these commercial products may be effective at removing surface stains, their compositions are carefully curated to keep your smile safe.

2. Oil pulling

Oil pulling involves swishing one tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth for up to 20 minutes at a time. It has roots in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional medicine practice that originates from the Indian subcontinent.

While oil pulling should be followed by brushing and flossing, I’ve had patients who believe oil pulling is a replacement for these practices.

There has been some research on the potential of oil pulling to treat gum disease or other diseases in the mouth. But overall, evidence that supports the effectiveness of oil pulling is of low certainty.

For example, studies that test the effectiveness of oil pulling have been conducted on school-aged children and people with no dental problems, and often measure dental plaque growth over a few days to a couple of weeks.

Chlorhexidine is an ingredient found in some commercially available mouthwashes. In one study, people who rinsed with chlorhexidine mouthwash (30 seconds twice daily) developed less plaque on their teeth compared to those who undertook oil pulling for eight to 10 minutes.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely you will experience measurable gain to your oral health by adding oil pulling to your daily routine. If you’re time poor, you’re better off focusing on brushing your teeth and gums well alongside flossing.

3. Using rubber bands to fix gaps

This TikTok influencer shows his followers he closed the gaps between his front teeth in a week using cheap clear rubber bands.

But this person may be one of the lucky few to successfully use bands to close a gap in his teeth without any mishaps. Front teeth are slippery and taper near the gums into cone-shaped roots. This can cause bands to slide and disappear into the gums to surround the tooth roots, which can cause infections and pain.

If this happens, you may require surgery that involves cutting your gums to remove the bands. If the bands have caused an infection, you may lose the affected teeth. So it’s best to leave this sort of work to a dental professional trained in orthodontics.

4. Filing or cutting teeth to shape them

My teeth hurt just watching this video.

Cutting or filing teeth unnecessarily can expose the second, more sensitive tooth layer, called dentine, or potentially, the nerve and blood vessels inside the tooth. People undergoing this sort of procedure could experience anything from sensitive teeth through to a severe toothache that requires root canal treatment or tooth removal.

You may notice dentist drills spray water when cutting to protect your teeth from extreme heat damage. The drill in this video is dry with no water used to cool the heat produced during cutting.

It may also not be sterile. We like to have everything clean and sterile to prevent contaminated instruments used on one patient from potentially spreading an infection to another person.

Importantly, once you cut or file your teeth away, it’s gone forever. Unlike bone, hair or nails, our teeth don’t have the capacity to regrow.

5. DIY fillings

Many people on TikTok demonstrate filling cavities (holes) or replacing gaps between teeth with a material made from heated moulded plastic beads. DIY fillings can cause a lot of issues – I’ve seen this in my clinic first hand.

While we may make it look simple in dental surgeries, the science behind filling materials and how we make them stick to teeth to fill cavities is sophisticated.

Filling a cavity with the kind of material made from these beads will be as effective as using sticky tape on sand. Not to mention the cavity will continue to grow bigger underneath the untreated ‘filled’ teeth.

I know it’s easy to say “see a dentist about that cavity” or “go to an orthodontist to fix that gap in your teeth you don’t like”, but it can be expensive to actually do these things. However, if you end up requiring treatment to fix the issues caused at home, it may end up costing you much more.

So what’s the take-home message? Stick with the funny cat and dog videos on TikTok – they’re safer for your smile.

Arosha Weerakoon, Senior Lecturer and General Dentist, School of Dentistry, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

Have you heard of any of these practices? Why not share your opinion on them in the comments section below?

Also read: Ten ways you’re brushing your teeth incorrectly

The Conversation
The Conversation
The Conversation Australia and New Zealand is a unique collaboration between academics and journalists that is the world’s leading publisher of research-based news and analysis.


  1. The best thing we can do for our teeth is avoid white sugar, refined flour and too much acidic fruit and vinegar. Commercial tooth pastes are not the best either, I make my own using hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) plus bicarbonate of soda with some peppermint oil. Bicarb of soda is an effective alkalizer, keeping our mouth and teeth healthy. Cleaning teeth is important, and the tooth pickers are great for getting into the gaps where food is difficult to remove from.

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