How safe is the Tiktok tooth whitening trend?

tooth whitening craze on tiktokWith a new Tiktok tooth whitening trend encouraging users to rub hydrogen peroxide straight onto their teeth, Tirajeh Hadidi explores what the complications could be.

From charcoal toothpaste to banana peels. We thought we’d seen it all when it comes to DIY tooth whitening.

That is, until the latest Tiktok challenge. A new ‘hack’ is attracting the interest of many Tiktok users. Amassing 19.7 million views in the past three weeks!

The short clip shows the user dipping a cotton bud into 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Before then rubbing this all over their teeth.

In the video, the ‘Tiktoker’ states this is a cheaper alternative to tooth whitening. They inform viewers that the solution was bought on Ebay after researching the main ingredient in whitening products.

The Tiktoker pleads for dentists to not bother sharing their opinions, as the damage is already done.

Naturally, this resulted in a huge surge in sales of hydrogen peroxide. With other Tiktok users commenting that the solution is selling out everywhere.

Tooth whitening

The entertainment app allows the sharing of videos of up to 60 seconds long.

It is currently number one in the charts, surpassing Netflix. Statistics show that more than 40% of its 800 million users are between the ages of 16-24.

In a social media-filled world, aesthetics accounts for a lot. Teeth appear of increasing importance with some comparing them to ‘human ornament displays’ (Hendrie and Brewer, 2012).

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that patients are willing to try almost anything to achieve the desired bright white Hollywood smile, without breaking the bank.

The British Dental Bleaching Society defines tooth whitening as a way of lightening the appearance of natural teeth without the removal of any tooth surface, ie the enamel.

Hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (a more stable alternative) break down and cleanse out impurities that lead to the discolouration of teeth. Resulting in a lighter appearance.

In the UK, the GDC states that only dental professionals can sell any product releasing between 0.1-6% hydrogen peroxide. And they can only sell these to patients above the age of 18 (unless it is solely for the purpose of treating or preventing disease).

Possible complications

While we deem tooth whitening as safe, pure hydrogen peroxide is highly dangerous to the skin and mucosa. With the potential to cause burns and respiratory irritation if inhaled.

Tooth bleaching has several side effects. Such as increased tooth sensitivity and oral mucosal irritation. As well as enamel demineralisation and reduced enamel and dentine microhardness.

This is why it is of utmost importance for a dentist to examine the patient first.

They can check for any decay or disease and ensure health of the whole mouth. Including the tongue, cheeks, gums and lips prior to embarking on a tooth whitening journey using products supplied by professionals.

It is also important to bear in mind that whitening will have no effect on fillings, crowns, veneers or implants.

DIY methods, such as this new craze, may result in the opposite effect to that desired, leaving users with teeth that are different shades.

While the instant effects of rubbing straight bleach on to teeth may be pleasing, the only safe way to achieve a desired look is by seeing a dentist.

It’s worth reminding patients the money saved is not worth the potential pain and danger. It may end up costing even more to correct further down the line.

References

Hendrie C and Brewer G (2012) Evidence to Suggest That Teeth Act as Human Ornament Displays Signalling Mate Quality. PLoS ONE v7(7)

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