Online Trends That Are Damaging to Oral Health

by Beau Peters

Trends are a familiar part of life and most are typically harmless. However, with the rise of social media apps such as TikTok and Twitter, there has also been a concerning rise in dangerous behaviors. While some trends are a fun way to express yourself and connect with other people, they can also lead to long-term health problems — and lately, some trends are specifically leading to damaging things like teeth and gums.

For oral health experts, trying to combat current dental trends circulating the internet, such as brushing with activated charcoal and DIY body modification, is no easy feat. However, it’s imperative that dental professionals stay up to date with current trends in order to better educate their patients to help keep them, and their teeth, healthy.

Missing The Big Picture

One of the trickiest parts of trends, particularly health-related ones, is they often aren’t backed by any sort of real evidence or support. This means that teens and adults scrolling social media might start following dental advice or trends that may actually be harmful. Furthermore, many can overlook the potential risks and fail to consider the overall effect certain trends will have on their body. A good example is apple cider vinegar.

Across several social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, taking a shot of apple cider vinegar in the name of weight loss is a popular trend. There is limited evidence to support the claim that drinking apple cider vinegar every day will help you lose weight, but what is clear is that it can wear away the enamel on your teeth.

Due to its acidic nature, apple cider vinegar can lead to tooth sensitivity, contribute to decay, and even darken teeth if not properly rinsed off. This kind of important information is often missing from those promoting the weight loss trend though. While there are ways to make vinegar less damaging to your teeth, people rarely research a trend they’ve come across. This can make many trends, not just the apple cider vinegar one, really dangerous long-term.

Another damaging example is the trend of brushing with activated charcoal. This trend spread as a “life hack” for getting whiter teeth without the hassle of going to the dentist or using expensive whitening strips. Brushing with activated charcoal may help whiten teeth as it contains certain compounds that help remove toxins, but it’s also gritty and abrasive. This means regularly brushing with it wears away tooth enamel, making teeth actually appear more yellow. Trends may appear like the quick fix patients are looking for, but oftentimes, they’re merely temporary solutions or actually worsen the problem over time.

Taking Trends Too Far

Body modification isn’t anything new, but the trends circulating on TikTok have left many oral health professionals concerned. From vampire fangs to rhinestones, teens have been gluing accessories to their teeth to switch up their looks or try something new for Halloween. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

For one, super glue and nail adhesive are toxic and harmful to teeth and gums. It can potentially lead to gingival inflammation or the need to get a root canal treatment. Secondly, the products people use to remove the adhesive, such as nail polish remover, can also damage teeth. This isn’t the only teeth modification trend popular on social media either. Another harmful, yet popular trend is the filing of teeth.

Some teens, unhappy with their teeth shape, have recorded themselves filing down their teeth with nail files. As any oral health expert knows, teeth don’t regrow like our nails, and filing can cause permanent sensitivity and nerve damage. While it might seem silly to warn patients against performing body modification at home, there are a lot of different pressures teens face today that can really skew their judgment. Opening up the conversation with understanding can be what saves the next person from making a seriously dangerous and regrettable mistake.

A New Culprit

One trend that’s been around for centuries, unfortunately, is smoking. It takes a different form every so often, for example, vaping has currently taken over the nicotine market. Regardless of how people smoke, it’s never been great for oral health. Vaping is often touted as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, however, studies are suggesting that it can still trigger an inflammatory response within gum tissue, create excess bacteria in the mouth, and lead to mouth dryness.

Vaping is also a major concern as the latest smoking trend is often marketed to younger consumers like teens and young adults with flavors like cotton candy, sour apple candy, and lemonade. Vaping has made its way into content on platforms like TikTok and YouTube as well, making it more likely that impressionable audiences will start the harmful habit. Beyond oral health, vaping may result in serious injury as well. There have been several reports of vapes exploding or catching fire. While addiction is itself a problem, discussing the oral health aspect of vaping with patients may help deter some from starting or help others make the decision to quit.

As an oral health professional, there are many ways to educate patients on the potential dangers of popular trends. While it may not be possible to stop damaging trends from sweeping across social media platforms, it is possible to help patients, of all ages, make better decisions.

About the Author

Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.