October 29, 2021
by Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta, B.Sc. DDS.
Recently my daughter had her wisdom teeth extracted. The day before she asked me to buy her pineapple juice. I replied, “Pineapple juice? Why do you want that? You don’t even like pineapples.” She said, “I saw on TikTok that drinking pineapple juice before getting your wisdom teeth out reduces pain and swelling.” Uggghh! Another person believing what they see on social media, but this time it was it was my own child who could have easily asked her dentist mom about how to reduce post-operative symptoms. Before I decided how to respond, I did some research on this TikTok tooth trend as well as others to see if there is any truth behind what TikTokers are telling.
Drinking Pineapple juice before surgery
TikToker @valeriagreenz showed how she quickly recovered from her wisdom teeth surgery after drinking 64oz of pineapple juice before the procedure. Why pineapple juice?
Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain which is an anti-inflammatory. There were two studies on a small number of participants where they took bromelain after wisdom teeth removal surgery and found a decrease in pain and swelling.1
However, the participants in the study took bromelain supplements, not pineapple juice. There are no studies on the effect of taking bromelain before surgery and no studies using pineapple juice before or after surgery.2
So, what’s the truth about this dental hack? There is no evidence to support it. You shouldn’t have more than a cup of juice a day due to the high acid and sugar content. Juice increases risk of decay, the acid can irritate the mouth after surgery and the sugar can cause blood sugar spikes affecting the healing process. A better way to decrease inflammation is to take anti-inflammatory medications and a better way to decrease swelling is with ice. Salt water rinses starting the day after surgery increases wound repair activity.3
Bottom line: Don’t add pineapple juice to your pre-operative and post-operative extraction instruction sheet.
Whitening your teeth with cleaning sponges
Yes, I am talking about that “magic” sponge that you use to clean your oven door and bathtub. TikToker @theheatherdunn shows us her oral hygiene routine and extremely white teeth after using this household cleaner. She brushes using toothpaste without fluoride, uses a piece of melamine foam sponge to scrub each tooth and then does oil pulling for 15 minutes. Melamine is the main ingredient in these magic sponges and a study on extracted human teeth showed effective stain removal with a melamine sponge brush.4 While this study showed that melamine removes stains, there are no studies of the effect of melamine sponges on live participants. The other concern is that melamine is derived from formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic. We do not know the effects of repeated use on teeth and possible ingestion of ingredients in these cleaning sponges.
Bottom line: There is no evidence to support the use of these sponges. If a patient asks you about this trend, tell them, “There are safer ways to whiten your teeth that give better results. Let me explain the options …”
Using elastic bands to close diastemas
It seems logical to use elastic bands to close gaps between teeth since that’s what orthodontists do. Is there any harm in doing it yourself? TikToker @elijahosein shows how he closed his diastema with $5 rubber bands (gap bands). He then does a follow-up video giving the finger to dentists who are upset at his do-it-yourself success story. While he ended up with the smile he wanted, not everyone does. The bands can move the teeth too quickly causing root resorption and the bands can move towards the roots destroying the periodontium causing teeth to loosen. A case study of a 9-year-old boy using gap bands ended horribly with the loss of his upper central incisors after the bands migrated apically causing severe acute periodontitis.5
Bottom Line: Tell your patients that teeth movement should be supervised by a dentist or orthodontist and that closing the spaces themselves can be catastrophic.
Using nail files to shape your teeth
This seems like a simple hack, but dentists and people who tried it quickly made their own videos condemning this craze. 16-year-old Aislinn Rendulic filed her own teeth after watching a TikTok video and now regrets it as she now has sensitivity when she drinks water and eats ice cream.6
While enameloplasty can be safely done in dental offices, people doing it themselves can end up with exposed dentin causing tooth sensitivity. If your patient is interested in even incisal edges, explain the advantages and disadvantages of enameloplasty and let them know it can be done in the dental office.
Bottom Line: Tell your patients to use their nail files on their nails, not their teeth. Nails grow back, teeth don’t.
Whitening your teeth with hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is the active teeth whitening ingredient in over-the-counter whitening products and those used in and sold by dental offices. TikToker @elmint mixes 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 2 parts water, paints it on her teeth with a cotton tip applicator, waits 5 minutes and then brushes it off. After one application, she shows how much whiter her teeth appear, while @darci.tyler shows how dramatically whiter her teeth became after rinsing with diluted hydrogen peroxide every morning for 5 days. Even I was impressed. So, what’s the evidence? A study comparing commercial mouthwashes containing hydrogen peroxide to hydrogen peroxide whitening gel showed that all the mouthwashes whitened teeth, but the whitening gel showed the best whitening result.7 While rinsing with hydrogen peroxide or wiping it on your teeth whitens teeth, make sure to warn patients that hydrogen peroxide can cause black hairy tongue, tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.
Bottom Line: Tell patients that to get the best whitening result, choose gels with hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide offered by dental professionals.
Mouthwash and toothpaste dispenser
TikToker @ela.minnesotateacher was one of many who recommended mixing toothpaste and mouthwash in a soap dispenser and squeezing out the mixed paste on your toothbrush. It was hailed as a way to save time and counter space, but is this effective? Nope. Toothpaste and mouthwashes have both been proven to improve oral health, but there is no evidence to show that they are effective when combined. Mixing the ingredients may negatively affect effectiveness, stability and shelf-life of the products. Mouthwash shouldn’t be brushed on as it is meant to be swished in order to reach areas that the toothbrush doesn’t get.
Bottom Line: Advise patients to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
TikTokers are showing their whiter straighter smiles after going to the dentist to get their teeth prepared for multiple veneers (#veneerscheck). While veneers are an option to improve aesthetics, some people are undergoing dramatic tooth reductions on virgin teeth for multiple crowns and calling them veneers such as @taysb16. The danger in this trend is that young people are getting healthy tooth structure removed where more conservative options like orthodontics, whitening and minimal preparation veneers may be better long-term options.
Bottom Line: Since dentists are the ones doing this, this trend is up to dentists to stop.
The big bottom line
It would be nice if our patients asked us for advice instead of turning to TikTok and other online sources. However, even our own children tend to trust what they are seeing online. So, how did I respond to my daughter who asked for pineapple juice? I told her she can’t drink or eat anything 8 hours before the surgery since she was getting IV sedation, I gave her tips on how to decrease pain and swelling, and I bought her the pineapple juice… to drink afterwards (Hey, she had to be on a liquid diet afterwards, anyways).
How do we get people to turn to us for advice instead of TikTok? Ask people how they care for their mouth at home and if they have any questions about their home care. This will make them more willing to tell you about any trends they are doing and ask you questions about them. If they tell you they are doing a dental hack, don’t criticize them; instead, have a conversation. Say, “I can tell you really care about your oral health since you are seeking knowledge in how to improve it. I can help you achieve your goals. I can give you advice that I know will work and that will be safe. What do you want to know about?”
About the Author
Dr. Mohanta graduated from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry in 1999. She practises general dentistry in Brampton, ON. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @drsanjmohanta.