3 Dentist-Approved Alternatives to Those TikTok "Smile Hacks"

Here's what really works.

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For better or worse, you have no idea what you're about to learn the minute your TikTok FYP loads. As an experiment, I made some notes during my evening marathon scroll. And in one hour of screen-staring alone, I learned how to draw a cute cartoon mushroom, self-defense tips for acrylic-wearers, a recipe for at-home Olive Garden bread, and what to do with my hands in 'fit pics.

By that same token, all of that user-generated content means the app is also bound to be rife with accidental misinformation. Most of it is innocuous, like that fully-debunked viral video claiming to have "cracked the code" on Zara's wonky sizing system. But because so many TikToks deal with health, beauty, and the body in general, it's crucial to verify the validity of specific "hacks" before trying them out yourself. Viral videos detailing so-called dental tips and tricks are having something of a moment—and though the allure of these videos is easy to understand (especially considering the often inaccessible cost of professional dental work), it's important to know you can cause some pretty severe damage to teeth accidentally.

To make sense of what works, what's useless, and what's downright dangerous, Byrdie tapped Dr. Amanda Lewis, DMD, for some expert insight on TikTok's most popular teeth hacks—and effective at-home alternatives for many of them, too.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Amanda Lewis, DDS is a board-certified dentist based in Dallas.

Debunking DIY Teeth Filing

Yes, even reading those words is painful, but videos detailing young TikTok users taking tools to their teeth in hope of evening them out like a set of acrylics have aggregated millions of views. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Lewis warns that this is one tip to avoid at all costs. "Teeth are made up of layers," Dr. Lewis says, explaining that the external most layer, enamel, is the hardest substance in and on the human body. When that's worn down, either with age or through manual means like at-home filing, it leaves the second, more vulnerable layer exposed. "Dentin is more susceptible to erosion, tooth decay, and more," she says, "so taking away the outer layer of the tooth (which is also the whiter layer) can cause a lot of issues over time."

It's true that there are plenty of totally safe and functional hacks out there, but this one features a technique best left to professional hands (and tools).

Strawberry Stain-Remover Doesn't Really Work

Though too-good-to-be-true hacks tend to get the most play online, the truth is that most TikTok tips fall somewhere in the middle: not harmful enough to be dangerous, but not necessarily beneficial either. This strawberry hack, which does seem like it could be a legitimate home remedy, would be classified as such, according to Dr. Lewis.

"It's fine, it won't hurt anything, but it also won't do much," she confirms, though she points out that there is a kernel of truth to the idea. "Strawberries contain malic acid, which does have bleaching properties," Dr. Lewis says, "but it won't do much because there won't be enough contact time."

Dr. Lewis says the most effective teeth whitening techniques erase surface stains or remove them "from the inside out" with professionally-administered chemicals Strawberries, it turns out, are best left for smoothies and wine.

Household Whitening Products Are Actually Okay

Common household ingredients like baking soda can indeed be used to whiten teeth at home, and as such, this video earns a thumbs-up from Dr. Lewis. "He had great ideas. There is nothing wrong with what he is doing," Dr. Lewis says, adding that her personal oral health routine incorporates plenty of the methods used in the video. "I use a similar technique with a peroxide type rinse with baking soda every morning when I brush, and it can help to whiten and remove stains," she says. Go ahead and save this TikTok for future reference.

But, as with most things learned on the internet, there are a few key points to be aware of. First, Dr. Lewis says it's essential to use these ingredients in moderation. "Don't do it seven times a day, be smart about it, use it to remove simple surface stains, and seek professional help to remove stains from the inside out," she says, explaining that these methods won't necessarily deliver dramatic results. For stains that are deeper than surface level, you'll need expert assistance. Plus, Dr. Lewis cautions that overuse can cause damage, so it's crucial to use these ingredients appropriately.

Don't Try At-Home Gap-Bonding

Considering assisted teeth movement is an entire specialized area of oral medicine, it's not advisable to attempt any TikTok orthodontics on your own. "I would definitely discourage anyone from doing this," Dr. Lewis says point-blank. "People are moving their teeth without knowing teeth, and its support systems—like bone and gum tissue—can do irreparable damage and can even cause teeth to loosen and even loss."

What's more, this method isn't particularly effective. "There are ways like a rubber band that will move teeth over time, but you would need to have it in place for quite some time—usually 20+ hours a day over a period of time, and would need a retainer," she says. "I would not recommend this mainly because of the health issues, but it is not going to last."

Dentist-Approved Alternatives

Only one viral TikTok made the doctor-approved cut, but Dr. Lewis has some tips of her own that are just as easy and accessible—without any of the adverse effects. As previously stated, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide are effective, inexpensive ways to combat surface stains. Topical strips from the drugstore can also make a difference in your smile's brightness, according to Dr. Lewis, who recommends Crest White Strips as well as products by Colgate.

It can be tempting to try and accelerate the whitening process by loading up on commercial products. Still, Dr. Lewis cautions against using them in any way other than as directed. "Using numerous white strips a day to get that boom impact of whitening, you're more likely causing sensitivity and damage than you are whitening," she says. "If you are looking for drastic results, you should employ a qualified dental professional. Overuse of chemicals will cause damage to your teeth."

Finally, practicing the best possible oral hygiene and care is the most significant piece of the puzzle. Regular dentist visits, flossing, and brushing help remove stains, as does rinsing your mouth with water after drinking dark or colorful drinks like red wine, soda, coffee, and tea. The best part? This can all be done while watching TikTok.

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