America’s ToothFairy – Protect Your Teen’s Smile from Internet Influencers

It’s no secret that the internet and social media can be risky for vulnerable children. From unrealistic beauty standards and downright foolish “challenges,” threats to mental health and physical well-being are everywhere. Here’s another potential danger to add to the list: Internet influencers. Seasoned social media personalities who have amassed a large audience and can persuade their followers to act on their recommendations can have a negative impact on your child’s oral health.

While some influencers may have subject matter expertise and meticulously research the topics they discuss, others may not reasonably think about the recommendations they make to their young followers. It is important for parents to understand the costly and long-term effects these recommendations can have on a teen’s oral health.

Here are three unhealthy internet trends that can have a detrimental effect on dental health:

1. The pursuit of the “perfect” smile.

Unrealistic beauty standards aren’t a new phenomenon and certainly not unique to the internet, but since the rise of the selfie and image-obsessed culture permeating social media, it seems some teens and young adults are willing to go to extremes to get the “perfect smile.”

Teeth whitening at home

There is nothing wrong with wanting a brighter smile, however, parents should be aware of the methods and products that children use on their pearly whites. There has been an alarming trend in Mr. Clean Magic Erasers using teeth whitening. But even harmless sounding products — such as those containing charcoal or baking soda — are considered too abrasive, while others may contain acidic ingredients like lemon juice. While these “natural” ingredients may seem safe, they can damage the tooth enamel that protects the inner structure of teeth called dentin. Although tooth enamel is naturally white, it can stain. However, ivory is naturally yellow, so if too much enamel is eroded during the whitening process, the teeth will appear yellower (and are more prone to cavities!)

Other common whitening techniques, such as peroxide fillings, can also damage the gums. Talk to your dentist about the best products to use for teeth whitening at home.

For more information on at-home whitening techniques that you should avoid, check out this video:

DIY dentistry

For those who can’t afford professional cosmetic dentistry, the internet offers a nearly unlimited number of ill-informed advice and ill-advised tutorials on how to achieve results on your own. In an effort to get the “perfect smile” on the cheap, teens are taking massive opportunities with oral health that can have devastating and lasting consequences.

  • Using rubber bands to seal gaps in the front teeth: The bands can slide under the gum line and put enough pressure on the roots of the teeth that they eventually fall out. Or the gums can become infected and require surgery to remove the ligaments as in this case (Warning: graphic images)

    Kids also tried making DIY props using earring backs, paper clips, and rubber bands. This video explains why it’s such a bad idea.

  • The craze that hit TikTok during the pandemic lockdowns has encouraged teens to use nail files to smooth out uneven or chipped teeth. Cold causes irreversible damage to the enamel of the teeth, making the teeth more sensitive to heat or cold and more prone to decay.

mouth piercing

While piercings are certainly not new, the problem arises when kids consider getting some type of mouth piercing, either lip or tongue, and consult YouTube or TikTok for information from other guys who have pierced themselves. While it’s commendable trying to research before having a piercing rather than doing it recklessly, experiences shared online often only detail the process itself – the amount of damage and time it takes to heal – but not the risks, which include:

  • Swelling and bleeding while the piercing is healing (which can take weeks for a tongue piercing even under ideal conditions)
  • Tearing, scarring and keloid formation (extra fibrous scar tissue)
    Infection and secretions (Your mouth is home to billions of microbes, so infections are common.)
  • Tooth damage occurs in 26% of all tongue holes
  • Gums receding due to jewelry rubbing against the gums. Healthy gums are essential if you want to maintain your teeth.
  • Embedded jewelry must be surgically removed, which can be expensive and painful
  • Jewelry can interfere with speech and chewing and cause excessive drooling
  • The airway can become blocked due to swelling or inhalation of loose jewelry
  • Swallowing acute posts can be especially dangerous

If your teen has ever set his heart on a mouth piercing and hasn’t listened to the warnings of your family dentist, he might as well listen to this guy, who has been a professional body piercer since 1994:

3. Dental veneers instead of orthodontic treatment

The last trend we would like to warn parents about is taking short cuts to straight teeth with dental veneers in place. Cosmetic dentistry serves a good purpose when needed, and correctly positioning dental veneers is not a problem. However, this is not what many influencers on social media are promoting. Instead, they have 10 to 20 healthy teeth attached to tree trunks to set “veneers” (which are actually crowns).

Influencers who do this may tell you about the process, but they are unlikely to share the long-term consequences of having a mouth full of “dandruff” (most likely because they are not aware of the challenges they are involved in.) The potential for complications including infections and dental fractures is high, especially since Veneer will need to be replaced every 10-15 years. Each time it is replaced, there is a high risk of losing the original tooth.

Always talk to a reputable dentist when considering veneers, and don’t try to replace orthodontic treatment with anything that seems like a quick fix. Although it takes longer, orthodontics will have positive results in the long run.

Other resources for educating your teen on the topics discussed above:

Girl talking about teeth: TikTok dental trends are ruining people’s teeth

Teeth Talk Girl: Stop chasing TikTok and dental trends on social media

Orthotics: Please don’t do this…

Dr.. Gurs Sehmi: The truth about dental veneers in Turkey

KCTV5 News: An orthodontist sounds the alarm about the inconvenience of the DIY trend

NBC2 news: Do-it-yourself dentistry has become a disturbing trend among kids

Girl Talking About Teeth: Scaling Your Teeth at Home? Here’s why it’s a bad idea

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