Why You Shouldn't Use This TikTok Hack To Whiten Your Teeth

Oh TikTok, whatever would we do without you? Well, we may have to find out, sooner or later, if the U.S. government makes good on threats to ban this Chinese app (via Harvard Business Review). In the meantime, however, we have TikTok to thank (or blame) for all manner of info-tainment including super-simple recipes, more-or-less effective cooking hacks, celebrity workouts, campaigns for social justice, and some stuff that's either meant to be trolling us or else just making us laugh (that whole tiny food thing).

Of course, TikTok has its darker side, too, with shady scams and challenges that can be hazardous to your health. Even some of the advice that's presented as being helpful, though, can have hidden dangers. One such tip is that presented by TikToker @clauds244 who suggests a budget-friendly teeth-whitening hack. Instead of using the expensive store-bought kits, she suggests just applying regular old 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (the kind you can buy at any drug store or dollar store) to a cotton swab and running it across your teeth. Although in her video she says, "If you're a dentist, don't tell me this is wrong," it seems some dentists are weighing in anyway (and yes, just as you'd expect, telling us it's wrong).

Why shouldn't you use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth?

While the TikTok video is correct in claiming that commercial whitening strips contain hydrogen peroxide as well (some of them in concentrations up to 20 percent, according to Health), it turns out that dentists aren't so wild about these, either. Whitening strips, which aren't regulated by the FDA (and some brands of which are even banned in the more cautious UK), "can lead to highly irritated gums and sensitive teeth," says dentist and Waterpik spokesperson Chris Strandburg, DDS. This irritation is due to the high concentration of peroxide and will be more severe if you use such treatments multiple days in a row. If you do so long-term, the sensitivity may even become a permanent condition,

So should you avoid using hydrogen peroxide on your teeth altogether? Not necessarily. Just let a few days go by between each use, and also dilute the peroxide with equal parts water. Health also recommends the "safe" option of commercial products using phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP), saying it's gentler on gums and enamel, but not only are these products pricey (nearly $10 per use for this kit on Amazon), but Pharmacy Magazine reports that PAP can actually mess up your teeth pretty badly.

The takeaway: You've only got one set of teeth, so if you really, really want them whiter, do your research on any potential whitening methods. And, should your insurance coverage permit, it's always best to consult with a dentist first.