Recent reports from the United Kingdom show an increase in illegal teeth whitening procedures that are causing patients to experience burns or a loss of some of their teeth. This is according to the General Dental Council (GDC) who recently found that illegal teeth whitening procedures, that use harmful chemicals and other treatments that have not been approved, have grown by 26% in the last year. One of the main reasons being cited for the rise in these illegal teeth whitening treatments is the focus on teeth that are white and bright on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.
The rise of social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have become a spiritual successor to fashion magazines when it comes to showcasing beauty ideals to the public. In addition, the growth in popularity of “selfies” has led many people to try and gain the perfect smile to share with others online.
A quick look at social media platforms shows numerous images of clear, bright smiles from both celebrities and social media influencers that have large online followings. A smile that shows clear, white teeth is a big selling point for social media users that have endorsement deals with at-home/DIY teeth whitening kits and various brands of toothpaste.
The use of filters on online photos has also changed the expectations of users who are looking to make a change in the appearance of their teeth. Patients that visit dentists are now looking for the type of results they see in filtered photos such as teeth that are white and crystal clear in their appearance. The filters on social media platforms give people the ability to instantly view an enhanced version of their appearance. However, the appearances of influencers on social media are often impossible for others to achieve in their daily life. In general, filters can give a person a perfect appearance that is hard to replicate.
The growth of TikTok has been a big success story in the social media world. The platform has millions of active users around the world. However, the success of TikTok has also caused some concerns thanks to its content that some feel promotes harmful beauty treatments.
One of the most popular types of videos on the social media platform is “life hack videos”. These videos involves users sharing tips on beauty products, the unexpected daily use of household items, food recipes and tips on saving money.
While these videos might be of use to some people, TikTok is having problems regulating their videos and this means there is a concern that some of the content might include procedures that medical professionals do not recommend the public trying.
One of the most prominent video categories in this trend is a new “viral hack” for teeth whitening. These videos, when looked at together, have enjoyed millions of views on TikTok.
One TikTok user gained attention after she claimed that the use of 3% hydrogen peroxide on her teeth gave them a whiter look. She took a cotton swab and gently placed the solution on her teeth. This was not welcomed by the medical community as the legal limit of hydrogen peroxide allowed for use on the teeth, by non-dental professionals in the United Kingdom, is 0.1%. This means the TikTok user was greatly over the limit recommended by medical professionals.
One medical professional told Health.com, “Prolonged bleaching with these high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, especially when used multiple days in a row, can lead to highly irritated gums and sensitive teeth. Gum irritation can get severe if more bleaching is done when the gums are already irritated. Tooth sensitivity is usually temporary, but significant bleaching can increase tooth sensitivity permanently with long term use.”
One of the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedures that stems from social media is the use of veneers (thanks to their popularity on Instagram). This dental procedure is when a cosmetic dentist places white shells on top of the existing teeth. The placement of porcelain veneers might require some filing of the teeth which means there is a charge per tooth. Because of the sometimes expensive cost of having dental veneers placed on the teeth, some social media users decide to turn to hazardous chemicals as an alternative way to brighten their smile.
The viewing of filtered photos has created a sometimes unnatural level of perfection that others try to attain. The photos viewed online can cause some people to become more aware of the imperfections they view on their body. They are often willing to turn to “quick fixes” like cosmetic dentistry to enhance their appearance. It is important for the public to realize that filtered photos do not reflect reality and they need to think twice before trying illegal, and possibly damaging, cosmetic dentistry procedures.