If COVID-19 has you cooped up at home more than usual, you may be spending more time than ever on social media. But user beware: along with life hacks, viral teeth health videos are racking up the views and spreading across social media platforms. Below we address some of the most popular teeth cleaning and whitening videos and which ones to avoid.

Activated charcoal for teeth whitening

Activated charcoal has made a resurgence on social media as of late, touted a safe, natural alternative for everything from toothpaste to acne treatments. Social media users can find countless advertisements for activated charcoal whitening treatments promoted by celebrities and brand ambassadors to improve their appeal as safe and easy-to-use. While the contrast of a black, foamy substance on white teeth aids to its viral appeal, we don’t recommend it.

Activated charcoal, historically used in medicine as a gastric lavage, has abrasive properties, which can lead to enamel erosion. Healthy enamel gives your teeth their white appearance, so charcoal treatments may actually do the opposite of what they claim to do!

Oil Pulling

Another “healthy alternative” popping up on your social media feed is that of oil pulling. Oil pulling is the act of swishing a neutral oil, most commonly coconut or sunflower seed oil, around in your mouth to collect bad bacteria. Some online gurus promote this practice in place of regular teeth brushing. Sadly, there is little evidence of any benefits of oil pulling and replacing regular brushing with the practice can lead to more dangerous oral health issues.

Baking Soda

Baking soda has long been used in oral cleaning products due to its mildly abrasive nature and whitening abilities. However, daily use of pure baking soda promoted by social media stars as a natural alternative to regular products should be avoided. Excessive use of pure baking soda has been linked to scratches in enamel which can weaken your tooth’s structure. It is better to stick to widely available laboratory tested products with acceptable levels of baking soda.

As the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Dentist offices are dedicated to providing healthy, accessible options for your oral health. While we wish it was as easy as swishing around some coconut oil, the truth is oral health is complex and consulting a professional is always a good idea before attempting home remedies.