5 safe alternatives to not-so-safe oral health social trends

Wellness and lifestyle fads rise and fall all the time — remember jazzercise and shake weights? Some fads are harmless (like choosing yoga pants over gym shorts), some fads are helpful (like jogging and meditation), and some can cause damage. Here are some harmful fads about oral health that you or your child may see on social media.

Not-so-safe trend #1: mouthwash and toothpaste dispensers

Why this isn’t safe: This trend sees mouthwash and toothpaste mixed in a clear dispenser, but toothpaste tubes aren’t clear for a reason: Because UV rays reduce the effectiveness of the toothpaste over time. Also, mouthwash is more acidic than toothpaste and can damage your teeth with prolonged exposure.

A safe alternative: Just clean your teeth the tried-and-true way: Brush twice and floss daily. If you use mouthwash, follow the instructions on the bottle.

Not-so-safe trend #2: closing tooth gaps with rubber bands

Why this isn’t safe: Shifting your teeth so quickly places pressure on the roots, which then shorten. This can cause pain and tooth loss. In addition, keeping a foreign object in your mouth for so long creates bacteria growth that can cause gum disease.

A safe alternative: Speak with your dentist or orthodontist about healthy, safe ways to close any gaps in your teeth.

Not-so-safe trend #3: magic erasers on coffee stains on teeth

Why this isn’t safe: Magic erasers contain melamine, a very toxic material that can cause nausea, vomiting, and irritability. It will also make your teeth yellower and more sensitive over time, because the magic eraser will scrub off your tooth enamel to reveal the yellower later of dentin below.

A safe alternative: If you want to whiten your teeth, speak with your dentist about the safest way to do so based on your personal situation and dental history.

Not-so-safe trend #4: flossing with your hair

Why this isn’t safe: If you read the headline and thought yuck, you’re not alone — oral health experts agree with you. One reason is because your hair could break and become lodged in your teeth, attracting bacteria. But even if you managed to dislodge some food, your hair will not remove plaque along the gumline as effectively as floss.

A safe alternative: Use conventional floss, a floss pick, or a water flosser. As another added benefit, you don’t have to pull out your own hair.

Not-so-safe trend #5: drinking pineapple juice before wisdom tooth removal

Why this isn’t safe: People try this in an attempt to reduce swelling after the surgery. But the sugar and acid in pineapple juice can actually make that swelling worse by irritating your teeth and gums.

A safe alternative: Post surgery, follow your dentist’s advice and use ice to help alleviate any swelling. Ice packs and gargling with salt water (be sure not to swallow) are also safe at-home remedies.

The main takeaway: You shouldn’t take damaging shortcuts with your oral health. If you’re concerned about your teeth and gums or want to make a cosmetic change to smile, speak with your dentist about healthy ways to achieve the desired results.

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