Teens are filing their teeth on TikTok. Dentists want a word

Dentists say that no one should ever file their own teeth, since it can cause permanent damage.
"You might file your nails and then they grow back, but teeth don't grow back," said Dr. Tricia Quartey-Sagaille.
"You might file your nails and then they grow back, but teeth don't grow back," said Dr. Tricia Quartey-Sagaille.Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

We all love the life hacks and fun advice shared on TikTok, but dentists are warning against an alarming new trend where users file their own teeth at home with nail files or other household objects.

Several videos show users grinding down uneven teeth, something that dentists say should never be done at home and certainly not with household objects.

"You might file your nails and then they grow back, but teeth don't grow back," said Dr. Tricia Quartey-Sagaille, a dentist based in New York City. "It's very important for people to realize that and know that sometimes there's a different cause for why your teeth might be different lengths, so it might not be as simple — like maybe your teeth are at different positions."

TikTok has taken some measures to warn against potential dental misinformation. Some videos, such as one from user @MiaDio, has a warning on the bottom that says the video shows "potentially dangerous action."

In the video, the user says that she is trying to file her teeth with a nail file because they are "not perfect" and "have some ridges," but she doesn't have the money to have them professionally looked at. While she called the finished results "significantly better," Quartey-Sagaille told TODAY that the user's actions may make things more difficult later in life.

"People see the immediate 'Wow, it looks better,' but once (enamel) is gone, it's gone forever," Quartey-Sagaille said. "You can really do irreversible harm and have long term health impacts. There's a lot of irreversible damage that can be done."

Some of that harm includes increased sensitivity, permanent damage, an increase in cavities and other pains.

"Don't do anything at home that your dentist did not tell you to," advised Quartey-Sagaille. "The teeth are very strong, but you can certainly do a lot of things to weaken them. I would say if it's not something that you routinely see over the counter, do not do it."

Social media-savvy dentists have been taking to various platforms to try to combat misinformation about teeth filing and about dental care in general.

Dr. Suhail Mohiuddin, who goes by @dr.m_ on TikTok and operates a dental practice in Illinois, shared a video where he directly responded to claims that you could file your teeth at home.

"As a dentist when a a patient asks me to do this, the first thing that I think about is 'Why are their teeth uneven in the first place?’" said Mohiuddin. "In this case, it’s because the lower teeth are crowded and are unevenly wearing the upper teeth. Okay, you file them, and they look pretty good, but you didn’t solve the original problem, so what are you going to do in a few years when they’re uneven again and now your teeth are shorter?"

@dr.m_

Another day spitting some facts about Tik Tok trends ##dentist ##nailfile ##teeth

♬ original sound - Suhail Mohiuddin

In another video, he explained that the "bumpy ridges" that some users mentioned are called mamelons and are completely normal, but can be professionally removed if you'd like. In a third video, he detailed the steps a dentist takes before filing teeth, which include measuring the thickness of the enamel, evaluating bite and polishing the filed teeth with a flexible disk tool.

Arkansas-based orthodontist Dr. Ben Winters shared a video on Instagram where he reacted to another user's filing, repeating that while dentists and orthodontists can safely do the procedure, it can cause serious damage if done at home.

"It's just bad news, bad juju!" he said. "You've got to leave something like this to an expert, because we know exactly how much enamel we can take off to be healthy for the teeth and still get a good look."

Quartey-Sagaille said that any dental procedures or changes you'd like to make should be carefully considered with input from your dentist.

"I think what I would want to see ideally is that someone finds a dental home where they feel comfortable enough telling (their dentist) what they want to do, because sometimes we hear about things after they're done, when of course, it's too late," she said. "We will give our honest opinion about it and explain — and educate."