The dangerous new Tiktok trend that could ruin your child's teeth

Portrait of a nervous woman biting her nails.
Portrait of a nervous woman biting her nails. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Okay, so we're all teaching our kids not to do stupid stuff just because they've seen it on TikTok, right?

We've seen kids downing dangerous amounts of Benadryl, trying to poke dimples into their cheeks with pens, shaving their eyebrows off, and gluing gems to their teeth with nail glue — all because someone on TikTok did it.

Impulse control is not the strongest in children — especially teenagers — so it seems we have to explicitly tell them these things are stupid.

Photo: TikTok
Photo: TikTok 

Even then it doesn't necessarily stop them, but a new TikTok trend has dentists covering their eyes (and probably filling their appointment books). 

People are filing their teeth down with nail files.

Did you whole body clench at that idea, like you'd just heard fingernails going down a blackboard, or was it just me? 

Apparently TikTok wisdom dictates that you can smooth out bumps and ridges on your teeth by simply filing them down with an emery board. Why haven't we thought of that before?

Because it can do serious damage to your teeth, says Dr Jeffrey Kestenberg of Coburg Dental Group, who labelled the trend 'alarming'. 

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"The filing of teeth with a nail file is likely to do more harm than good," Dr Kestenberg tells Essential Kids

"The outer layer of a tooth is known as enamel and is the area of the tooth that is most resistant to tooth decay. When the enamel is removed it exposes the next layer which is known as dentine. 

Dentine is soft and spongy, says Dr Kestenberg, which means it's more easily damaged.

"The dentine will wear down quicker because it is softer than enamel, is more susceptible to decay and sensitivity to cold will become an issue," he says. 

And if the filing goes even further, it can lead to serious problems.

"Excessive filing of a tooth can expose the nerve of the tooth and lead to extreme pain and infection of the tooth," says Dr Kestenberg.

As for longer term effects, Dr Kestenberg says filing teeth down can change the way the teeth bite together, cause positional changes of the teeth or tooth decay, or lead to long-term sensitivity to cold stimuli.

"For example, when your front teeth bite together, you may be able to bite a cotton thread," he says. "However, if you file the teeth down, there will be a gap between the teeth and biting the thread will be impossible. The teeth will then move or over-erupt until they touch again and the teeth can become more crowded in the long term depending on how they were filed.

Dr Kestenberg says the teeth can also become sensitive to the cold because the enamel has been filed away. The exposed dentine is more reactive to the cold because it is closer to the nerve of the tooth. Ouch.

Add to that: "Worn down or filed down teeth are more likely to decay because the underlying dentine can erode from acids (sugars) much more readily than enamel."

All of which sounds like a massive pain in the mouth, and wallet.

@thebentist

@cheneltiara why you do dis to me! 🥺😭 PSA: I don’t recommend doing this ✌🏻 have your dentist check to make sure it’s safe first! ##teeth ##braces

♬ original sound - thebentist

Dr Kestenberg says the damage can be repaired, but often not to the standard of the original tooth, and he confirms that it can be costly.

"The treatment could range from the application of a desensitising agent to stop the thermal sensitivity, to having a filling, a crown or, in extreme situations, requiring a root canal treatment," he says. 

"If the teeth have moved, orthodontic treatment may be required to restore the position of the teeth. It should also be noted that fillings and crown do not last a lifetime and then require further treatment in the future."

Or we could just ask our kids to stick to shaving their eyebrows instead — at least they grow back.