When we think of popular trends or fads, we often think of the diet industry, or my wife would possibly think of fashion (not so shockingly, that’s not on my radar). Dentistry is not immune to fads, however, and over time there have been a number of fads that we as dental professionals have encouraged our patients to avoid. Here’s a quick recap of some recent dental fads and tips to help identify and make informed decisions when coming across dental fads of the future.
Common Dental Fads of Recent Years
- Charcoal Toothpaste. From your latte to your smile, charcoal has been popular lately. Charcoal in dentistry is marketed as a great way to eliminate toxins and whiten your teeth. Charcoal toothpaste does whiten your teeth—initially. It does this because it erodes your enamel—the strong, outer layer of your teeth. It may remove some small staining, but it also removes an essential part of your tooth, causing more serious issues.
- Do-It-Yourself Whitening Remedies. We live in a society where we want “celebrity” style results NOW without paying a high premium. Some people have tried made-at-home rinses with lemon juice, carbonated soda or vinegar, which are highly acidic and abrasive. Again, these can be very damaging to teeth due to their acidity and can even cause more staining.
- At-home or DIY Braces. This is a recent popular trend in dentistry. Some people try at-home braces provided by a service via mail. Although some can achieve improved results, you are without the personalized care and expertise of a professional, such as an orthodontist. Patients often think of straight teeth as perfect teeth, but dental professionals in orthodontics look at vital ways your teeth come together when you bite, and they are careful to move teeth in a way that does not do any damage to roots of the teeth, preventing issues down the road.
- Fluoride-free Toothpaste. Recently some people have switched to fluoride-free toothpaste because they believe fluoride is poisonous. It is—in excessive, large amounts, as most substances are, but the amount of fluoride in your toothpaste is proven safe over many reputable clinical studies. Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter. That’s how fluoride was discovered—some areas of the country naturally had the right level of fluoride in their water, and because of that, residents had less tooth decay.
- Oil Pulling. Oil pulling is when a tablespoon of coconut oil or sesame oil is swished in the mouth for up to 20 minutes. This practice dates back more than 3,000 years ago, so some think it’s a trusted way to get rid of bad breath and remove staining. But just because something is old, doesn’t make it effective. Perhaps you love to spend your time swishing oil, but unfortunately, there is no scientific proof that oil pulling has any benefits for oral health.
At this point, I feel like I’m ruining the party, and I’m the crabby dentist bearing bad news about the latest and greatest dental trends you wanted to try. Here’s what I want you to keep in mind when coming across a new dental trend:
- What’s your source? It’s important to identify who is behind a message promoting a new dental offering or trend. Many times what you are seeing is a marketing effort by a company or a group trying to make money. Who is telling you that this is the best way to accomplish a dental health concern? It may be an advertisement in a newspaper or on TV. Today, it’s common for an influencer on social media to promote a certain message. Sometimes dental trends don’t seriously damage your teeth, but they may damage your wallet. Be sure to know who and why a certain trend is being promoted.
- What do the dental professionals say? Be open with your dental professionals and ask them about trends that you see or are interested in. We want to be honest with you, give you all the facts and help you make the best, informed decisions.
- Read the research. It can be hard to decipher between bad research studies and solid, scientific clinical studies. Again, rely on your dental professionals. When we aren’t seeing patients, we are reading through a lot of research to provide the best care and treatment for our patients. We can help identify who or what group is behind a study and if the study meets important scientific criteria. Keep in mind that quality and factual information takes time. For example, whitening with blue lights is a recent popular product in dentistry. At this time, I haven’t seen the scientific proof in any clinical studies showing that the light is more effective than whitening without a light. Could this change in the future? Yes, if there’s supporting clinical evidence, but I’ll keep you updated on this one.
Fads are guaranteed to continue in any industry, including dentistry. Know that dental professionals are here to help with your questions. We want you to enjoy a lifetime of good dental health with a smile that’s fad-free.
Mark Scallon, DDS