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  • Writer's picturejoinerandzwart

Beware of Dental Fads and Hacks

Over my 24 year career in dentistry several dental fads, more often called dental hacks in today’s social media environment, have come and gone. Recently several patients have asked about some recycled fads from the past, so I figured it would be a good use of this article to discuss a few of the more common fads.


Fluoride-free toothpaste and fluoride alternative toothpastes are being promoted with false claims that fluoride in toothpaste is poisonous. Fluoride is a safe and effective method of lowering the risk of cavities which has been studied for decades.  The individuals who push the false narrative of the dangers of fluoride are using misleading methods to make their arguments and often profiting from touting alternatives. In the small doses that fluoride is placed in toothpaste and mouthwashes, there has been shown to be very safe.  The most common alternatives mentioned are hydroxyapatite and calcium phosphate toothpastes. Both of those have been shown to be effective and safe if you choose to avoid fluoride. But with limited research, to this point neither has been shown to be good as fluoride in strengthening teeth. Just be aware, if you choose to forgo fluoride, you will pay much more for your oral care products and as of now, the research states you will leave your teeth more susceptible to decay.

Oil pulling is another fad that is making the rounds on social media recently. The claim is that rinsing your mouth with coconut oil for 15-20 minutes per day can prevent and revers cavities, prevent and cur gum disease, improve bad breath and reduce staining on teeth. There is no scientific basis to believe that coconut oil benefits teeth and gums, but rather any benefit is likely due to the swishing process in helping to cleanse teeth. The good news about oil pulling is that if you do choose to do it and continue with regular brushing and flossing, there is no known negative effects other than loss of significant amounts of time per day and the cost of the oil.


Whitening teeth is very popular for fads and hacks. Charcoal toothpaste has been a common dental hack to brighten teeth for several years now. Charcoal toothpaste is abrasive compared to most recommended toothpastes and therefore cause damage to the outer enamel layer of teeth.  DYI whitening is also becoming more prevalent. Two common concoction mixes are lemon juice with baking soda and apple cider vinegar to create a whitening agent. Similar to charcoal toothpaste, these combinations can strip away enamel and cause damage.  These methods will initially whiten teeth but sacrifice the long-term health of your teeth. Whitening products available in dental offices and through reputable retailers are studied to be safe and effective and do not impact the enamel of your teeth.


What I appreciate with these dental fads and hacks is that they get people thinking about their oral health and appearance of their teeth. Beyond becoming more aware and motivated, it is recommended to move toward your goals of having a healthier and more attractive smile through studied and tested methods and products. It’s great to pursue natural and organic products, but when it comes to teeth and oral health, be aware there may be a trade-off on effectiveness and in some cases risks.

Article was written by Dr. Joiner and used for publication in the Staying Healthy Series in the Capital Democrat newspaper.

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