Tuesday, 23 April, 2024

05 Jul 2023 | Australasian Dental Practice

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How to talk with your patients about social media DIY dental trends

While social media has created fabulous opportunities for dental bloggers to share best practices with patients and promote dental health, it's also opened the door for misinformation and unsafe "tips" that your patients might be tempted to try. As a dental professional, it's therefore important to understand these risky trends your patients might be following so you can instead recommend more appropriate options.


In this article, we explore two of the most common - and unsafe - DIY treatments your patients might find online: tooth whitening and tooth straightening.

DIY whitening

Tooth whitening has become very popular, spurring a range of products and options and unfortunately, numerous DIY treatments that are not recommended by any dental professional.

The misleading advice can range from testimonials for activated charcoal products to recommendations for applying high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide directly to teeth. One TikTok user (in a now-deleted video) even told her followers she uses small pieces of "Mr Clean Magic Erasers" to whiten her teeth!

Unfortunately, all too often, these social media posts come with video "evidence" that, on the surface, looks compelling to patients and may lead them to taking unnecessary risks with their dental health and even personal safety.

Talking with patients about DIY whitening

A great time to discuss DIY whitening with your patients is during their regular visits, when you're already talking about their dental health and at-home dental hygiene habits. Ask if they've seen any DIY whitening videos online and if they have, discuss the risks involved and identify safer alternatives.

This can even open up an opportunity to learn more about their dental health concerns and goals in general, which can lead to productive conversations about best practices and recommended products and treatments to accomplish those goals. This is especially important for teen patients since they tend to be heavy consumers of social media content and are easily swayed by online influencers.

DIY orthodontics

Another concerning trend involves DIY orthodontics, which can include bad online advice such as using paper clips, rubber bands, dental floss or fishing line to straighten their teeth. The American Association of Orthodontists recently reported that 13% of member orthodontists have seen an increase in patients trying these trends - sometimes with disastrous results.

At-home solutions for clear aligners have become quite popular as well. While these options may seem less extreme, patients can easily fall into the trap of thinking they do not need a dentist or orthodontist to take impressions and supervise their treatment plan. This is simply not the case.

Talking with patients about DIY orthodontics

To drive home the risks with these at-home treatments, let your patients know why any form of orthodontia should always be designed and implemented with the direct supervision of a dental professional: Not doing so can result in permanent damage to their teeth.

Emphasise that even the use of clear aligners should be supervised by a dentist for several reasons. Taking accurate dental impressions is a procedure requiring skill and practice to gain an acceptable model of the patient's mouth. Help patients understand that an imperfect initial impression will result in imperfect aligners and results.

Stress the importance of understanding the biomechanics of tooth movements to deliver the desired results. An dentist might evaluate that the tooth isn't moving properly and opt to deploy an additional tool, such as a bootstrap, to assist the tooth into the desired position.

An American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics (AJO-DO) report on one of the most popular at-home clear aligners found that the mean accuracy for all tooth movements was only 50%. Without the supervision of an dentist, patients have a 50/50 chance of appropriate tooth movement with this at-home solution.

Ultimately, it's always best to recommend evidence-based dental aligners for your patients.

Orthodontic researchers have worked diligently to develop dental aligner technology based on treatment planning protocols, patient studies and an understanding of biomechanics.

HuFriedyGroup's Clear Collection™ Instruments for Clear Aligners consist of innovative instruments designed to accent, individualise and optimise the biomechanics of the "invisible" aligner experience with NO heat required. The Clear Collection instruments have streamlined and standardised procedures that orthodontists had already been providing, while opening up more options for other methods to accentuate or refine treatment.

Additional ways to communicate with patients

You don't necessarily have to wait until patients come in for a visit to talk to them about the danger of DIY dental trends. For some patients, waiting until their next appointment may be too late. In addition to in-office conversations, consider other communication channels to help educate your patients.

Newsletter or blog

Practices that publish monthly or quarterly newsletters or blogs can include a message from your practice and/or links to articles about these dangerous dental trends, clarifying risks and recommending safer and more effective alternatives.

Website FAQs

Adding a section on your website for frequently asked questions (FAQs) can be helpful, particularly if the content includes information about DIY dental trends and an explanation of the risks these trends present to you patients.

Email alerts

Teens and young adults may be more likely to try unsafe DIY trends - often without their parents' approval (or even awareness). For dental practices that serve a significant number of these patients, consider sending an email directly to parents informing them of these trends and stressing the risks involved.

Regardless of how you communicate the message, focus on helping your patients understand why these DIY treatments are dangerous. The more information and education you offer as a dental professional, the more likely your patients will benefit from long-term dental health.

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