If you think you've seen it all when it comes to viral trends on TikTok, think again. The latest DIY trend involves using a Magic Eraser (yep, the kind you use to remove tough stains from your tub, walls, and stove) as an at-home teeth-whitening technique, but (spoiler) you don't necessarily want to try this one at home.
TikTok user @theheatherdunn has been getting lots of attention on the viral video app for her bright, vibrant smile. She shared that she's always getting compliments at the dentist for her "strong and healthy" teeth, and then went on to disclose her exact method for keeping them that way. She revealed that not only does she avoid fluoride - a proven cavity and tooth-decay fighter - but she also does something called oil pulling and uses a Magic Eraser to scrub the surface of her teeth, breaking off a tiny piece and wetting it before rubbing its squeaky surface along her chompers. (Related: 10 Oral Hygiene Habits to Break and 10 Secrets to Clean Teeth)
Getty Images - Design: Alex Sandoval
First things first (and more on fluoride and oil pulling in a sec): Is it safe to use a Magic Eraser on your teeth? That's a no, according to Maha Yakob, Ph.D., oral healthcare expert and Quip's senior director of professional and scientific affairs.
"Melamine foam (the main ingredient in a Magic Eraser) is made of formaldehyde, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers to be carcinogenic. It's highly toxic if ingested, inhaled, and [potentially dangerous via] any other form of direct contact," she says. "There have been reported cases of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory tract infections" among those who have had direct contact with it.
After receiving some (understandably) worried comments, @theheatherdunn released a follow-up video, in which a dentist reportedly backs up her technique and calls it a safe method for stain removal on teeth, citing a 2015 study which found that a melamine sponge removed stains more effectively than a traditional toothbrush. However, the study was conducted on extracted human teeth, with no risk for ingestion. "Like many things, it depends on your technique and how often you use it," said Yakob. "Repeated and harsh use of melamine foam can result in tooth enamel wear and, most of all, accidental ingestion."
As for her other points about avoiding fluoride and oil pulling, well, there's no science-backed benefit to either claim. "We lead with scientific facts, and fluoride is actually a key ingredient for having strong teeth and in line with American Dental Association recommendations," says Yakob. "When fluoride, which is a natural mineral, enters your mouth and mixes with the ions in your saliva, your enamel actually absorbs it. Once it's in the enamel, fluoride pairs up with calcium and phosphate to create a powerful and strong defense system, helping to remineralize any early cavities and keep them from progressing." (Related: Why You Should Remineralize Your Teeth - and Exactly How to Do It, According to Dentists)
And while oil-pulling - which entails swirling a small amount of coconut, olive, sesame, or sunflower oil around your mouth for fifteen minutes as a way to wash out harmful bacteria and toxins - might be super-trendy, "there are currently no reliable scientific studies that prove the effectiveness of oil pulling for reducing cavities, whitening teeth, or helping with your oral health in any way," says Yakob.
TL;DR: There are other easy, effective methods for keeping your teeth squeaky clean, including brushing and flossing twice a day, maintaining a healthy diet, and visiting a dentist for regular cleanings. (If you want to get crazy, maybe try a waterpik flosser.) Whitening is best left to the pros or done using an at-home whitening kit, which is equal parts affordable, safe, and effective, without the risk of potentially ingesting illness-causing chemicals.