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Another TikTok Trend Could Prove Harmful to Oral Health

TikTok is at it again … This time it’s influencers advocating DYI dental scaling. But how safe is it?

According to a recent trend on TiKTok, anyone can take a scaling instrument to their teeth to remove plaque. No training needed.1 But some things are just better left to the pros.

Normally performed in the dental office by a trained dental hygienist, scaling is key in removing plaque buildup. Because plaque can harden into calculus, the procedure involves the use of sharp instruments with thin profiles that can reach below the gumline.


Dental hygienists have actually taken to the Internet to counter such trends, discouraging at-home scaling. Some report that patients who try it often come to them with damaged enamel and gingiva. Injured gingival tissue can lead to myriad problems including infections, recession, and injury of other oral soft tissues.2

And injury isn’t the only risk. In fact, those trying to scale their own teeth may not only be burnishing calculus but also inadvertently pushing bacteria-laden plaque and tartar farther under the gumline.2


Dental instruments are widely available and can be found online and at hardware and hobby stores. But most experts agree that doesn’t mean you should use them on your own teeth. They are designed to be held a certain way, with a specific amount of pressure, and used in particular locations of the dental arches.1

And they should be sterilized between use. However, a look through some online offerings shows the recommendation for disinfection may be simply to rinse in hot water. Failure to properly disinfect such instruments is to risk infection.

Dental hygienists are scaling specialists who are certified in how to properly use this specialized armamentarium, which includes sharp double-ended scalers and curets. And they learn to use them correctly… on other people, not on themselves. There are some angles that would be next to impossible for would-be DIYers to adequately reach in their own mouths.1,2


Plaque formation is a natural occurrence for anyone who has teeth and eats. It’s when it builds up that’s the problem.

But plaque can be controlled between trips to the dental office before it hardens into calculus. This is where DIY strategies shine. The best DIY armamentarium includes a soft-bristled toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthrinse, dental floss, interdental brushes, and a rubber-tipped gum stimulator. Applying these safe, user-friendly tools is a DIYer’s best bet for keeping plaque buildup at bay.

While most cosmetic DIYs on social media are harmless, consensus appears to be that those seeking a whiter, brighter smile through self-scaling should think twice. If you make a mistake cutting your own hair, it will grow back. Teeth are a different story.


  1. Rostamian M. Is teeth scaling safe? Dentists warn against trying the TikTok trend at home.
  2. Teeth Talk Girl. Scaling Your Own Teeth at Home? Here Is Why It’s a Bad Idea.
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