On TikTok, Teeth Scaling Is the New Blackhead Removal

For those with excessive plaque buildup, this treatment is vital for their overall oral health. “If you allow bacteria-filled plaque to stay on your teeth, it can cause [chronic] bad breath, gum infections, and teeth infections,” warns New York City-based board-certified cosmetic dentist Daniel Rubinshtein, DDS.

Should you try teeth scaling at home?

Short answer: No. “It is important to have excellent oral hygiene at home, but leave the scaling for the dental visit,” says Dr. Kantor. While it may feel like an easy procedure to try yourself, it’s not, and it can even lead to some serious complications. The scaler tool is a thin, hand-held metal instrument with sharp edges that’s strong enough to scrape away the calculus (a.k.a. tartar) and plaque on your teeth, so if a non-trained person uses these tools incorrectly on themselves, they can cause some serious damage. “If you carry out scaling on yourself at home, you could cause permanent damage to your teeth and gums, as well as possibly damaging or [accidentally] removing crowns, bridges, fillings, and implants,” warns Dr. Kantor.

Not all dental tools are off-limits to non-dentists, though. If you want to safely up your at-home oral care game, Dr. Rubenshtein recommends trying a Waterpik. “A Waterpik is a great at-home tool that can be used to elevate your flossing process,” he explains. Another tool Dr. Rubenshtein recommends for an additional level of cleaning are interdental brushes, which clean between narrow spaces along your teeth and prevent build-up. 

Is plaque build-up common?

It can be — developing mild build-up between regular cleanings is normal. As an example of more extreme cases, some of the highest-performing videos on Tiktok claim to feature mouths that have barely been brushed in months or years. And while this might not be the case for everyone in those videos, according to Dr. Rubenshtein, it’s actually very common for one’s dental hygiene to go by the wayside when their mental health is suffering. 

“I have had patients who either lost a family member or had something traumatic happen to them and fell into depression, causing them to lose focus and stop taking care of themselves,” explains Dr. Rubenshtein. “By not brushing and flossing your teeth, you can start developing large areas of plaque and calculus in a matter of weeks.” That said, if you’re experiencing this level of plaque buildup yourself, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed to head into your local dental office for immediate treatment. “This [plaque buildup] is a very common occurrence,” confirms Dr. Rubenshtein. “As dentists we see everything and anything, and our duty is to help improve your oral health and overall health.”

The bottom line:

Even if I won’t be trying teeth scaling at home, these plaque removal videos are super entertaining, and I’ll continue to watch for as long as they keep going viral. As a reminder, make an appointment with your dental hygienist every six months, and brush and floss regularly to prevent plaque buildup of your own.