"Yes, I am prepared for all the dentists that are going to come on here and be like, 'DON'T DO IT. SHE'S CRAZY.' I don't care. I go to the dentist, and I don't tell them what I do, but they're like, 'You have the healthiest, strongest, cleanest teeth.' And I'm like, 'Why thank you.' So, number one, I don't use any fluoride at all. When the dentist says, 'Use your fluoride. Don't rinse...' Hmmmm, nope! I don't do that...I don't use fluoride at all. Yes, I do drink distilled water. Number two, I do something called oil pulling. Look it up on YouTube. I use coconut oil. Number three, and here is where we all GASP. This is a magic eraser...I take a little tiny bit of it. Wet it. Don't touch your gums. I've been doing it for, like, two years."
THE SOUND ALONE MAKES ME CRINGE!!!
And — I hope you're not considering doing this — but, if you're like many TikTokers who are...
Trust your gut! DON'T DO IT. (Keep reading — our expert will explain why.)
Dr. Zainab Mackie — a dentist based in Detroit, Michigan, who has been practicing for seven years — is giving us the facts. She will be telling us everything we need to know about teeth whitening...and magic erasers.
Let's dive right in and discuss the dangers of using magic erasers to whiten your teeth. Dr. Mackie said they have chemicals in them and are very abrasive, so they will strip the enamel off of your teeth. "Enamel — which is the outer layer of the tooth — actually protects your teeth, and it's actually the white layer of your teeth because the second layer is more yellow," she explained.
She added, "Because magic erasers are so abrasive, yes, they are going to whiten and scrub stains off of your teeth, but again, they are also going to scrub the enamel off, which is not good."
So what are some ways you can safely whiten your teeth at home? Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide (which is an agent composed of urea and hydrogen peroxide) are two ingredients you want to look for when purchasing whitening products. You should always talk to your dentist first, but Dr. Mackie said whitening strips could be a great place to start because they tend to be gentler on your teeth.
"A safe age range to start whitening your teeth is between 14 and 16 years old, but even then, if you can wait, I think that's better. If you do it too young, your teeth will get very sensitive because the enamel is still thin, and the pulp — which is the blood vessel — is very large and close to the enamel. You'll also be starting the process of wearing down your tooth enamel very early, and you want to protect your teeth for as long as possible," she said.
You can also read more about hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide for teeth whitening here.
In @theheatherdunn's video, she also said she does oil pulling, which is swishing coconut oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes. "I can't see that being effective for whitening. The way whitening works is you need a physical agent, something that will scrub off the stains, and a chemical agent, something that will bleach the teeth. Coconut oil doesn't have either one of those," Dr. Mackie explained.
And when it comes to whitening via blue light therapy? Dr. Mackie isn't convinced that this is any more effective. "The light isn't as strong as what we use in the office, and it doesn't add to the effectiveness of the product. So instead of paying extra for a whitening light, focus on the ingredients."
Another thing I asked Dr. Mackie about was a cheap antiseptic cleaner called Gly-Oxide that I've been using to whiten my teeth for years — I swear by it. "It has 10% carbamide peroxide in it, which is a whitening agent. But keep in mind that the concentrations of peroxide are much stronger in actual whitening products (15%–40%)," she said.
"And whitening products usually come in a gel form so that they can stay in contact with your teeth longer and actually work. Gly-Oxide is a rinse, so contact time will be minimal," she added. (I still stand by this stuff, though!)
In addition, Dr. Mackie said that most whitening toothpaste doesn't have hydrogen peroxide in it, so it likely won't whiten your teeth. However, most whitening toothpastes do help prevent stains from building up. "If you drink coffee every day, the stains get deeper and deeper — they go into your enamel. Then, your teeth start to become discolored, and it becomes harder to whiten them. Prevention goes a long way. Glycerine and silica are the stain-preventative ingredients you should look out for in whitening toothpaste."
"I don't whiten my teeth that much because I take care of my teeth by using an electric toothbrush. I floss, I use a whitening toothpaste — and I drink coffee every day. So, you don't have to give up those things as long as you're proactive. The safest way to approach whitening is to try to prevent those stains from forming or building up in the first place," she added.
Dr. Mackie also wants to warn people about using charcoal toothpaste. She does not recommend using it because it is too abrasive on the teeth.
A controversial dental topic that often comes up when discussing teeth whitening and health is fluoride. "Flouride is important because it protects the enamel, but think of it as a medicine. You want to regulate the dose that you are taking. We recommend only using a pea-sized amount if you use fluoride toothpaste," explained Dr. Mackie.
"Some people think it is a neurotoxin, but it's only a risk if you're ingesting a large amount of it. Fluoride makes your enamel stronger in a way that enamel is able to fight cavities. So, it's cavity prevention — and kids and adults can use it. If you have concerns with your city water, you can get a report from your city to check the levels of fluoride."
Dr. Mackie recommends patients who are whitening also use fluoride because it remineralizes the enamel. "The whitening agent is softening the enamel a bit, so fluoride is going to help strengthen it," said Dr. Mackie, adding, "Once enamel is gone it's gone, so that's a concern in general when it comes to whitening your teeth."
"People are always trying to find that magic bullet — DIY way of doing things. I appreciate that, but at the same time, you have to look at what's safe," said Dr. Mackie. So keep that in mind before you run to the store to grab a magic eraser!
Special thanks to Dr. Mackie — you can visit her website and follow her on TikTok and Instagram for more teeth-related education!