A troubling trend has emerged on social media during the coronavirus outbreak: DIY teeth filing with household items such as nail files.

In June 2020, a 19-year-old TikTok user named Mia Dio posted a video of herself filing her teeth with a nail file. The video went viral. After being watched nearly a half million times, numerous TikTok videos have been posted showing young people filing their teeth.

Wait, what? Why would anyone do this?

In the video, Dio explains that she wants to remove imperfections in her teeth, but doesn’t want to spend the money for a professional procedure, such as an enameloplasty.

“We’re ballin’ on a budget!” she said.

Later in a Washington Post interview, Dio also said that she was reluctant to visit a dental during the current coronavirus pandemic. The TikTok videos also imply some confusion about the nature of tooth enamel which, unlike nails and hair, doesn’t regenerate.

Yikes! So what can I do about this?

Many dental professionals have taken proactive steps to ensure their patients and their families don’t try this. Some have decided to fight fire with fire by posting their own TikTok videos warning people about the danger of the practice. Other steps to consider include the following:

  • Send an email to your patients that explains this trend and warns them about the dangers. This may be especially effective for the parents of teens, who may not be aware of what their children watch on social media.
  • Post information on your practice’s website, Facebook page or social media feed about the danger of this fad and safe alternatives.
  • Ask patients who visit whether they’re aware of this practice, then explaining the dangers and suggesting safe alternatives for imperfect smiles, such as cleanings, orthodontics, cosmetic procedures and professional teeth whitening.
  • Make it a point to talk to any teen patients about the serious risks associated with this practice. Point out low-cost options such as cleanings that might be particularly attractive to teens.
  • Explain to patients that they can safely visit the dentist during the pandemic for any procedure they might need.

However you choose to spread the word, ensure that your patients understand that filing their own teeth is a terrible idea. And that the resulting damage can take a real bite out of their wallet.

As Dio said later in the Post interview, after she saw warning videos posted by dental professionals and understood the risks, “I probably would have thought twice about it.”