DIY braces. At-home tooth filing. Using bathroom cleaning supplies to bleach teeth. We’ve all seen the headlines about these dangerous TikTok dental trends and cringed. And yet, these viral videos get millions of views. In fact, the topic #teethwhitening has over 3.2 billion posts on TikTok.
As a dental professional, you can help make oral health care accessible so young people don’t resort to absurd viral trends. In this article, we’re going to take a look at why these trends are so popular and ways you can make going to the dentist more approachable.
Why do people try these trends?
It’s easy to shake your head and assume young people do these crazy stunts for attention. And at least partially, you’d be correct, thanks to the rise of influencer culture.
As online influencers, users leverage their social media accounts to drive consumption habits and sway the behaviors of their followers. And the more popular they are, the more revenue they earn. According to a recent survey, 26% of Gen Zers see being an influencer as their career path. Likewise, the same percentage of young people surveyed trust the review of an influencer over a review on a product page.
But while Gen Z may be the most digitally-connected generation, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about their health. On the contrary, the youngest generation is much more in tune with wellness than older generations past.
So to help solve the problem of hazardous DIY dental care, we need to go deeper than the stereotypes we may have about younger people.
The biggest barriers to oral health care and how you can help
To get to the heart of it all, we need to think about the reasons why someone would resort to searching for a DIY dental-themed hashtag. Most self-respecting adults know doing something like taking a file to their own teeth is a dangerous idea. But if they are afraid of going to the dentist or don’t have insurance, these quick fixes may seem like the better alternative.
As a dental care professional, you can help make your practice more approachable so in time, people are more comfortable seeking care from a dentist rather than trying to do the work themselves.
Here are some of the most common obstacles people come across and how you can help:
Whether they don’t have insurance or are facing limits to what their coverage entails, the cost of going to the dentist is one of the biggest barriers people face. And if someone sees a potential solution online that only costs a few dollars compared to potentially hundreds, they may be tempted to think the risk is worth it. But they could instead end up doing permanent damage to their mouth or end up needing thousands of dollars in dental care anyway.
So meet your patients where they are and see how you can help be a part of the solution. Work with patients on ways to break up the cost of care, such as paying in installments. You can also offer discounts on services, create phased treatment plans, encourage the use of Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and ensure you accept as many insurance carriers as possible. Finally, make sure you educate your current and potential patients on their options.
Remember that the words you use matter
Patients are more likely to return to a practice where they feel comfortable and studies show the use of language plays a significant role. This is especially true when anxiety and the fear of the unknown are primary drivers in the medical decisions people make.
Here are some examples:
- Outreach. When contacting patients (especially if they have lapsed), focus on opening a dialogue about their care rather than stoking fear by discussing consequences.
- Procedures. Be mindful that the verbs you use during appointments. Instead of cringe-inducing words like “pull” or “scrape,” use gentler verbs like “remove” or “clean.”
- Medical and insurance terminology. Speak plainly with your patients and don’t assume they understand everything about their oral health or dental coverage.
Teach good habits without judgment
When you do have somebody in your chair, use it as an opportunity to teach rather than judge. For example, if you see a patient has not been flossing, show them how and even let them practice while they are there.
Or have a conversation about the barriers they face with taking care of their oral health each day. Chances are, you will be able to make recommendations to help with their time management or point them in the direction of products that can make home care easier.
The bottom line: Many viral dental trends on TikTok are dangerous, but it is important to understand the deeper reason why someone may try them. By making your practice more accessible through compassionate pricing, empathetic language and education over judgment, you can help make someone less inclined to try a “hack” they found on social media.