women shaving teeth
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
September 26, 2020 ·  4 min read

People are shaving down their teeth with nail files to gain followers. Dentists say it could cause permanent damage.

TikTok has become one of the most popular apps in the world. Its promise for instant fame has young people everywhere posting videos in hopes of “making it big”. 

Since 2019, several trends have emerged on the app, from dance challenges, to hashtag challenges like the “fake travel challenge”. Other trends have emerged, however, that are much more dangerous.

These trends include the skullbreaker challenge, or the Benadryl challenge. Both of these trends have landed teens in the hospital- or worse.

Recently, yet another trend has emerged on the social media app, and this one has dentists worried. Users are uploading videos of themselves shaving their teeth down with a nail file, and dentists say this could cause permanent damage.

Shaving Teeth

Aside from challenges, dance moves, and memes, another popular topic on TikTok is DIY beauty tricks. While most of these are fairly harmless, the latest beauty hack is causing concern in the dental world.

The new trend involves people grinding their uneven teeth down with a nail file, and uploading a video about it.

Dr. Chad Evans is a dentist in Texas with two adolescent girls. He found out about the trend after a colleague showed him a few videos on TikTok. He, of course, is concerned and pointed out that your teeth are not the same as your fingernails.

“If you file your fingernails today, they’ll grow back tomorrow,” Evans said. “Our teeth are permanent.” [1]

He went on to explain that your teeth are made of layers. Your enamel, which is the outer layer of your tooth. He said that it is the strongest and most important layer because it protects your teeth from decay.

Damaging or removing that layer, he added, could cause irreparable damage to the structure of your teeth. He used the example of one video he saw, where a girl had chipped her tooth. To even them out, she used a nail file.

“Essentially, what she’s doing is she’s shortening the lifespan of her teeth. They are now compromised and it’s just a matter of time before she starts developing serious issues.” [1]

What Happens if you Damage your Enamel?

The enamel helps protect your teeth during daily activities like chewing, biting, crunching, and grinding. It also helps insulate the teeth from potentially painful temperatures and chemicals. Unlike a bone, the enamel has no living cells. This means that once it chips or cracks, the body cannot repair it [2].

Your enamel can be damaged in many ways. The most common of these is erosion. Tooth erosion happens when acids wear away at the enamel on teeth. Many things can cause this, including:

  • Excessive soft drink consumption (high levels of phosphoric and citric acids)
  • Fruit drinks (some acids in fruit drinks are more erosive than battery acid)
  • Dry mouth or low salivary flow (xerostomia)
  • Diet (high in sugar and starches)
  • Acid reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Medications (antihistamines, aspirin)
  • Genetics (inherited conditions)
  • Environmental factors (friction, wear and tear, stress, and corrosion) [2]

This damage can cause several problems, including extremely painful sensitivity, as well as tooth death.

Tooth Death

Although you may not realize it, healthy teeth are, in fact, alive. When the inner nerves of the tooth become damaged from injury or decay, they stop providing blood to the tooth. This can cause an infection, and the tooth can eventually die.

Discoloration is usually the first sign of a dead tooth. It may appear yellow, light brown, gray, or sometimes black. You may also experience pain in the tooth or gums. A tooth can die in a matter of days, or it can take several months or years.

To treat a dying or dead tooth, you will likely need a root canal, or your dentist will opt to remove the tooth entirely. Both procedures can be costly and painful [3].

Dentists Respond

Dental hygiene professionals who have large followings on TikTok have now taken to the app to discourage people from shaving their teeth. 

One of these professionals is Dr. Suhail Mohiuddin, aka @dr.m_. He reacted to one of these videos, urging his viewers to ask why their teeth are uneven in the first place.He explains that even when filing is done professionally, it will do nothing if the original problem isn’t fixed.


Another day spitting some facts about Tik Tok trends #dentist #nailfile #teeth

♬ original sound – dr.m

“Ok, you file them, and they look pretty but you didn’t solve the original problem, so what are you going to do in a few years when they’re uneven again and your teeth are shorter?” he asked [1].

If you really want to fix your uneven teeth, you should see a professional. They understand the anatomy of a tooth and can file them down safely. They may even decide that you’d be better off with a crown or veneer to add some structure to your teeth.

Dental hygienist Iman Zayed pointed out that trying to do dental work at home could just end up costing you money.

“A dead tooth means extensive and expensive treatment if you want to keep it,” she said. “Don’t consider doing this, seriously.” [1]

Read: Why You Should Consider Deleting Tik Tok Immediately