This Dental Hygienist Busted 8 Dental Health Myths, and We'll Never Brush After Meals Again

You know those weird tooth-related questions you always want to ask a dental health expert, but never do? Things like . . . do at-home whitening hacks actually work? Do I have to skip all sweets? What braces colors actually look the best?

Those are the Q's that licensed registered dental hygienist Avalene Roberts is currently answering on TikTok. Sometimes it's basic hygiene, like how to brush and floss properly; during the pandemic, it's been a lot of "I'm in pain. My dentist is closed. Where can I go?" she told POPSUGAR, or "I'm at home and I want to keep my teeth white. What should I do?"

Watch a couple of her TikToks and it's clear that dental hygiene is Roberts's passion. A native of Trinidad & Tobago, she's been practicing in the New York area for 15 years but says that through TikTok, she's been able to reach a whole new audience. "People all learn in different ways," she said, and sometimes the best way to teach someone about best flossing practices is to learn a TikTok dance and flash a few pointers on the screen. (The dancing videos, BTW, are her favorite ones. "I love to dance, because it's a stress reliever for me," she said. "I sweat learning these dances!")

Initially, Roberts was nervous about posting, knowing some of her colleagues would view it as unprofessional. Now that she's started, though, she's not going back. "There are a ton of people that are unaware of the information that we have and the knowledge that we have to share," she said. People who can't afford to go to the dentist or don't have health insurance are often the ones reaching out to her, and "these are pearls of wisdom that we can give away."

Roberts shares dental health tips and tricks every day, but what hacks and trends should you steer clear of? Keep reading to see what myths she busted for us, plus some of our favorite TikToks she's done so far.


Myth: You Can Whiten Teeth With Fruit

Truth: Most fruit is acidic and will damage your teeth. Instead, whiten your teeth at home with gels and strips that contain peroxide.

"There are a lot of people taking action into their own hands at home," Roberts said and trying to whiten their teeth with strawberries, lemons, kiwis, and other fruits. These acidic fruits might whiten your teeth in the short-term, but at the cost of damaging your protective tooth enamel, she explained. And once eroded, your enamel can't grow back.


Myth: You Should Brush Your Teeth Right After Eating

Truth: Don't brush your teeth until 30-45 minutes after you're done eating.

Brushing your teeth directly after eating can damage your tooth enamel, Roberts explained, because eating and drinking causes your saliva's pH to drop, making it more acidic. Brushing your teeth at that time means you're "rubbing an acidic environment into your enamel," she said, which wears it away.


Myth: You Should Use Activated Charcoal to Whiten Teeth

Truth: The American Dental Association does not recommend the use of activated charcoal.

"A lot of people think that activated charcoal is a good thing to use," Roberts said, but noted that the ADA doesn't support it for use on teeth. A 2017 review published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found insufficient data to prove it was safe or effective.


Myth: You Don't Have to Wear Your Retainer When You're an Adult

Truth: Wearing your retainer keeps your teeth straight.

Unfortunately, teeth don't just get straight and stay straight. Even after you have braces or Invisalign, your teeth can shift around and "become crooked again," Roberts explained. If that happens, you might find yourself shelling out for another round of orthodontics to straighten them out again. That's why your retainer is so important: when you wear it as your orthodontist recommends, it can help your teeth stay set in their new positions.


Myth: People Only Straighten Teeth For Their Appearance

Truth: Straightening your teeth benefits your dental health.

There are many nonaesthetic reasons why people straighten their teeth, Roberts said. "We align teeth so that your bite fits properly and your teeth will not wear out as fast," she explained. It's better for your jaw muscles to have a bite that's aligned, and a straighter smile also means there are less places for bacteria to hide and grow in your mouth. "The side effect is you happen to get pretty, straight teeth," she said.


Myth: All Braces Colors Are Created Equal

Truth: Braces colors are semipermanent, so you should choose a color that you like and that looks good on you.

The colors you choose for your braces bands are important — they last for months and impact the way you look, Roberts said. She enjoys helping people discover what colors look best on them: "what looks good on darker-toned people, what looks good on lighter-toned people," and good overall practices. She even helped to build an Instagram filter that helps you see how different colors look before you make your choice.


Myth: You Shouldn't Eat Any Treats or Candy

Truth: When it comes to sugar, "moderation is key."

Roberts posts TikTok reactions to sweets and desserts all the time, because she said it's a way to show people it's OK to eat sweets in moderation. The "dental hygienist tries Skittles!" hook draws people in; once they're watching, "then I can explain to them, if you eat it too frequently, that's when you get cavities." She wants to show that, yep, dental hygienists eat sugar and drink coffee, too, and they keep their teeth white and healthy by using good oral hygiene.

It's all about balance, and Roberts is also realistic and empathetic about what her viewers are going through right now. "People do not have to be too strict with themselves, especially during a quarantine," she explained. "You have to be cautious and not overdo it, but don't deprive yourself."


Myth: You Should Always Correct Teeth Gaps or Imperfections

Truth: Love your smile the way it is!

Roberts has reacted to people who were getting negative and cruel comments about the gaps in their front teeth. Roberts said seeing comments like those is "disturbing" and potentially damaging to people's self-esteem. Plus, there's nothing wrong with having a gap in your teeth. Unless it's "affecting your bite, or is personally bothering you," she said, "you're beautiful just the way that you are."