For all the oral hygiene fans out there – and, let’s face it, who isn’t? – there was a quite shocking story at the tail-end of 2020. But don’t worry if you missed it because we’ve got you covered. It seems that a young Malaysian dentist took to TikTok to declare that we’ve all been using toothpaste wrong. And not only are we unable to correctly complete this most basic of tasks, but we’re also putting our health at risk. So what’s the deal?
According to Dr. Gao’s startling revelations, we’re all making a costly mistake when it comes to cleaning our teeth. And while most of us are definitely guilty of toothpaste misuse, it’s really not our fault. As far as the TikTok dentist is concerned, at least, there are bigger culprits out there.
So while Dr. Gao lays a bit of the blame squarely at our individual doors, he also points a minty finger at some other guilty parties. Step forward toothpaste companies. And welcome to the party the advertising agencies that help promote dental hygiene products. The TikTok dentist says that there are, in fact, some serious issues with how these companies choose to publicize their ranges.
For Dr. Gao, our serious lack of knowledge is a simple case of misinformation. And that comes from one hugely influential source: commercials. According to the dentist, toothpaste ads are grossly misleading. Given that said advertisements have been airing for decades, too, it’s no wonder so many of us seem to have absolutely no idea that what we’re doing is wrong.
Airing on TikTok in September 2020, Dr. Gao’s perfectly pitched infotainment video raised more than a few eyebrows on social media. And judging by the comments on the clip’s page, the dentist’s revelations have blown a mind or two. No one, it seems, could believe just how wrong they’d been. Or for how long.
One user exclaimed, “We’ve been misled by advertisements all these years!” Another user admitted, “I’m mad at toothpaste! They tricked me!” While a third summed up the bafflement everyone who’d seen the video was feeling: “My life [has been] a lie all along!” Dental hygiene, it seems, is very important to social media users.
So, just who is this guy and how does he know so much about teeth brushing? Well, Dr. Gao Jye Teh, to give him his full name, isn’t a medical doctor. As we mentioned earlier, he’s actually a dentist. And he trained at the illustrious King’s College London, no less, so we’re pretty sure he knows his stuff.
These days, Dr. Gao practices excellent oral health in Malaysia. And while his TikTok video about our lack of toothpaste knowledge caught our attention in 2020, it’s just one of many oral health issues that dentists see regularly. So buckle up! This might not be very pleasant – but it’s most definitely important.
Let’s kick things off with some stats. For instance, did you know that one in three Americans aged between 20 and 44 have untreated dental cavities? That means there are millions of citizens out there suffering with problem teeth. Or what about the fact that, in addition to our total toothpaste fail, lots of us also don’t floss properly?
Respondents to an American Dental Association (ADA) survey in 2017 revealed some very, very incorrect ways to floss. Are you ready for this? A whopping 40 percent of them admitted to using paper or cards to remove bits of food trapped between their teeth. Twenty-one percent had even used cutlery. And the weird stats don’t end there. Get this: seven percent of those surveyed admitted to using strands of hair as floss substitutes. Strands. Of. Hair.
Here’s another eye-opening stat for you. A report commissioned by the ADA revealed an incredibly worrying trend in American mouths. According to this research, a mind-blowing 80 percent of U.S. citizens have some level of gum disease. That said, dentists received half a billion visits from conscientious Americans during 2007 alone. When you consider the cost, that’s a lot of dental appointments.
Believe it or not, in total, those visits cost nearly $100 billion. Now, combine that eye-watering number with the fact that less than two-thirds of Americans receive dental benefits. Suddenly that shocking gum disease stat makes more sense, right?
Then, of course, there are the weird misconceptions that we all have about dental health. Some of these are truly bizarre. Florida-based dentist practice Modern Day Smiles published the stranger myths its doctors had heard in their own treatment rooms. For instance, some people believe that flossing actually creates space between your teeth. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
What about the idea that chewing gum is an excellent replacement for actual brushing? It very much is not. Then there’s the theory that teeth are healthiest when they’re super white. Nope. Tooth color, in fact, varies individually and covers a spectrum of off-white shades. Blindingly white teeth might look great, but the best signs of a healthy mouth are clean-smelling breath and no cavities.
And it seems our dental faux pas do not stop there. Far from it, in fact. For example, somehow we’ve all been using that most basic of oral hygiene tools incorrectly. It may be hard to believe, but apparently none of us has any real idea how to use mouthwash. Mouthwash. What’s wrong with us?
We all know that rinsing with mouthwash can be an essential part of our dental hygiene routines. After all, it can help you maintain a healthy mouth. But, as with everything, you only get that benefit if you’re using it properly. And it seems that many of us simply don’t.
According to dental site Ordolife, the biggest issue with mouthwash is using it at the right time. If you’re swishing immediately after brushing – like those folks in the commercials do – then it’s nowhere near as effective. In fact, it could be washing away the fluoride from your toothpaste – and that is not good.
So, when should you use it? Well, you’ve got options. You could swill before brushing – as recommended by Ordolife. Or, if you’re using fluoride toothpaste, simply wait a half-hour before gargling your mouthwash. And then you shouldn’t eat or drink anything for a further half-hour so the mouthwash can do its work. You could also use mouthwash after you’ve eaten during the day. Swishing after lunch or dinner helps get rid of any leftover food particles as well as the bacteria or plaque that builds up between brushes. But our dental deficiencies still haven’t come to an end…
It seems that alongside Dr. Gao’s warnings and all the other things we’ve mentioned, there’s one more dental thing we’re doing wrong: breakfast. Yep, what you eat in the morning can all but invalidate your entire oral hygiene routine. If, like many people, you brush after your brekkie, you could be spreading the remnants of your morning meal to every corner of your mouth.
And the worst edible culprit for hanging around, even after a post-breakfast brush, is citrus fruit. So, if you enjoy a tangy grapefruit or a glass of OJ, either brush first or tuck in and then wait at least 30 minutes before cleaning. Why? Because citrus fruits contain acid and brushing too soon after eating can spread that enamel-eroding substance all over your teeth.
Now that you’ve seen the dental misinformation that’s out there, it makes sense that responsible practitioners such as Dr. Gao feel the need to put us right. But it turns out it’s not just dentists who are concerned with our oral health. In 2015 the ADA, along with the Health Policy Institute, revealed some shocking survey results about the American public’s attitude to their teeth.
An overwhelming 97 percent of respondents said they valued their oral health. And more than 80 percent thought that straight white teeth made your life better. So far, so good, right? But that is very much where the positive news ends. Despite those great dental intentions, only 37 percent of American adults actually went to the dentist in the year leading up to the survey.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this reluctance to visit the dentist regularly leads to a myriad of oral health problems. From experiencing dry mouth to feeling pain, adults of all ages and incomes suffered in 2015. But what is really surprising is how many young people were affected. According to the survey, a whopping 41 percent of 18- to 34-year-old respondents experienced pain in their mouths.
But those issues often lead to more than just physical problems. Over 20 percent of respondents reported experiencing embarrassment or anxiety due to the condition of their mouths. And a quarter admitted that they had stopped smiling because of their teeth. What’s worse, nearly three-quarters of low-income respondents and 48 percent of those with a high income agreed with the statement, “I accept I will lose some teeth with age.” Yikes.
With stats like those, it’s no wonder that Dr. Gao has made it his mission to help everyone avoid tooth loss wherever possible. Especially because rotten teeth can lead to a plethora of health issues, some of which can be deadly. And as far as dentists are concerned, oral health is intrinsically linked with your overall well-being. All of which makes good dental hygiene even more important.
This is why Dr. Gao’s uniquely shocking advice is targeted. He wants to help you avoid those health issues that go hand in hand with poor oral hygiene. In fact, with 59 percent of the ADA survey respondents citing cost as the reason they don’t go to the dentist, Dr. Gao’s revelatory videos could even help you keep treatment bills down. And it’s all so ridiculously simple.
Now, it may be that you’re au fait with the workings of the social media phenomenon that is TikTok. In which case, you’ll already know that many experts use the platform to reach a hip, young audience. But if you have no earthly idea what a TikTok is or you’re skeptical of social media as a reputable resource, fear not. We’ve done our research and, while there is a lot of dancing on TikTok, the app can also be a fantastic source of legit info. And Dr. Gao is as legit as they come.
Having joined TikTok earlier in 2020, Dr. Gao made it his mission to raise dental awareness via bite-sized edutainment videos. But it’s his post from September that year that drew the most attention. His simple message and shocking revelation quickly went viral, with more than six million views in just a couple of weeks. So what, exactly, is in this revelatory clip? Well, for one, the dentist exposes half a century’s worth of lies.
Dr. Gao’s video – titled “Are You Using The Right Amount Of Toothpaste?” – explains that toothpaste commercials have been misleading you. Straight up fibbing to your face. For decades. And, somehow, we’ve swallowed these stories, entirely oblivious to the fact that we were being completely cheated. How? Allow us to explain…
Even all the way back in the ’60s, toothpaste commercials were misleading us. Remember that black-and-white Crest ad with the wholesome father and son bonding over dental hygiene? What about every Aquafresh advert featuring the stripes? Or that Colgate Max Fresh ad with the clean-cut snowboarder, all ’90s hair and brilliantly white teeth? We all know that these ads were allowed a certain degree of artistic license – but this lot really take the biscuit.
Thanks to Dr. Gao, though, we now know the truth. And according to the TikTok dentist’s video, it’s simply this: you’re using too much toothpaste. Really. All those ads with a luxurious-looking brush-long stripe of paste are wrong. Super wrong. And they know it. But wait! It gets worse. By encouraging overuse of fluoride toothpaste, they’re also endangering your health.
As Dr. Gao explained in his TikTok post, a good brushing requires an optimal amount of toothpaste. Use anything over that and you’re moving into a dental danger zone from which there may be no return. And a full line of toothpaste on your brush is, he says, way way too much.
In fact, for anyone older than three, a much smaller amount of toothpaste will suffice. Just a pea-sized dollop is all Dr. Gao recommends for each brushing. Compared to those commercials, that’s almost nothing. And for children under three years old, just a smear is all that’s necessary for a clean mouth. So, why exactly is it a good idea to limit the amount of toothpaste you use?
According to Dr. Gao, while fluoride at the right levels can help maintain a healthy mouth, too much can actually be harmful. Talking to BuzzFeed about this very subject, the dentist explained, “Fluoride, when ingested in large amounts, can cause a cosmetic condition known as dental fluorosis on the developing teeth.”
Dr. Gao went on, “The cosmetic implications [of fluorosis] range from mild discoloration to yellow and brown stains and obvious pits in the teeth.” This damage occurs, it seems, when we’re young – while our adult teeth are still forming inside our gums. The condition can then affect you for the rest of your life. And all because we’re using too much toothpaste! Mind. Blown.
According to figures from America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a whopping one in four Americans aged between six and 49 has been affected by dental fluorosis. But it gets much worse than discolored teeth. You see, the condition also makes you more susceptible to cavities. This at least helps to partially explain why so many people experience dental pain. Unsurprisingly then, Dr. Gao’s revelations struck a chord with incredulous viewers everywhere.
Millions of people have now seen Dr. Gao’s exposure of the toothpaste commercial industry, debunking the myth of the need for a brushful of toothpaste. The video itself went viral, and the gobsmacked reaction was global. This is entirely understandable when you consider the enormity of his revelation. Some, though, weren’t entirely convinced.
Judging from the comments left under Dr. Gao’s post, some clearly believe the dentist is scamming them. As one TikToker put it, “You tryna make us get more cavities so you can make more money with our teeth.” Others, however, simply didn’t believe the claims. As commenter Tao Tequilas put it, “If [toothpaste isn’t] foaming and bursting out of my mouth and stinging, I don’t want it.”
Talking to Buzzfeed, Dr. Gao offered his explanation for why some reactions had been so incredulous. And for him, it’s about how seriously we take our oral health. “A good example is how patients view bleeding on different parts of their body. If their eyes were to bleed, many people would go to the hospital immediately.” Where our mouths are concerned, though, it’s a different story.
Dr. Gao went on, “If their gums bleed, many people would just shrug it off, when, in actuality, bleeding gums are an early sign of gum disease.” But thanks to this social media savvy professional, we’ve all got help and advice at our fingertips. And best of all, it’s completely free! Seriously, though, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we’ve talked about, you should make an appointment with a dentist in real life. Just sayin’.