The Dangers of At-Home Teeth Whitening

Dental Health
November 5, 2020

Man checking out his teeth in the mirror

Are your teeth stained, yellowed, or darkened? If so, it is time for you to renew your smile with a teeth-whitening treatment. As more over-the-counter teeth whitening options become available on the market, many people are considering to whiten their own teeth from the comfort of their own home instead of paying for a professional. Whitening your teeth at home presents a convenient and low-cost way to help brighten your smile, but also it could also danger your oral health.

Are You a Good Candidate for Teeth Whitening?

Not everyone’s teeth can be whitened to that celebrity-white smile. Some people are born with a darker or more natural yellow color. This could be the result of genetics or medication use. Typically, at-home whitening products will only help remove surface stains and not deeper, more challenging discolorations. These treatments won’t be effective because they bleach only the outermost layer of the tooth, the enamel. Properly and safely exposing your natural and lightest enamel shade requires a professional in-office whitening session.

Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening Products

Many companies claim they have the most productive and cost-effective way to help whiten teeth. In fact, these products, which may include whitening gels, strips, or toothpaste, may include peroxide components that help lighten teeth. Some are more abrasive than others and can cause many negative effects. However, because at-home whitening is so convenient and easily accessible, many people will overuse these products. 

Charcoal whitening products are a good example of an at-home whitening product. Charcoal toothpaste became popular over social media, where many celebrities and influencers claimed they quickly got whitening results. However, charcoal’s extreme abrasive properties can cause severe wear on enamel. The American Dental Association has not found evidence that charcoal is safe or effective to whiten teeth.

Problems with Overuse of At-Home Whitening

The excessive use of dental whitening can severely damage your teeth and gums. Safe and effective teeth whitening should be under the supervision of a dental professional. If not, overuse of whitening products can lead to the following problems:

• Increased tooth sensitivity: While initial sensitivity may be considered normal, excessive dental whitening can lead to long-term sensitivities while eating and drinking. 

• Inflamed and bleeding gums: Excessive use of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide can cause ulcerated gums, pain, and inflammation. Gingival sores often make it uncomfortable to eat and speak.

• Translucent teeth: It is common to get a translucent appearance of enamel when you overuse whitening products. This is because peroxide can erode enamel, typically around the incisal edges of teeth.

• Enamel wear: Using abrasive whitening products can erode enamel and make teeth more susceptible to tooth decay. 

Safe Dental Whitening Options

Patients who want to see dramatic, long-lasting results have several safe and reliable teeth whitening options. A professional in-office whitening with an experienced professional will offer custom whitening trays that fit well and help you whiten safely. For the best whitening results, consult with your dentist to ensure you are in good dental health and develop a treatment plan that is suitable for your needs. 

Dr. Erica Anand is a pediatric dentist in private practice focused on preventative dentistry including SDF, SMART fillings, and myofunctional therapy. She also writes professionally in the dental industry, working with marketing and consulting firms.

Her extensive education includes treating children with special needs, dental phobias, and oral rehabilitation under general anesthesia. She maintains memberships of the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and New York State Dental Association, and is an American Board of Pediatric Dentistry Candidate.  Learn more about Dr. Erica Anand on her website.

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