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Is DIY Teeth Whitening Safe? Risks & Results

teeth-whitening-bleaching-tray

Many of us know the ultimate enjoyment of sipping on a comforting coffee or a good red wine. We can also probably agree that the not-so-enjoyable result of our favourite foods and drinks is the effect they have on the brightness of our teeth!

For this reason, it’s common for people to seek a quick fix and whiten their teeth with one of many DIY teeth whitening products. Although this seems like a cheap and convenient solution, the price you’ll pay for the risks associated with home teeth whitening may have you reconsidering.

Find out the answers below to some common questions about teeth whitening so you can make the best decisions for your oral health.

Article Summary

Does DIY teeth whitening work?

Most popular DIY teeth whitening options

  • Teeth whitening strips
  • Teeth whitening kits
  • Teeth whitening pens
  • Bicarbonate soda/Peroxide/Lemon juice whitening
  • Charcoal teeth whitening
  • Oil pulling

Risks of DIY teeth whitening

  • Swallowing bleach
  • Chemical reactions
  • Enamel damage
  • Ineffective ingredients
teeth-whitening-before-after

Does DIY teeth whitening work?

DIY teeth whitening has become increasingly popular, especially due to the promotion of Instagram influencers for brands such as HiSmile. The promise to remove teeth stains at home without having to visit a dentist is appealing for many patients, making it a seemingly easy way to get a brighter, whiter smile. 

But, is DIY teeth whitening effective? There are a number of reasons that over-the-counter teeth whitening treatments aren’t effective, mainly due to the combination and concentration of their ingredients, which are individually explained below.

Most popular DIY teeth whitening options

Teeth whitening strips

Teeth whitening strips from the chemist or supermarket are affordable and easily accessible, and you may notice an increase in brightness after use. But, the problem with whitening strips is that due to their shape and poor fit, they don’t actually get into the gaps between your teeth which can cause an uneven colour and white spots on your gums. If used too much, they can also cause enamel damage and painful tooth sensitivity, which is why it’s critical to only use these as recommended on the packaging.

Teeth whitening pens

Teeth whitening pens which allow you to paint the product onto individual teeth seem like a great option if you only have a few teeth that are particularly stained, which may provide minor results but nothing significant as the amount of hydrogen peroxide allowed in these products are very minimal.

swollen-gums-woman

Teeth whitening kits

Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits or teeth whitening kits online normally include bleach trays (like a mouthguard), a bleaching gel, a UV light and sometimes an extra teeth whitening pen or teeth whitening strips. Many of these use peroxide as the chemical to remove tooth stains, which can be caused by drinking alcohol, coffee or tea, smoking, age and some medications. 

The problem with these kits is that often there is only such a small amount of peroxide included that there is actually no effect on the teeth, or on the other end of the spectrum, a much higher amount of the active whitening ingredient than is allowed under Australian laws for consumer teeth whitening products.

They can also create patchy results due to an uneven distribution bleach as the trays are one-size-fits-all, and have been associated with stomach issues, mouth infections, tooth pain and sensitivity, gum recession and nerve injuries.

Bicarbonate soda/Peroxide/Lemon juice whitening

Outside of the teeth whitening products you can buy from the shop, some people also opt to raid their cupboards at home for more “natural” or cheaper alternatives to a whiter smile. A common concoction involves mixing bicarb soda with regular hydrogen peroxide, with the underlying belief that because professional teeth whitening products contain peroxide, this will be equally as effective.

This is not the case when attempting to do-it-yourself, as there is an extremely fine line when it comes to the amount and concentration of these ingredients. Using too little will produce no results, while too much will permanently erode your dental enamel and can burn the soft tissues of your mouth.

activated-charcoal-teeth-whitening

Charcoal teeth whitening

If you’ve ever wondered “Is charcoal teeth whitening safe and does it work?”, the answer may surprise you considering charcoal is marketed as a natural product and therefore appealing to many people who want a brighter smile without the chemicals.

Activated charcoal is a powder created using a combination of coconut shells, bone char, peat, petroleum coke, and coal. Charcoal is known to absorb stains and toxins from some surfaces, although stains are not a toxin so the effectiveness is questionable. Instead, if it removes stains, this is actually due to the abrasiveness of the powder, which can actually scrape away enamel, causing erosion and tooth sensitivity over time.

Oil pulling

If you’re not familiar with the oil pulling trend made popular among celebrities, it involves swishing oil around the mouth for around 20 minutes in order to draw toxins out of the mouth and body. This is supposed to remove stains and improve your oral health, although it is minimally effective in comparison with teeth whitening at the dentist and definitely shouldn’t replace a regular check-up and clean or preventative dentistry with a good oral hygiene routine.

activated-charcoal-teeth-whitening

Risks of DIY teeth whitening

As mentioned in each of the cases above, the main risks of teeth whitening are:

Swallowing bleach

If you use too much bleach it can be swallowed, which can affect your stomach and digestive system if consumed in large quantities.

Chemical reactions

Nasty chemical reactions can also occur such as difficulty breathing due to allergic reactions, mouth infections and severe chemical burns to your gums, especially with poorly fitting one-size-fits-all bleaching trays in DIY kits.

Enamel damage

When used incorrectly, bleach can permanently wear down and damage your tooth enamel, which can expose the underlying layer of yellow dentine, which actually makes your teeth appear more discoloured than before. Worn down enamel also leads to tooth decay and the higher chance of cracks appearing.

This is especially dangerous for young teeth which are actually naturally less white than mature teeth as it takes years for lighter coloured enamel to develop.

Ineffective ingredients

Often, the DIY whitening kits you can buy do not have a high enough concentration of active ingredients to actually make a significant difference, therefore being a waste of money and time.

teeth-whitening-gold-coast-before-after

Gold Coast Teeth Whitening

Professional teeth whitening with our highly experienced Gold Coast dentists at Oasis Dental Studio will mean your teeth will be treated as safely as possible with the best results.

Whether you opt for in-chair teeth whitening or a professional, custom-fitted take-home whitening kit, your dentist can ensure there is no active disease present in the mouth and assess the type of tooth discolouration to determine the results you will actually achieve from teeth whitening. This will save you a significant amount of time and money in the long run by using the correct treatment to achieve your unique smile goals much more safely!

To find out more about how professional teeth whitening works or make an appointment, please feel free to get in touch with our lovely team!

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