Is teeth whitening safe?

Influencers and celebrities on social media platforms are not qualified to tell you how and what you should use to whiten your teeth. Sure, we all want that perfect Hollywood smile, but don’t risk your health and waste your money on teeth whitening before doing your research. 

As we grow older our confidence in smiling starts to go. We all become self conscious of our not so pearly white teeth. Relax – yellowing of teeth is normal and everybody is the same. Having yellow teeth does not mean you don’t have good oral hygiene. It is simply a natural process of time and ageing.

Why do our teeth turn yellow?

Over time our teeth turn yellow for a number of reasons. Enamel is the outer layer covering our teeth, which starts to thin as we age. The food and drink we consume breaks down enamel, showing us dentine, the tissue of which most of our teeth consist. Saliva is the best protection against thinning enamel. Our saliva washes away food and plaque from teeth. Drink enough water throughout the day also using toothpastes and mouthwash containing fluoride to ensure you are producing saliva properly.

Besides stains from foods/drinks, the other causes of discoloured teeth include genetics, illness and injuries. Dr. Edita Outerika, a dental Director in the US, says’’The number one reason for discoloration is genetics. Dentinogenesis imperfecta and amelogenesis imperfecta are two inherited disorders that cause teeth to develop improperly and lead to discoloration.”

The colour of our teeth can also turn yellow from illness. Yellowing to teeth can occur after suffering from high fevers/infections as children. A strong cause of neonatal jaundice is another possible reason for teeth yellowing. 

When young children’s teeth are still developing, things such as sports injuries and falls can impact the formation of tooth enamel. This can then result in teeth having a greyish appearance. Adult injuries which damage the nerves or chip our teeth can also lead to discoloured teeth. People who grind their teeth excessively throughout the day or while sleeping can also remove their enamel, exposing the yellow dentine behind it.

What are my teeth whitening options?
– Professional Dentist 

The first option is having professional teeth whitening done by a dentist. You can check on the General Dental Council register to see whether the person carrying out your teeth whitening is registered. Dentists can whiten your teeth in the dental practice alone or you can also use a home kit to do the procedure cheaper and at your convenience. Some dentists will offer both treatments together as an option. Teeth whitening is a dental procedure which uses regulated, prescription only gels on the teeth. It is illegal for non qualified people to carry out the procedure and can cause permanent damage such as burning of your tongue and gums, sensitivity, damage to the surface of your teeth and lots of pain.

Can anybody whiten their teeth?

The answer is no. Teeth whitening does not work on crowns, veneers or dentures. If you have had or have gum disease you will also not be able to have your teeth whitened. Your dentist will advise you on whether or not it’s suitable for you. 

At home whitening. Over-the-counter kits

Many over the counter teeth whitening products could damage teeth or simply waste your money as they are ineffective as they contain 0.01% hydrogen peroxide, which doesn’t make any difference to the colour of your teeth. 

The British Dental Association press release February 2019 warns that most over-the-counter products fail to declare the precise chemicals used to make their whitening products. 

A study published in the British Dental Journal has warned that sodium chlorite, the active ingredient found in three over-the-counter products, could, in the presence of acid ‘’significantly reduce the hardness of teeth and increase the likelihood for future surface abrasions of the teeth’’.

The BDA also stated that they are aware that trading standards have seized DIY tooth whitening kits containing more than 33% of hydrogen peroxide. High levels of HP is the equivalent of brushing teeth with bleach and can put your oral health at extreme risk, causing mouth infections, blistering, burns to gums, damage to nerves, damage to tooth enamel and gum-shrinking.

Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste can slightly whiten teeth by removing surface stains caused by drinks/foods and smoking. It usually takes around six weeks to show a difference in colour. However, whitening toothpastes can’t change the natural colour of your teeth or go deeper than the tooth’s surface. Whitening toothpastes typically contain special abrasives that gently polish teeth and chemicals such as peroxide that help break down or dissolve stains. Although tooth whitening toothpastes are safe to use, be careful not to over use and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how frequently you use them.


The internet gives us so many options to whiten your teeth naturally. A low risk DIY option is coconut oil pulling. It’s an ancient Indian technique in clearing stains from the surface of the teeth. It also claims to be naturally good for your gums and breath. 

Brushing your teeth with charcoal or charcoal toothpaste is a popular way of whitening teeth at home but it comes with risks. The charcoal can cause enamel to erode, exposing the yellow dentine tissue, increasing sensitivity and making teeth more susceptible to decay. 

Formulations of baking soda and lemon are one of many ways you can whiten your teeth at home. They advertise as quick fixes and natural alternatives. I advise they don’t have enough evidence as to whether or not they are safe and could be very dangerous. 

Please speak to a professional dentist for safe teeth whitening options and to decide if teeth whitening is for you.

Does teeth whitening last forever? 

Professional tooth whitening performed by your dentist will last between three months and three years, depending on your diet and circumstances. It varies from person to person.

Are you ready for a whiter, brighter smile?

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