On 5 April 2019, the BDJ published an article after a study led by the University of Manchester Dental School had taken place on the dangers of over the counter and online teeth whitening products. The study – and the article – attracted a great deal of attention from dental professionals and the media in the UK.
The aim of the study was to establish whether non-hydrogen peroxide products which are available over the counter were safe and were they effective.
The study found that some over the counter products contain sodium chlorite, which if combined with acid could increase the incidence of surface abrasions and impact on the teeth’s hardness. This means that these products were not as effective and could do damage to the teeth. Moreover, the constituents of the products were not declared, despite claims by the manufacturers that the whitening would be achieved.
Trading standards actually seized some whitening kits, because they contained more than 33% hydrogen peroxide. To make the comparison, dentists are regulated to use 6%. At the 33% level, the results could mean mouth infections, burned gums, nerve damage, shrinkage of gums and removal of some tooth enamel.
Dental practices use the gold standard for whitening teeth – over the counter products are a gamble, because they could contain products which are illegal to use. Dentists are trained to look at the bigger picture for each patient. It’s a very personal service which is simply not achievable online or at your chemist’s counter. For example, an examination of your mouth will determine your suitability for the treatment. There may be a need for other treatment before the whitening, or there may be teeth which you will be told will not lighten even with your dentist’s help.
Your dentist is there to look after the health of your teeth and gums, as well as to give you a confident smile. Play safe and go to a professional every time.