The dangers of DIY teeth whitening

Bridget March in Harper’s Bazaar described what to be aware of before whitening your teeth at home. What follows is the gist of what she had to report:

Many of us help to discolour our teeth by eating and drinking substances which stain the teeth. It can be tempting to go for a quick-fix whitening treatment, but this may come at a severe cost to our health, wellbeing and pocket.

Dentists believe that teeth whitening should always be carried out by a dentist or licensed dental hygienist, not only for safety reasons but also because the over the counter and online products are not of sufficient strength (active ingredients are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide) to make much of a different. Bridget went through the different products as examples:

Whitening strips

Reasonable cost
Easy to buy
Can whiten teeth


Can cause damage to teeth and gums
Can promote tooth sensitivity
White spots may appear on the gums
Strips cannot reach the crevices, i.e. the curves in your teeth

Over-the-counter UV kits

There is no stated advantage in using these kits. They can lead to:

Stomach problems
Mouth infections
Gum shrinkage
Nerve damage
Patchy and spotted teeth

Whitening pens

This treatment will produce a minimal change in tooth colour. They may be acceptable for a quick fix.

The downsides:

Mild gum irritation
Tooth sensitivity

Toothpaste with bicarbonate of soda

This is a natural tooth whitener, and will help in the short term.


These toothpastes can be abrasive, which over time will weaken enamel. Weak enamel may lead to cavities and tooth sensitivity.

Limit the use to once per week and if you start to experience burning or tingling, stop straight away and rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.

Oil pulling

This is one of those celebrity endorsed trends, but there is no real evidence that it actually works.

What is it? Well, it involves swishing a tablespoon of oil around the mouth for 15 – 20 minutes, with the objective of drawing toxins out so as to improve oral health and whiten the teeth as the stains are also drawn out.

These are not a substitute for your dentist! This treatment will not cure tooth decay and it will not properly whiten your teeth.

To remain safe and to see a real difference:

Contact your dental practice to ask about what teeth whitening they offer and discuss the process to see if it would fit with your lifestyle.

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