Is it Safe to Whiten Teeth at Home? Possible Risks and Recommendations - Step To Health

Is it Safe to Whiten Teeth at Home? Possible Risks and Recommendations

Whitening your teeth at home may seem convenient and effective, but is it safe? Read on and find out here!
Is it Safe to Whiten Teeth at Home? Possible Risks and Recommendations

Last update: 12 January, 2022

Nowadays, many people are looking for a bright white smile to look better or to have more confidence in themselves. And although there are specific dental treatments to achieve this, some people prefer to whiten their teeth at home.

First, it’s interesting to note that the natural color of teeth is not completely white, but rather yellowish or greyish white. The enamel, the outermost layer that protects the tooth surface, is transparent and reveals the dentin underneath.

However, some situations and habits of everyday life can stain and darken teeth. Drinking coffee or wine, smoking, taking certain medications, and even the passage of time can change the appearance of our teeth.

Today, a bright white smile is associated with a healthy mouth, a better appearance, higher self-esteem, confidence in social relationships, and even better jobs. Teeth whitening is a dental treatment that removes stains from the teeth and lowers the color shades to reach the desired white.

However, with the rise of radiant smiles, many options for home whitening and home remedies have appeared to improve the appearance of the teeth. In this article, we’ll tell you about the risks and drawbacks that can occur if you decide to whiten your teeth at home.

How to whiten teeth at home

With the trend of white smiles, many household products and home methods for whitening teeth at home have come out. The ability to improve the appearance of your teeth at any time, at home, and without a visit to the dentist may seem appealing to some people.

The truth is that many of these at-home teeth whitening methods are unproven and can be harmful to your oral health. Here are the most popular at-home whitening treatments and their potential risks.

Activated charcoal

This product has become very popular recently, especially on websites and beauty pages that recommend it to improve the appearance of your smile. However, the truth is that there’s no evidence activated charcoal effectively whitens teeth at home.

In reality, it’s a very abrasive substance that wears away the tooth enamel, the protective and most superficial layer of the teeth. Its abrasion also exposes the underlying dentin, which has a more yellowish color, giving this shade to the treated element. In addition, this damage to the tooth structure can cause sensitivity.

Carbón activado para blanquear los dientes.
Activated charcoal has recently gained popularity, but its dental use is not scientifically proven.

Baking soda

Brushing your teeth with baking soda is another popular home remedy for whitening teeth at home. In fact, this compound is an ingredient in some commercial toothpaste.

However, there’s no evidence that brushing your teeth with baking soda directly on the tooth whitens tooth surfaces. Nevertheless, some studies postulate that toothpaste with this ingredient has a greater ability to remove stains compared to toothpaste without baking soda.

Baking soda has mild abrasive properties that could help remove surface stains on teeth. In addition, it neutralizes the acidity in the oral cavity, hindering bacterial proliferation.

The abrasive action of this substance should be used with caution. Otherwise, it ends up wearing down the enamel. Its direct use is not recommended but as part of a paste. You should know that removing stains will not happen overnight, but will be progressive.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent used in dental offices as part of teeth whitening. The products used by the dentist have a high concentration that achieves fast action and immediate effects. It’s also included in the ingredients of several whitening kits and toothpaste.

However, there’s no evidence of the effects of brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide alone. On the other hand, some studies have found that toothpaste containing hydrogen peroxide combined with baking soda produces whiter teeth than those without.

However, this product should be used with caution. Although the low concentrations seem safe, excessive use can cause tooth sensitivity and irritate the gums and mucous membranes of the mouth. Direct application in the mouth is not recommended for teeth whitening.

Certain types of fruit

There are many recipes for whitening teeth at home that use fruits. The use of acidic products such as oranges, lemons, vinegar, or apple cider vinegar is popular. Some formulas suggest using pineapples, mangoes, or strawberries.

Some recipes suggest liquefying some of the fruits or using their juices, ferments, or vinegar and placing them on the tooth surfaces, leaving them to act for a while. Another popular suggestion is to rub the peels of oranges, lemons, or bananas on the teeth.

The rationale behind this natural way to whiten teeth at home is that fruit acids would be able to remove surface stains. However, much like many of these other home remedies, they acutally wear down the tooth enamel, causing damage to the structure. Without the surface protection of the teeth, the risk of cavities, pain, and sensitivity increases.

Coconut oil

Another method to whiten teeth at home is to rinse your mouth with coconut oil. This method can actually help eliminate oral bacteria that form plaque and make teeth look yellow.

While you can use sunflower oil, sesame oil, or any other edible oil, coconut oil is popular for its taste and other health benefits. It has lauric acid, which reduces inflammation and eliminates bacteria.

However, although many people and websites claim that teeth look whiter after using coconut oil, no scientific studies prove its whitening action.

Home whitening products

In this case, the option of whitening teeth at home is done using products created specifically for this purpose. In this section, two large groups can be distinguished:

  • At-home whitening using over-the-counter products that you purchase on your own.
  • At-home whitening using a product provided by your dentist as part of a professional approach.

Over-the-counter whiteners

Over-the-counter whiteners are products obtained from pharmacies or supermarkets, without prescriptions, for the patient to use on their own at home. Usally, they come with instructions that specify how to apply them, how often, and for how long.

However, the ease of their availability and application can lead to overuse and damage to tooth tissues.

The following are the most common types of these products:

  • Whitening toothpaste: Toothpaste with abrasives, hydrogen peroxide, and carbamide that are used in daily brushing. The results are obtained in the long term, but prolonged use can damage the enamel and oral mucous membranes.
  • Whitening mouthwashes are mouthwashes that contain hydrogen peroxide and are used to remove surface stains. The effects are noticeable after long use and are not as noticeable or long-lasting as some other options.
  • Whitening strips: These are adhesive strips that contain a gel with hydrogen peroxide that you place on the tooth surfaces. Then, you leave them to act for the time indicated by the manufacturer. It’s one of the methods of whitening teeth at home with the best results. However, to avoid adverse effects, the indications must be followed precisely.
  • Whitening pens: These are small plastic tubes with a whitening gel and an applicator to place them on the teeth. Using them involves rubbing the product on the tooth stains, as if painting the tooth. However, the effects are minimal and not very long-lasting.

Professional home whitening

In these cases, whitening is done at home but under the guidance of a dentist. For this, it’s necessary to consult a dentist, who will plan the best strategy to achieve the desired bright white smile.

The professional gives the patient an outpatient kit containing a special custom-made tray and whitening gel. At home, the product is placed on the tray and is taken to the mouth, and left to act for the time indicated by the dentist.

Many times, the professional suggests using the home trays as a complement to in-office whitening. In these cases, since the trays are taken to the mouth are made to adapt specifically to the patient, the risks of injury to the mucosa are lower.

Blanqueamiento dental ambulatorio seguido por el dentista
Dentists can guide whitening treatments that are performed at home with special splints.

The risks of whitening teeth at home

When deciding to whiten teeth at home, many factors can lead to unwanted effects. Some examples are lack of precision in applying the product, overusing it by applying more than the suggested amount, leaving it on longer than indicated, or prolonging its use.

We’ve already mentioned some harmful effects on the mouth that certain at-home teeth whitening products can have. However, here are some of the most common problems that can occur with home whitening:

  • Wearing down the enamel: This protective tissue does not regenerate again, so the loss caused by acids and abrasive substances causes irreversible damage. A tooth with less enamel is more susceptible to decay and tooth sensitivity and looks more yellow.
  • Tooth sensitivity: The painful and uncomfortable sensation when eating something cold or hot is common after tooth whitening treatments. Most of the time, it disappears after a while, but in the case of teeth whitening at home, the sensitivity is usually more intense and long-lasting.
  • Irritation of the gums and oral mucosa: The contact between the whitening substances and the mouth’s soft tissues generates irritation and even burns.
  • Digestive problems: If the product is accidentally injected, it can irritate the mucosa of the pharynx and the digestive system.
  • Damage to dentin: The peroxides used in some whitening agents breaks down the collagen in the dentin.
  • Allergies: Some of the components of whitening products may cause an allergic reaction.
  • Unexpected results: The effects of at-home teeth whitening methods are usually very subtle, not very noticeable, and not very long-lasting.

Recommendations for a bright white smile

Although whitening your teeth at home may seem simple and safe, it can have unwanted health effects. For this reason, the best recommendation when looking for a bright, white smile is to seek dental help.

A dentist is the best person to advise you on the best options for a beautiful smile. In addition, they’ll be able to ensure that any whitening agent you use in your mouth is done when all tissues are in optimal conditions to avoid aggravating pre-existing injuries. After all, a teeth whitening should not be performed if there are cavities, tartar, or if your gums are inflamed.

Before performing teeth whitening, it’s also common that the dentist performs a professional cleaning. By removing plaque, tartar build-up, and surface stains, healthy and aesthetic effects are achieved that can even lead to dispensing with the use of whitening agents.

Finally, remember that teeth whitening can be avoided with proper dental care. Brushing your teeth three times a day with fluoride toothpaste, supplementing with dental floss, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and having regular dental check-ups can be simple and safe ways to have a healthy and beautiful smile.

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