Is it safe to whiten teeth at home?

If you’ve ever successfully tackled a DIY project, you know the sweet satisfaction it brings. A weekend effort could result in anything from refinished kitchen cabinets to an upcycled chicken coop, inviting years of use, enjoyment, and pride. Of course, DIY projects don’t always unfold as you may have dreamed. Type “Pinterest fails” into Google, and soon you’ve got page after page of art, craft, and construction projects that have completely fallen to pieces. So when it comes to taking the shade of your teeth into your own hands, this begs asking: what’s the truth about DIY tooth whitening?

From natural remedies to over-the-counter products to professional at-home whitening, here’s what you need to know about the safety and effectiveness of DIY tooth whitening.

Natural Remedies

Natural remedies for tooth whitening are incredibly popular amongst DIYers. Some of the most common options include the following:

Homemade Baking Soda Paste

As baking soda is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter whitening toothpastes, it’s not surprising to learn that may DIYers recommend mixing this everyday ingredient with water to make an abrasive “whitening paste.”

But unlike whitening toothpastes approved by the American Dental Association (ADA), there’s no scientific evidence to suggest using pure baking soda paste is effective or enamel-safe.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling—which was developed long before toothbrushes or toothpastes were invented and widely available—involves swishing and moving oil around your mouth for up to 20 minutes before spitting and rinsing.

Though this archaic practice is revered by DIYers, research on oil pulling hasn’t concluded that oil pulling is effective at reducing stains or improving the color of your teeth.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

With some proven health benefits to its name, apple cider vinegar often tops the list of natural remedies for DIY tooth whitening. The reason for this? Apple cider vinegar has been found to have a bleaching effect on teeth—but that’s not the only thing it can do to your teeth.

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic. Overexposure to acids can cause your tooth enamel to weaken, increasing your likelihood of tooth sensitivity and cavities.

Are natural remedies for teeth whitening safe?

Most natural remedies for whitening teeth haven’t been officially studied, which means the short- and long-term side effects are a dangerous gamble. While some natural remedies may in fact whiten your smile, they may also expose you to unknown, harmful, or irreversible consequences.

The best natural remedies for preventing stains are healthy lifestyle choices, like drinking more water, eating whole foods, getting enough calcium, and limiting foods and drinks that are known to stain teeth.

Whitening Toothpastes and Rinses

Whitening toothpastes and rinses can be found at most drugstores, grocers, and online retailers. Whitening toothpastes contain a higher concentration of abrasives (such as silica or baking soda) than conventional toothpastes, which creates a brightening effect after brushing.

Whitening rinses, and some whitening toothpastes, also contain low doses of peroxides to prevent and lighten some surface (extrinsic) stains. Users may notice reduced staining within two to 12 weeks of consistently following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Are whitening toothpastes and rinses safe?

The safety of whitening toothpastes and rinses largely depends on how you use them. Whitening toothpastes are generally designed to minimize enamel damage, though could be harmful to the hard outer surface of your teeth if used with a hard-bristled toothbrush or a rough brushing technique.

When used correctly and with a gentle brushing technique, whitening toothpastes and rinses can safely prevent and remove some extrinsic stains. However, if you’re looking to significantly change the shade of your teeth, whitening toothpastes and rinses aren’t strong enough to do the trick.

Only a professional whitening treatment from your dentist can make dramatic changes to the shade of your teeth.

OTC Whitening Strips, Gels, and Trays

Over-the-counter whitening strips, gels, and trays use peroxide to break down surface stains and lighten the shade of the tooth itself (known as extrinsic and intrinsic whitening). Most OTC products claim to lighten teeth by one to two shades within 14 days, when the manufacturer’s instructions are followed to a T.

Are OTC whitening strips, gels, and trays safe?

Though the American Dental Association (ADA) does consider these DIY tooth whitening products to be safe when used correctly, many users deviate from the manufacturer’s instructions in the name of faster or more dramatic results.

Though teeth seem whiter, this approach can come at a hefty price for the health of your teeth. Misuse and overuse of OTC whitening products can lead to increased tooth sensitivity, dehydration, and demineralization, as well as destabilizing and discoloring any existing dental restorations.

In short, the safety of whitening strips, gels, and trays largely depends on sticking to the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you are planning to use an OTC product, start by getting a clean bill of oral health from your dentist, use a product endorsed by the ADA, and always stick to the manufacturer’s directions.

Professional At-Home Whitening

Professional at-home tooth whitening combines the best of the DIY experience with personalized care from your cosmetic dentist.

Professional at-home teeth whitening kits provide you with custom-made trays to evenly apply prescription-strength peroxide to your teeth in the comfort of your home. Professional whitening kits provide both extrinsic and intrinsic whitening by breaking down surface stains and lightening the actual shade of your teeth.

You can usually expect to get the dramatic results you want in around two weeks.

Is professional at-home whitening safe?

When used properly, DIY tooth whitening remedies such as professional at-home whitening kits, are one of the safest ways to whiten your teeth. While you may experience the temporary tooth or gum sensitivity that can accompany any whitening treatment, your dentist can personally help you address any issues that may arise while minimizing the risk of damage to your teeth.

Dr. Alhadef is proud to offer you his signature combination of dental artistry and medical knowledge for an at-home whitening treatment that is as safe as it is stunning. To enjoy the satisfaction of effectively whitening your teeth from home, contact our office today to schedule an appointment.

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