Do-it-yourself is a worthwhile option for some things, such as cooking or making minor home repairs. With these DIY projects, mistakes are usually easy to fix. However, teeth whitening can cause permanent changes to your teeth, so DIY solutions may not be best. Is DIY teeth whitening safe? Our team at Matthews Family Dentistry breaks down the answer.
DIY teeth whitening includes everything from home remedies to over-the-counter kits. With so much variation in ingredients, application, and instructions, a single answer to whether DIY whitening is safe and effective is impossible. Instead, look at individual solutions to see how effective each is. Whether a remedy is safe doesn’t matter if it has no evidence of working at all.
Home remedies abound online, including rubbing your teeth with strawberries, brushing with turmeric, or mixing baking soda and lemon juice into a toothpaste. Another DIY remedy is oil pulling with coconut oil.
At best, these remedies may remove minor surface stains but do nothing to correct internally based discoloration or major teeth problems. Many of these solutions don’t have any evidence of working at all, such as coconut oil and turmeric. Other options, such as baking soda and lemon juice, can be too abrasive to teeth, especially when used regularly.
Over-the-counter options include whitening strips, kits, pens, and toothpaste. These often use a form of peroxide as a bleaching agent that you apply directly to the teeth. Toothpaste options may have baking soda or other whitening agents but are not as strong as whitening pens, kits, or strips.
Whitening strips use flexible strips impregnated with the active agent you place over your teeth. Because everyone has different teeth, the strips may not fit you properly and overlap on your gums or not cover all of the teeth. Kits that use gel in a mold held against your teeth have a similar problem. With whitening pens, you apply the active ingredient directly to the teeth, but it can be tedious if you need to treat your entire mouth.
Whitening agents found over-the-counter remove surface stains only and don’t offer the same number of shades of whitening that a professional whitening can. Therefore, these methods are only effective if you have minor staining, but they can still cause problems. Some of these methods may cause gum irritation and tooth sensitivity.
Many DIY teeth whitening solutions claim to be safe or better alternatives to professional whitening. Both claims are untrue for both home remedies and over-the-counter whitening products.
Home remedies are often ineffective. For those that work to remove surface stains, such as baking soda mixed with lemon juice, the mechanical removal of stains combined with the acidic lemon juice is so abrasive that the enamel can also sustain damage.
Another form of DIY whitening involves brushing with charcoal and table salt, which is so harsh that the treated teeth look yellow after rubbing off the enamel and revealing the yellowish dentin layer beneath.
While enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it will never grow back if it erodes or rubs off from harsh whitening agents. Without enamel, your teeth have a higher chance of decay and sensitivity because they lack the protective top layer.
Even whitening kits have potentially serious side effects, such as tooth and gum sensitivity and pain. Infections can also occur from improper use of these kits.
Instead of choosing over-the-counter or homemade solutions, visit your dentist for professional teeth whitening. Your dentist will give your teeth a checkup to make sure that you have healthy enamel and strong gums to allow whitening. They can also determine the correct type of whitening best for the discoloration type your teeth have.
Some teeth have internally based discoloration. DIY remedies cannot do anything to correct this problem. The roots of internal discoloration are aging, internal tooth damage, or medications. This type of whitening requires more intensive professional dental whitening, which uses stronger bleaching agents than you will find anywhere for consumers to purchase.
Another option from your dentist instead of in-office whitening is a take-home kit. This kit includes a gel that you place inside a customized tooth mold. These dentist-provided kits are much more effective than over-the-counter alternatives because they are designed for your mouth and reduce the chances of having the gel sit on your gums and irritate them.
If you have dental work such as crowns or veneers, these fixtures will not change color when you whiten your teeth. Talk to your dentist about getting your teeth whitened first if you need bonding, veneers, or crowns. Your dentist will then match the color of the fixtures to your newly whitened teeth. However, to avoid having color problems with these additions remaining white and your teeth darkening, take steps to maintain your brightened color.
To keep your teeth white longer, you should avoid common foods and drinks that cause staining. Tea, sodas, coffee, wine, and fruit juice can stain teeth. Berries and tomatoes can also stain. Avoiding these foods after teeth whitening can help your teeth avoid sensitivity and stay white longer.
Also, make regular appointments for cleanings. During professional dental cleanings, the hygienist removes plaque and tartar that can cause brownish stains on the teeth if left in place.
So, is DIY teeth whitening safe? Not always, nor are the solutions always effective. You don’t have to worry about damaging your teeth or causing long-term sensitivity when you have a dentist supervising the procedure. At Matthews Family Dentistry, teeth whitening is one of the many cosmetic and general dental services we offer. Contact us today to schedule your appointment to start on your way to a brighter, whiter smile without risking DIY methods.