Are DIY Teeth Whitening Safe and Effective?

Are DIY Teeth Whitening Safe and Effective?

Your teeth are among the first things other people notice about you. The condition of your teeth can reflect how you take care of your dental health and impact your self-confidence. For many people, having white teeth can make your smile look healthier, cleaner, and more attractive.

As more people grow more aware of the appearance of their teeth, it is easy to see why people want to whiten their teeth. While going to the dentist for professional teeth whitening is the safest and most effective option, many still turn to DIY teeth whitening to save money and for convenience — but is it safe?

Causes of Discoloured Teeth

Tooth discolouration can affect self-confidence

Teeth discolouration is a common problem that affects one’s confidence. Several factors contribute to the problem and understanding the potential causes can help both patients and dentists prevent and manage tooth stains more effectively.

Here are the most common factors that cause the discolouration of your teeth:

  • Poor Dental Hygiene – It is not surprising why having poor dental hygiene is the number 1 cause of teeth stains. Failure to brush and floss your teeth on a daily basis allows harmful bacteria to feed on the food particles in your mouth and produce acid that damages and alters the teeth’s natural appearance. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing your mouth after meals help remove plaque and food stains on the surface of your teeth. The combination of poor oral hygiene with other factors on this list can increase your risk of tooth stains.
  • Certain Foods and Beverages – Many people start their day with a cup of coffee or tea. While coffee or tea may be a staple part of our daily diet, its high acidity level can do a number on the colour of your teeth. The same goes for some of our favourite beverages, such as wine, soda, and juice. Even eating healthy food, such as berries, apples, tomatoes, cherries, beets, and potatoes, can contribute to tooth discolouration.
  • Ageing – Our tooth enamel slowly wears down as we age, causing the dentin (next layer of the tooth with a slightly yellowish tinge) to show through the enamel’s translucent layer. As we grow older, we will start to notice the teeth getting yellower through the years.
  • Tobacco Use – Many smokers do not realize that our teeth have pores too that can easily absorb nicotine and tar in tobacco. This causes the teeth to turn yellow or brown. Although nicotine is a colourless substance, it can become yellow when combined with oxygen. Chewing tobacco causes the saliva to mix with the tobacco extract, creating a dark brown liquid that can stick to your teeth. Years of smoking and chewing tobacco can cause heavy teeth discolouration as stains have settled deep into the enamel.
  • Certain Health Conditions – Some health conditions can affect your tooth enamel. People with metabolic diseases, liver diseases, calcium deficiency, eating disorders, rickets, and celiac disease may notice significant changes in the colour of their teeth.
  • Genetics – Some people are born with a healthy, radiant smile, while others, not much. Studies showed that your genes have an impact on the natural brightness and thickness of your enamel.
  • Certain Medications – Antidepressants, antihistamines, antihypertensives, and antipsychotic drugs can cause discolouration of your teeth. Taking antibiotics tetracycline or doxycycline in utero before the age of 8 can also have a drastic impact on your teeth colour. Additionally, chemotherapy and head and neck radiation have similar effects on your enamel. Using oral rinses that contain chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride can also cause teeth stains.
  • Trauma – Dental emergencies, such as falling, chipping, and anything that cause damage to the teeth, do not only harm the enamel but also cause tooth discolouration.

Are DIY Teeth Whitening Too Good to Be True?

For many people, teeth whitening is one of the best ways to improve their smiles. The Internet offers a plethora of information on different DIY natural teeth whitening methods, from oil pulling to charcoal, and even turmeric. Some teeth whitening products are found in your home, particularly in your kitchen, can be used to brighten your teeth. However, just because they are natural does not mean they are safe and effective. When they seem too good to be true, they probably are. Several studies even show that several natural whitening ingredients can do more harm than good to your teeth.

Apple cider vinegar is a highly acidic substance

  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Some people believe that rubbing their teeth with apple cider vinegar and leaving it for a few minutes can whiten teeth. Unfortunately, the high acidic properties of apple cider vinegar can be extremely damaging to the tooth enamel. Brushing your teeth after direct contact with the vinegar can worsen enamel erosion.
  • Using Mouth Guard –  Perhaps you have seen Pinterest tips about wearing a mouthguard with a mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes for 2 weeks. The combination of mouth guard not custom-fitted to your teeth and mixture can trigger gum irritation. If you have a recessed gum line, its root surface can be exposed to the mixture, causing further damage and irritation. Another major concern is the amount of hydrogen peroxide used in this DIY teeth whitening mixture. The concentration approved safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for many teeth whitener products is only 3.6% hydrogen peroxide. Without the right tools and knowledge, it can be difficult to get the appropriate proportion of the mixture.

Citric acid can damage teeth

  • Lemon Water + Baking Soda – Mixing baking soda with lemon water and using it to whiten your teeth can cause the enamel to erode. Prolonged use of this teeth whitening solution can be harmful to your teeth. Adding a mildly abrasive ingredient, such as baking soda, and extremely acidic food, like lemon, is a recipe for disaster to your teeth enamel. While many toothpastes include a small amount of baking soda as one of its components, brushing your teeth with lemon and baking soda mixture is not approved by the dental health professionals.
  • Turmeric – Some people make DIY teeth whitening paste by blending turmeric powder with coconut oil and brushing their teeth with the thick mixture. Leaving it for 5 minutes before rinsing can instantly give you a  whiter smile. However, this can worsen the problem since turmeric is commonly used as a natural food colouring, leaving your teeth more discoloured than ever. Also, the microscopic ridges and pits of your enamel can hold the coloured particles of turmeric, staining your teeth over time.
  • Coconut Oil – Many believe that swishing your teeth with coconut oil for 15 minutes helps whiten your teeth over time. Also, some people use coconut oil to treat cavities, freshen breath, and prevent gingivitis. Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies to support these claims. The  Canadian Dental Association (CDA) states, “We sense oil pulling will not do any injury, we are not persuaded there are any particular benefits to it.” While it is not considered to be harmful to your oral health, people who used this method experienced diarrhea or an upset stomach.

Charcoal scrubs are extremely abrasive

  • Activated Charcoal Scrubs – Another teeth whitening method involves a mixture of activated charcoal, baking soda, and coconut oil. A paste is made and used while brushing the teeth for 1 to 2 minutes. Unfortunately, using it as a substitute for toothpaste can cause gum irritation and inflammation and result in receding gums. Additionally, prolonged use of abrasive charcoal can cause significant damage to your enamel.
  • Aluminum Foil + Baking Soda + Salt Wraps – Making a paste using baking soda, water, and salt and then applying it to an aluminum sheet to cover the teeth for an hour is a big no. Biting on an aluminum foil can produce a small electrical current that stimulates your teeth’s nerve endings, causing tingling pain and discomfort, especially if you have metal filling or crowns. Additionally, both salt and baking soda are abrasive ingredients that can promote enamel erosion.

Safer and More Effective Teeth Whitening Options

Luckily, you do not have to rely on DIY teeth whitening as there are many professional teeth whitening and at-home teeth whitening kits recommended by dental health professionals. These three teeth whitening options range from a gentle approach to whiten teeth to stronger methods to get rid of deeper stains.

Whitening toothpaste is a simple solution to discolouration

  • Whitening ToothpasteWhitening toothpaste uses ingredients known for their polishing action as opposed to bleaching chemicals, making it the gentlest whitening option especially if you have sensitive teeth. However, it takes repeated use to achieve visible results.

Consult your dentist before trying at-home teeth whitening

  • At-Home Teeth Whitening – You can purchase safe at-home teeth whitening kits from your dentist or over-the-counter pharmacies. At-home teeth whiteners can range from whitening strips, rinses, brushes, trays, and lights. Some kits contain peroxide that works below the surface to improve the colour of the enamel. Purchasing special whitening trays from your dentist ensures that they are custom made to fit your upper and lower teeth better than one-size-fits-all sold in stores. You can squeeze the whitening gels in the trays and wear them according to your dentist’s instructions. Avoid wearing the trays for too long as the gel contains peroxide that can irritate your teeth and gums.

In-office whitening is effective and offers quicker results

  • Professional Teeth Whitening – Professional teeth whitening is performed in the dental clinic. In-office teeth whitening options, such as ZOOM! teeth whitener is more effective than the other whitening options, offering quick results. The ZOOM whitening procedure takes less than an hour, but you will need a regular teeth cleaning before the actual ZOOM session.

Before using any DIY teeth whitening methods you read on the Internet, it is important to understand how each ingredient can affect the natural organic makeup of your enamel. Make sure to consult your dentist about the right whitening option if you want a safe and effective method.

Call Lambton Family Dental at (519) 344-5747, and let us know about your teeth whitening goals. You can also fill in our contact form to send us your message and queries.