How Safe is Your Teeth Whitening Routine?

January 23, 2017

The usually professional service of teeth whitening is the process of applying a selective form of bleach onto the surface of your teeth, which over time gradually lifts the shade of your teeth to a lighter color. Dentin is the main reason as to why teeth whitening is so popular – a hard, yellow substance which shows through the enamel of your teeth, therefore making them appear slightly yellow. Other causes for yellowing include ageing, water with too much fluoride and chemicals present in coffee, tea and carbonated drinks. According to Mintel data, over one third of adults are considering a form of whitening.

With stars constantly sporting their beautifully brilliant white grins online and in magazines, this has made teeth whitening one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in the UK. In 2017, the consumer trend is undoubtedly becoming more domesticated with an increasing popularity of DIY home whitening kits. The main reason for this is because you can save a great amount of money when you take into account professional fees and mark-up costs from dentists offering recommended treatments.

Although the majority of home teeth whitening kits are labelled safe for use by the public before they hit the counters domestically, there has regrettably been an increase in individuals who have irreversibly damaged their teeth from using them, so how do you know if the home whitening products that you’re using is safe?

The risks and dangers

From understanding the history of how teeth whitening firstly came about, one can easily see why the process is dangerous: Dentists used the dangerous substance hydrogen peroxide as an anesthetic during dental procedures, and they found out that as a side effect the substance made their patient’s teeth bleached and white. It is true that hydrogen peroxide is still the main ingredient in the majority of DIY home kits, usually a gum shield gel that’s placed on your teeth to produce the whitening result. The chemical unfortunately gets dangerous when the concentration is much stronger than recommended. In the UK, there are quite a few high profile cases involving individuals selling unsafe home teeth whitening kits.

There are many risks to be aware of before choosing a home teeth kit over the much less risky professional service, such as mouth infections, gum-shrinking and nerve damage. If you have deep cavities, the bleach can easily get into the blood vessels, nerves and bones at the root of the tooth, which can trigger an infection or a painful toothache. If the gum shields present in a lot of whitening kits aren’t appropriately fixed onto the teeth, this can potentially cause serious nerve damage and gum discoloration.

How you can tell if your routine is safe

The most dependable means of knowing whether your DIY kit is safe to use is if it has been confirmed so by your dentist. If it is, it should usually come with custom made gum shields molded from your teeth, which will prevent any hydrogen peroxide whitening fluid from reaching your gums. Arguably all home whitening products always will be risky to use, but by following these guidelines you’ll be in the best shape to use your whitening kit at home.

Be smart and buy the best whitening kits

There are a variety of home whitening kit options to choose from, such as gels, strips or tray kits. The good news is that because of EU law, DIY kits are only allowed to contain up to 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. However, the British Dental Association still forewarns the public to avoid buying home whitening products on the internet or over the counter, due to the fact that they haven’t been customized to properly fit your mouth. Additionally, they disclose that the kits may not be suitable for people with crowns or gum disease; to be fair most of the whitening products will warn that they’re not suitable for crowns, if you do have them and try to whiten your teeth, there will most likely be an uneven color. Moreover, pregnant and breastfeeding women should be careful when it comes to teeth whitening.

Susceptible to sensitive teeth?

Tooth whitening products could unfortunately cause temporary mild tooth sensitivity; if your teeth are healthy then you’re less prone for any discomfort. There’s no harm in trying but if you do experience irritation, definitely stop using that specific treatment and consult your dentist. Dental trays are probably the most common form of whitening product that can cause inflammation of the gums, especially if the tray does not fit well around the teeth.


If you have been slightly put off by using home kits, there are also whitening toothpaste options to try. Unfortunately, these are unlikely to change the colour of your teeth and are instead best used for removing stains. Nevertheless, the better whitening toothpastes out there on the market in the long term could help to provide a good top-up to maintain the effect of a professional whitening treatment. The most important thing is to not become an addict; less is definitely more despite the general affordability of the DIY whitening kits out there. If you go to a reputable private dentist for the treatment, they will be able to manage your expectations and prevent you from damaging your teeth or gums. When your teeth are at a realistic shade that you’re happy with, it’s advisable to only repeat the bleaching treatment up to twice a year. Always the safest bet is to get hold of your dentist for guidance.


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