Is it Safe to Whiten Your Teeth?

People have been whitening their teeth for centuries. A white smile is attractive and a universal sign of youth and health. White teeth have also been indicators of wealth or nobility. It shouldn’t be surprising that people have been trying to brighten their smiles for more than 3,000 years. Some of the ancient teeth whitening techniques are more than a little scary in today’s world of modern dentistry.

But the question still remains – is it safe to whiten your teeth?

Tooth Discoloration and Stains

There are a number of reasons why your pearly whites can become discolored. As you age, tooth enamel gets thinner, and teeth appear more yellow. In addition, one or all five of these could also be the culprit of tooth discoloration or stain:

  1. Dark pigments of certain drinks or foods, such as coffee, tea and red wine
  2. Tar and nicotine in tobacco
  3. Some medications
  4. Tooth injuries
  5. Genetics

Depending on the stain, tooth whitening may not help. Discolorations from certain medications or tooth injuries may also resist whitening efforts. Also be aware that whitening will not work on crowns, fillings or veneers. Bleach-resistant restorations may result in multiple shades of white.

Types of Teeth Whitening Products

The American Dental Association (ADA) categorizes whitening products into two groups:

  1. Peroxide-containing products – removes both surface and deep stains by bleaching the tooth.
  2. Whitening toothpaste – a non-bleaching, whitening method that removes surface stains only

Where to get Teeth Whitening Products

Both peroxide products and whitening toothpaste products are available over the counter. Some dentists also provide teeth bleaching either as an in-office service or as a take-home product. All at-home bleaching products, whether bought from a retail outlet or dental office, contain significantly less peroxide than professionally applied bleaching by a dentist.

Whitening Side Effects and Safety

Common side effects of teeth whitening include tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. However, symptoms are usually temporary. Although rare, irreversible tooth damage from bleaching is also possible.

Several whitening toothpastes have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance, a program dedicated to evaluating the safety and efficacy of dental products. Peroxide-containing products “are eligible for the ADA Seal of Acceptance.” However, you should know that there is little information about long-term or repeated use of DIY teeth bleaching bought from retail outlets.

Teeth Whitening Recommendations

Before whitening your teeth, consult your dentist. You and your dentist can discuss the different whitening options to determine which is right for you. Additionally, you can maintain a brighter smile by:

  1. Brushing and flossing regularly
  2. Receiving regular dental exams and cleanings
  3. Avoiding tobacco use
  4. Reducing consumption of dark-colored food and drink
  5. Drinking coffee and tea through a straw

Got a question about your vision or oral health? Let us know how we can help you.


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