At-Home Teeth Whitening: Is it Safe for Your Health?

woman in bed whitening teeth


It’s no secret that most people want straight, healthy, pearly-white teeth. With the increased need for video conferencing and being on camera during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have suddenly become painfully aware of the state of their teeth. 

This insecurity has led to some unusually terrible oral habits, like the Tik Tok trend of teeth filing, as well as renewed interest in dental products like teeth whitening kits. While some of these trends, like teeth filing, are unequivocally terrible for your dental health, others, like teeth whiteners, can be safe if you use them correctly. 

Are Tooth Whitening Products Safe?

In this age of remote work and video calls, people are more aware of how their teeth look than ever. The result of this renewed awareness is that people are trying to find ways to make their teeth look better from the comfort of their home. While dentists would love to hear that this means most people have decided to brush thoroughly and make sure to floss daily, that hasn’t been all patients are doing. 

Recently, there has been an increased interest in at-home tooth whitening. There are various tooth whitening products available on the market, however, so it can be difficult for people to determine which products actually work and which are safe for their teeth. Moreover, some people want big results quickly, which means they may opt for harsher products. 

Many at-home products can be used safely with recommended usage, which is usually around 14 days. However, the fact is that some whitening products can be harmful to your teeth when they’re not used as directed or in excess or for longer than recommended. As such, some at-home whitening products are safer to use than others. Regardless of the type of product you chose, applying them as directed is crucial to avoid damaging your teeth and gums.

What Types of At-Home Whitening Products are Best?

At-home whitening products available in a range, including: 

  • Whitening toothpastes
  • Whitening rinses
  • Whitening strips 
  • Whitening gel
  • Tray whiteners

Several methods can whiten teeth, including scrubbing the surface of the teeth with abrasives and detergents, bleaching the teeth with chemical agents, or products that do both. Any at-home whitening treatment is suitable for mild staining and may help teeth appear one to two shades lighter with recommended use. However, some products are more likely to cause tooth sensitivity or gum inflammation. It’s also worth noting that whitening products are only effective on natural teeth and should not be used if you have any visible dental restorations. 

Whitening toothpastes are typically among the gentler whitening products, making them probably one of the best and safest products to start with. Make sure you use one with a mild abrasive (avoid charcoal toothpaste) and don’t apply it for an extended period of time. Using a whitening toothpaste for 2 weeks at a time should do the trick. Once you get into stronger whitening products, the likelihood of adverse effects goes up. Tray whiteners, for example, should only be used in cooperation with your dentist to avoid damaging your enamel and gums. 

How to Safely Use Tooth Whitening Products at Home

The best way to ensure that the at-home tooth whitening product you chose is safe for your mouth is to talk to your dentist first. Your dentist knows your teeth and can talk to you about any concerns you may have. They can make educated recommendations about whitening products to help you achieve the results you want while also helping you avoid doing harm to your mouth. 

Some people are more prone to tooth sensitivity and may want to avoid products with chemical bleaching agents. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that all forms of bleaching are associated with sensitivity, but peroxide products may cause the most sensitivity. Peroxide treatments—including gels, strips, and tray whiteners—can also cause gum irritation and inflammation. Any burning or discomfort in your gums indicates that the product is irritating the tissue and should be removed.

The safest way to whiten your teeth, however, is often to allow your dentist to perform a whitening treatment in their office. They are better able to control the process and ensure that your teeth and gums are safe throughout the treatment. If you want serious whitening results, talk to your dentist about your options during your next visit. 

Risks of Using At-Home Whitening Products Incorrectly

Any at-home tooth whitening product will have clear instructions for using the product, when and where to apply it, and how long it should be in use. These instructions are specific for a reason—misuse can put the health of your teeth and gums at risk. If you apply a tooth whitening product incorrectly, in excess, or for longer than directed, you could experience: 

  • Damage to your enamel
  • Damage to the pulp of your teeth
  • Loss of mineral content in your teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Tooth erosion
  • Gum irritation and inflammation

In short, if you do not use whitening products as recommended, you could damage your oral health. This is not only bad news for your mouth, but oral health problems could impact your overall health, too. As such, it’s essential that you be careful with tooth whitening products and proceed cautiously. Ideally, speak to your dentist before beginning the use of any whitening products on your own. 

To find out more about the connection between your oral health and your overall health, reserve your copy of If Your Mouth Could Talk, by renowned dental expert, dentist, and dad, Dr. Kami Hoss. You’ll learn about how to care for your mouth properly and how that can benefit your entire body. 


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About the Author

About Dr. Kami Hoss

Dr. Kami Hoss is a nationally sought-after expert with a master’s in craniofacial biology from USC, a doctorate in dental surgery from UCLA, and a post-doctorate in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. With over 25 years of experience in the dental field, Dr. Hoss is a #1 National Best Seller author frequently featured on NBC, ABC, FOX, NPR, and CBS affiliates, and founder of The Super Dentists, one of the leading multi-specialty dental practices in the country.

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