Making a first impression: 4 ways to whiter teeth

First impressions matter. Most people decide whether you are someone they want to do business with, in the first 5 seconds of meeting you. Whether you want to get a job or do a deal, being reasonably well-groomed should be part of your preparation. And these days along with a good haircut you might want to consider white teeth as part of your presentation package.

You can achieve that brighter smile through many methods, including using baking soda, over-the-counter whitening products (toothpastes and strips), DIY at-home whitening kits, and in-office procedures at your dentist.

The idea of tooth whitening started to really grow in the 1980s, and since then it has grown into a billion-dollar industry. According to Arizton, a market research company, it is expected to reach nearly $8 billion dollars by 2026.

So while the goal of achieving a whiter smile shows no sign of slowing, there are some questions and concerns related to teeth whitening. The biggest one, perhaps is the safety question — is teeth whitening safe and if so, what methods are safest? While any procedure comes with risk, the main issues associated with teeth whitening tend to be allergic reactions and increased mouth sensitivity.

We take a closer look at common DIY teeth whitening methods, and examine their benefits and risks.

Teeth-Whitening Toothpaste Safety

Teeth whitening toothpaste typically uses carbamide peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, or blue covarine as a whitening agent. Whitening toothpastes are safe and effective, but it is important to avoid swallowing. In general, for safety and effectiveness, you’ll want to closely read and follow the product’s instructions.

Most whitening toothpastes are recommended for short-term use only. This tends to be especially true of brands that use abrasives to achieve results. While they are still safe, they can make your teeth more sensitive. Many products actually say they are not for long-term use right on the label. Make sure you read the directions carefully. If you have questions, ask your dentist.

You’ll find that many over-the-counter options are capable of lightening your teeth by one shade. More recent versions that utilize activated charcoal are less well known. According to Healthline, there is no little information regarding risk and effectiveness.

Teeth Whitening Strips and Gels Safety

You can buy whitening strips and gels over the counter or from your dentist. The type you get at the store is lower in strength than what you can purchase from a dentist. The star ingredient in these types of whiteners is usually a form of peroxide. Not everyone wants to use peroxide though, and so they turn to safe and effective peroxide-free whitening gel, which can be bought online.

In general, whitening strips and gels are more effective than toothpaste simply because they stay on teeth longer and have more of the whitening agents. They may not be advisable for people with certain dental issues, including gum disease or cavities. It is always a good idea to talk with your dentist before starting any teeth whitening program, including an at-home product.

Teeth Bleaching Safety

Teeth bleaching is a bit of a misnomer, because no bleach is actually involved in the process. Teeth bleaching uses a whitening agent like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide to lighten the color of your teeth. Sometimes blue covarine is used, which leaves a thin and temporary layer of film over teeth to add to the brightening effect.

There are some studies, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which suggest that using whitening products over a long period can harm teeth. Unfortunately, the studies show data from non-living teeth in a lab, so it is hard to know how well they correlate to regular use.

In general, teeth bleaching is safe if you have no dental issues; just be sure to read and follow the instructions closely. If you are unsure if you can use it safely, or have questions, consult your dentist first.

Tray-Based Teeth Whitener Safety

Tray-based whitening kits include trays you place in your mouth. You generally keep them in for hours, sometimes overnight. The key to success and safety with these and all teeth whitening products is to read and follow the instructions carefully.

First, see your dentist to rule out problems related to cavities and gum disease. Ask them if it is safe for you to use a tray-based teeth whitener. They may offer you guidance, such as time limitations for the tray. Follow their advice carefully and watch out for signs of inflammation and teeth sensitivity. Resist the temptation to leave the trays on longer than recommended, even though you might be eager to see results fast.

DIY Teeth Whitening Risks

Teeth whitening is generally safe and most people don’t experience side effects. It is a good idea to be aware of possible side effects though, which may include:

  • General teeth sensitivity
  • Gum sensitivity
  • Teeth discoloration or over-bleaching
  • Ineffectiveness

If you experience any of these, or other changes while you’re using any type of whitener, stop immediately and consult your dentist.