Is it safe to whiten your teeth at home? (2024)

Hankering after a perfect set of pearly white teeth? According to the Oral Health Foundation, teeth whitening is one of the largest growing cosmetic procedures in the UK, with more people prepared to dole out the cash in pursuit of a whiter and brighter smile than ever before.

But if you're considering investing in a whiter smile it pays to be prepared. The dental industry has its fair share of cowboys and over-the-counter products may put your oral health at risk, so it's worth investigating the facts before getting your credit card out. Dr Eddie Coyle, Clinical Director for BUPA dental, gives us the lowdown on the efficacy of teeth whitening:

Is teeth whitening safe?

    There are numerous options available when it comes to whitening teeth – from bleaching kits and toothpastes, to in-chair treatments and holistic remedies. 'However, it is important to remember that before trying anything, patients should consider whether the treatment is safe, approved and conducted correctly in anclinical environment,' says Dr Coyle.

    Only dentists registered with the General Dentist Council should carry out teeth whitening.

    'Many products that can be bought online or over-the-counter can pose risks to our health, particularly if you don't know whether the level of bleach they contain is safe,' adds Dr Coyle. 'Likewise, whitening treatments performed in unregistered beauty salons or shops can also be risky – therefore it's important to remember that only dentists registered with the General Dentist Council can carry out teeth whitening.'

    ⚠️ Book a check-up with your dentist before considering teeth whitening, to ensure your mouth is healthy before discussing your options, and don't forget that teeth whitening should only be carried out by a dental professional.

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    Is whitening suitable for me?

    For the vast majority of people, whitening can work really well and the results will be a significant improvement. However, there are some instances where patients aren't suitable for treatment.

    'People who have dental restorations such as crowns or bridges; porcelain veneers; cosmetic bonding or tooth coloured fillings will find that the bleaching agents won't work on all their teeth,' says Dr Coyle.

    'It is also worth bearing in mind that, while teeth whitening is completely safe when conducted properly, it can lead to temporary sensitivity to temperature, pressure and touch, as well as temporary gum irritation. With that in mind, it's important for you to visit your dentist to assess the status of your teeth and gums prior the treatment.'

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    Can your own dentist whiten your teeth?

    To get the best results, you don't necessarily need to invest in private dental care. 'The Zoom! Whitening treatment performed at the practice is a quick and effective way to whiten your teeth in a short space of time,' says Dr Coyle.

    To get the best results, you don't need to use products at home, or invest in private dental care.

    'Zoom! Whitening can mean you see visible results after just one hour, whereas the Home Whitening can take a little longer than this,' he adds.

    'However, the comfort of being able to whiten your teeth at home is an important factor for many of my patients. The result will eventually be the same, so patients can just pick the treatment that suits them and their needs best.'

    How long does teeth whitening last?

    The good news is the effects of whitening can last for up to three years. 'However, this will vary from person-to-person,' says Dr Coyle. 'The effect is less likely to last as long if you smoke, or eat or drink things that can stain your teeth.

    'It is also important for patients to brush and floss regularly throughout the day, to maintain a good oral hygiene and a whiter shade. Ask your dental team for their opinion before you start the treatment,' he adds.

    Is it safe to whiten your teeth at home? (3)

    Yuri_ArcursGetty Images

    What causes teeth staining?

    The biggest culprits for teeth staining include the following:

    Tea and coffee

    Drinking several cups of black tea or coffee per day can cause the chemicals contained in those beverages to turn your teeth yellowish, or a darker shade.

    Red wine

    This is staining because of the dark purple colours found in the grapes used for its production.


    Tobacco is highly staining and the number of cigarettes smokers have every day cause their teeth to be continually exposed to the staining process.

        'When it comes to staining factors, cigarettes are most certainly one of the worst,' says Dr Coyle. 'Dark carbonated drinks also pose a risk to the colour of our teeth. In fact, the food colouring contained in these products can have a major staining effect.'

        'Drinking tea, coffee or other dark drinks through a straw works as it may help to reduce the time that your teeth are in contact with these beverages, meaning they should be less likely to stain - although this is not a fool-proof solution and ideally you should aim to reduce your consumption overall.'

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        How should you look after whitened teeth?

        Following a whitening treatment, avoid dark-coloured foods and beverages for at least 48 hours after the procedure, including coffee, tea, red wine and pasta sauce.

        'The enamel remains porous for this period of time making it easy for the above mentioned items to penetrate the outer surface of enamel and stain your teeth,' says Dr Coyle.

        'It is also essential to practice excellent oral hygiene – this includes, not only brushing but also flossing, after meals and before bedtime.'

        Does teeth whitening affect your enamel?

        Contrary to popular belief, your tooth enamel is safe. 'I get asked this a lot,' says Dr Coyle. 'The conclusive answer is no. Dental whitening products only remove surface stains that are in the microscopic pores of your teeth. The bleach does not penetrate deeply within the tooth.'

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        Teeth whitening risks

        It pays to shop around when finding the perfect teeth whitening service to suit you. 'It's important that only dentists registered with the General Dental Council carry out teeth whitening,' says Dr Coyle. 'Nobody else is qualified to do so. I cannot stress this concept enough.

        It is vital that your dentist confirms there are no issues requiring treatment in your mouth first.

        'If a dental professional is not doing the whitening, the mouthguard provided may not fit properly so some of the bleaching gel may leak out onto your gums and into your mouth, causing blistering and sensitivity.'

        Additionally, when it comes to DIY teeth whitening, home kits also come with health concerns. 'Online products may not be safety-approved and unregulated kits can contain higher and dangerous levels of the bleaching agent,' says Dr Coyle. 'It is vital that your dentist confirms there are no issues requiring treatment in your mouth before thinking about whitening your teeth. If something seems too good to be true – it usually is!'

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        Is it safe to whiten your teeth at home? (2024)


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