Is at-home teeth whitening safe? A cosmetic dentist weighs in

Over the past few months, we’ve all learned how to take most of our beauty treatments, quite literally, in house. But when it comes to teeth whitening, is it best left to the professionals? Stylist asks cosmetic dentist Dr Krystyna Wilczynski to weigh in.

In the past few months alone we’ve learned to cut our own hair, paint our own nails and give ourselves a facial. In fact, it seems there’s no limit to the beauty treatments we’re willing to take into our own hands. Up there on the list of DIY beauty rituals we’ve tried throughout lockdown is teeth whitening. According to recent research by Clearpay, sales of teeth whitening products have increased by 180% since lockdown commenced back in April. 

But what is fuelling this surge of interest? “There is a lot of propaganda and social media marketing for at home whitening kits, including on Instagram, Facebook and from influencers,” explains Dr Krystyna Wilczynski, cosmetic dentist at White & Co dental clinic. “Also, apps such as Facetune which allow you to smooth skin and whiten teeth can influence and encourage people to have this done.” The problem is, as with all matters of the teeth, teeth whitening treatments and products should be approached with caution. “We need to ensure it is done safely and correctly,” she warns.

Still intrigued by DIY teeth whitening? We quizzed Dr Wilczynski for all the need-to-knows.

Is it safe to try at-home teeth whitening?

Yes, but only with the right equipment, says Dr Wilczynski. “It is safe to whiten your teeth at home, so long as the dental trays and gels have been provided by a dentist and not bought off the internet,” she explains. “The trays need to be custom made by a dentist, by either digitally scanning or taking moulds of the teeth. These are sent to specific dental labs who create them. If people buy these trays off the internet, it can often lead to disasters where they have bought illegal bleach that has caused permanent damage to teeth and gums e.g. recession.” At Dr Wilczynski’s clinic, White & Co, for instance, teeth whitening treatments start at £350. 

What’s the best way to whiten teeth?

“My recommendation would be the combination of dental chair in-house bleaching and at home professional tray bleaching, which is the gold standard,” she recommends. “The dental in-house bleaching is not sufficient as a stand-alone treatment due to it only bleaching the outside enamel. The home kits will take the bleach further and deeper into the teeth for longer lasting, even and better bleaching.”

“I would only recommend those [home bleaching kits] that enhance the whiteness of your teeth such as Whitewash Laboratories. Their whitening toothpastes provide excellent results with minimum sensitivity. And I would also recommend Phillips Zoom,” she adds.

Do teeth whitening strips work?

“Whitening strips are definitely good, particularly if you want a boost just before an event. However, they are not ideal for long standing whitening and you need to be cautious about which ones you purchase and check that they are FDA approved here in the UK,” Dr Wilczynski explains. She’d recommend Whitewash Professional Whitening Strips, which are FDA approved and follow all the vital peroxide guidelines, but are only available through your dentist. 

And what about teeth-whitening hacks: are any of them safe?

“Do not attempt to whiten your teeth yourself at home with ingredients such as baking soda, which are damaging to the enamel,” she warns. “Only opt for professional teeth whitening options and those which are FDA approved.”

Do whitening toothpastes work?

“They work in the way that they remove extrinsic staining caused by things such as coffee and smoking.” Dr Wilczynski explains. “This is because they are abrasive and do not contain peroxide to bleach teeth. They contain ingredients such as silica, which scrub the surface of the teeth, working to deeply clean the outside layer.”

“Some whitening toothpastes contain the chemical blue covarine, which adheres to the surface of the teeth and creates an optical illusion that can make teeth appear less yellow,” she adds.

And finally: are charcoal toothpastes any good?

We’ve all heard that charcoal-infused toothpastes can lead to whiter smiles, but heed Dr Wilczynski’s warning. “The charcoal can wear the enamel away, which is the hard-outer coating of your teeth that protects the dentine,” she explains. “Dentine is what the bulk of your tooth is made up of and is naturally yellow in colour. Enamel is naturally white, so if you use a toothpaste that is abrasive and wears the enamel away, it becomes more translucent, causing the yellow dental to show through and eventually making your teeth appear more yellow. Therefore, charcoal toothpastes do not work and actually damage your teeth.”

Images: Getty Images.

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