Who doesn’t love pearly whites? The trend for white teeth is not new – but it has been fuelled greatly by social media, influencers, and of course television. Amid the growing demand for a whiter smile, people have been rushing to dentist offices for whitening procedures, crowns, and even veneers. With these uprisings comes an increasing amount of DIY whitening techniques, all in an attempt to produce the same results as seen on television without the cost.
As is the case with almost all do-it-yourself social trends, these mass-approved do-it-yourself whitening methods can be harmful, and their implementation could produce devastating results despite their popularity and social media assurance. Only proven methods and practices should be adopted, following advice from your dental health practitioner.
To learn which DIY methods exist today in the web hemisphere and learn how and why they damage your teeth, continue reading.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work Again?
Our teeth are subjected to all types of food and drink stains on the regular. When these stains are intrinsic in nature or extrinsic, but cannot be removed by scaling and polishing procedures alone, measures such as teeth whitening/bleaching and microabrasion may need to be performed. This involves the use of controlled chemicals, micro-abrasive substances, and cosmetic dentistry that either bleach the tooth from the inside, remove the outermost stains, or replace the original structure to make the teeth more aesthetically pleasing and appear whiter.
Popular DIY Whitening Methods
The internet is flooded with information about ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ materials that can be used to whiten your teeth at home. Popular materials circulating the web include:
- Activated Charcoal
- Kaolin Clay
- Fruit Peels or Mashed Fruit
- Baking Soda
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Each of these methods claim to work and by different mechanisms, they do to some degree; but the general consensus by experts remains the same – they are against it. A resulting damaged tooth may require extensive treatment, extraction, and replacement using a dental implant. For a consultation following suspected tooth damage, or to find out more about the tooth implant cost, please contact your dental practitioner for expert care.
Listed below are four reasons why to avoid these methods in their entirety.
- Abrasion of Teeth
Though controlled abrasion is used by some kinds of whitening toothpaste and by dentists alike to remove surface defects and remove discoloration, the process must be carried out by a professional in a standard setting, with the safety of the method being the top priority. The use of activated charcoal in the mouth has been deemed unsuitable, as it is more abrasive to the tooth surface.
When this is done at home, unsupervised, tooth surface damage is inevitable and also irreversible.
- Erosion of Teeth
The term erosion refers to the destruction and loss of tooth structure, due to acid or chemical impact. This often creates sensitivity as layers of enamel and dentine are stripped away, in turn, causing a worse aesthetic outcome. Acids from citrus fruits such as lemons, strawberries, and vinegar cause the erosion of tooth enamel, a condition that often requires complex treatment for its undoing.
By rubbing and applying these acids to teeth, surface porosities can increase, increasing sensitivity and causing pain; there may be dental pulp insult in an otherwise healthy pulp and of course the predictable dissolving of the tooth’s structure itself. The combination of all these events causes injury to the tooth that proper whitening methods do not show signs of.
- The Dangerous Cycle
Since these methods are not proven and cause inadequate results, people tend to repeat the methods often and even increase the intensity, duration, and amount of product they are using. This dangerous cycle of adding ‘more’ thinking that it is the solution makes the DIY whitening method even harsher, resulting in extensive damage to teeth that ultimately only a dentist can help fix.
Prolonged use of such substances without standard control, safety, and protocol can be dangerous to the soft tissues in the mouth, adversely affecting your well-being and dental health.
- More Harmful to Some Than Others
There is not a one size fits all solution.
These DIY whitening methods are propagated as a one-stop solution for everyone, but even safe medication needs to be advised with thorough precaution and a health expert’s guidance. Some of the whitening methods, if ingested, may cause mouth ulcers, increased sensitivity, gingival trauma and swelling, tooth erosion, tooth abrasion, and even gastric upset.
Everyone has a different set of teeth with different needs; if these methods were applied to already sensitive teeth, sensitivity may increase in severity, teeth with cavities may suffer pulp trauma and cause an exacerbation of pain. Patients with pre-existing gum problems such as gingivitis or periodontitis will cause greater injury to their compromised gums, delaying healing and proper treatment. All in all, whitening offered through the guidance of dental professionals has been curated to suit you and your needs whilst being the safest option available.
Is It Worth It?
Studies have shown that none of these methods guarantee actual whitening or bleaching of the teeth. Though it may work for some people, the risk of potential damage far outweighs the transient whitening effect the method allegedly offers. Until further research and evidence for these DIY whitening methods come forward, it is irresponsible and futile to put your teeth in harm’s way and cause possibly irreversible damage that will need to be treated. Therefore, when it comes to do-it-yourself whitening methods, it really is best to avoid them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Hanaa Nasir is a dental professional, currently pursuing her Masters in Oral Surgery. She has worked for a recognized dental hospital in Pakistan and is in the process of attaining her further education in Australia. Still in the early process of her research based on Psychology and Dentistry, she aims to advocate for dental care to be integrated with mental health. Dr. Nasir dedicates most of her time to science and medicine, balancing them with her passions – poetry and art.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: pvproductions.