Just as there are ways to whiten teeth safely, from in-office treatment by your dentist to at-home whitening strips, there are also a number of methods that are neither safe nor very effective. Some supposed natural options seem appropriate, but they can cause lasting damage to your teeth too easily. For the best results, check with your dentist before bleaching and to avoid some of the following teeth whitening mistakes.
1. Overuse Whitening Strips
Whitening strips are an affordable, convenient way to get your teeth a bit whiter at home. Although they can effectively whiten your teeth, there is a risk of overuse in whitening strips based on how and when you put them on. Leaving these strips on your teeth for longer than instructed or using them more often than recommended won't necessarily make your teeth any whiter. In fact, it puts you at an increased risk for tooth sensitivity. If you want to use whitening strips, make sure you talk to your dentist first and follow the directions on the packaging.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is often suggested as a way to clean your teeth and remove surface stains, but as much as it may scrub the surface of your teeth and remove some spotting, baking soda isn't necessarily the best option for whitening. For one thing, it won't remove older stains. Its abrasiveness can also threaten to weaken parts of your enamel, increasing sensitivity just like a set of overused strips if you are regularly scrubbing your teeth with it. To remove these extrinsic stains, it's generally safer to rely on a tooth-whitening toothpaste than it is to dip your Colgate® 360°® Optic White® Platinum toothbrush in baking soda.
3. Food-Based Acids
Acids, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, are frequently recommended as an at-home teeth whitening treatment as well. In some cases you're encouraged to use the lemon juice along with baking soda, combining the two to make a paste. Unfortunately, using lemon juice or another acidic liquid to whiten your teeth is that acidic foods tend to cause enamel erosion, which can put you at an increased risk for cavities. Keep in mind the American Dental Association (ADA) listed lemons and other citrus fruits as among its top nine foods that damage teeth. If you want a whiter smile – and fewer cavities – it's best to skip using lemon juice for cosmetic purposes.
4. An Ill-Fitting Whitening Tray
If you see a dentist about teeth whitening, he or she can develop a special tray custom-fitted to your mouth to ensure the whitening gel stays in place during at-home and in-office treatments alike. Getting a tray that fits your teeth is incredibly important, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). One-size-fits-all teeth whitening trays commonly sold over-the-counter can cause the gel to leak if they don't fit your mouth quite right. Along with potentially irritating your gums, gel that leaks from this tray might not come through with the whitening results you were after. Even if you plan on whitening your teeth at home, it's a good idea to visit your dentist first and get a tray specially made for your mouth.
5. Any Product Not Designed for Teeth
Any product you use to whiten teeth should be a product that is designed to be used in the mouth, and has been shown to be safe. For example, although chlorine bleach does a good job of getting your laundry brighter, using it to bleach your teeth is a no-no.
If you aren't sure if a product is actually OK to use on your teeth, look for the ADA Seal or talk to your dentist about it. He or she can steer you in the direction of products that are made for and safe for oral care use.