Are Pinterest Tooth Whitening "Hacks" Safe?

A white smile is not only attractive but can also make you look younger. As the tooth whitening trend gains steam, an increasing number of people are looking for ways to cut costs and add convenience to the process by whitening their teeth at home. Pinterest and other popular websites offer lots of methods for whitening teeth at home, but are these dental life hacks safe?

No, They're Not

It's generally a very bad idea to follow medical advice from any source other than your doctor, and tooth whitening advice is no exception. Although popular, some DIY tooth whitening methods actually make teeth appear more yellow because they remove enamel during brushing. Enamel is the hard outer coating that protects your teeth. Once it's gone, it takes a lot of work to remineralize the enamel — and without it, you're at an increased risk for cavities, tooth sensitivity and other dental issues.

At best, home whitening methods like rubbing a banana peel against your teeth are ineffective and perhaps a bit odd. Others can cause serious damage. One dangerous but popular home tooth whitening remedy involves applying a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice to the teeth. Unfortunately, baking soda is abrasive and lemon juice is acidic. Acidic and abrasive substances are both known to damage teeth, not whiten them.

Dentist-Approved Alternatives

In the office, dentists use bleach gels and special lights to whiten teeth because these methods whiten both the enamel and the dentin located inside the teeth, which yellows with age. Most home whitening remedies can't reach the dentin, which means your teeth will continue to look yellow no matter how often you whiten them. Your dentist's tooth whitening methods aren't only more effective than home remedies, they're also safer.

Before whitening your teeth, your dentist will examine them. Whitening unhealthy teeth can cause expensive and painful dental issues. It's a mistake your dentist can keep you from making. Your dentist can also make custom whitening trays for you that will keep bleaching agents away from gums, which are often sensitive to bleaching chemicals. If you want to whiten at home, ask your dentist to give you your custom trays and recommend a bleaching product he trusts.

Getting your teeth whitened at the dentist admittedly costs a bit more than DIY methods, but your health and safety are well worth the money. Be aware that the FDA doesn't regulate tooth whiteners because they aren't considered drugs. The wrong home remedy or over-the-counter whitening product can have serious and painful consequences. They simply aren't worth the risk. Don't ruin your smile while trying to make it better. Instead, make an appointment with your dentist and discuss safe whitening options.

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