Should You Whiten Your Teeth at Home?

December 26, 2013

For thousands of years, we humans have tried just about every method imaginable to remove stains from our teeth. While the ingredients have changed, modern homemade teeth whiteners still use abrasive agents to lift and scrub away enamel discolorations from the comfort and convenience of home. But are these DIY solutions worth the time and effort? Lake Orion MI dentist, Dr. Brad Greenfield, examines one of today’s more popular home whitening recipes and compares it to professional teeth whitening treatments available at the dentist’s office.

A Closer Look at a Popular Homemade Teeth Whitener

Texts dating back to the 4th century A.D. describe recipes for “white and perfect teeth” made from rock salt, dried flowers, and mint leaves. A popular Victorian teeth whitening formula called for ground cuttlefish bone and vinegar. If you’ve spent any amount of time on Pinterest or Facebook lately, you’ve probably seen a recipe for budget teeth whitening that promises incredible results in just one or two applications. First, you make a paste out of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Then you scrub the paste onto your teeth with a toothbrush and let it remain there for a couple of minutes. Finally, rinse with water and admire your brighter smile in the mirror.

Both hydrogen peroxide and baking soda effectively remove microscopic color molecules (called chromagens) that cause your tooth enamel to look discolored. Baking soda is an abrasive that scrubs away stains while hydrogen peroxide oxidizes and lifts them. However, Dr. Greenfield notes, using this formula more than once or twice a month can have two negative side effects:

  1. If used too often or applied to vigorously, baking soda is highly abrasive and can wear down your enamel.
  2. Using this method, you won’t be able to avoid contact between the paste and your gums, and hydrogen peroxide can irritate your gum tissue after prolonged contact.

Some people who’ve tried this method have noticed white patches on the gums after use, although these patches disappear within a few hours. If you’re still gung-ho about using this home remedy, Dr. Greenfield recommends proceeding with caution and discussing it with your dentist at your next checkup.

Your Best Bet: Professional At-Home Whitening

If yellowish or brownish teeth stains make you feel embarrassed about your smile, your family dentist has a few options that can whiten your teeth safely and more effectively than DIY methods. At-home whitening trays are affordable and easy to use. Dr. Greenfield points out that whitening trays are custom made to fit snugly on your teeth, holding the whitening formula against your enamel and minimizing contact with the sensitive gums. If you want to scrap the at-home approach altogether, you can also talk to your dentist about in-office whitening. Zoom! Whitening, a popular in-office treatment, utilizes a highly concentrated peroxide formula to brighten enamel several shades in about an hour.

About Brad Greenfield, DDS

Dr. Brad Greenfield practices family, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry with a holistic approach. To schedule an appointment at our Lake Orion, MI dentist office, call (248) 693-6213. We proudly serve patients of all ages in Clarkston, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Rochester Hills, and neighboring communities.

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