Whitening toothpastes, mouth washes, whitening trays, and gel strips are commonplace in many of our households, and for the most part, they’re perfectly safe for semi-regular use.
But if products like whitening toothpaste are used more frequently than the recommendation on the label, or if they have too much of the active ingredients that bleach teeth, they could be doing harm to your oral health, causing tooth sensitivity or tissue damage in some patients.
How whitening toothpaste works
Whitening toothpastes work by removing stains on the surface of your teeth from frequent exposure to dark-colored foods and beverages like tea, coffee or wine. Some whitening toothpastes include chemicals like peroxide that help break down surface stains to remove them. Other whitening toothpastes contain abrasives like baking soda or silica that work to gently scrub off surface stains as you brush your teeth.
Over-the-counter whitening toothpastes only lighten stains on the surface of teeth — they don’t work to change the natural color of teeth or penetrate deeper than the tooth’s outer surface.
The risks of using whitening toothpastes
When you purchase a whitening toothpaste, always read the label to see how frequently you can use it. Some whitening products are too strong for everyday use and can cause issues over time including:
Increased sensitivity: When whitening toothpastes are used regularly, some patients experience increased tooth sensitivity, which can feel like a wave or rush of pain as a response to cold air or cold liquid. While we don’t exactly know why whitening toothpaste increases sensitivity, the likely culprit is the peroxide that acts as the main ingredient to help bleach the tooth’s surface. The peroxide can irritate the tooth’s nerve, which causes inflammation and irritation that contributes to symptoms such as tingling or cold sensitivity.
Tissue damage: Whitening toothpastes with higher concentrations of peroxide can cause gum irritation, and even tissue damage, if they are used more frequently than the label recommends. Gel whitening strips or trays can also cause chemical burns if the peroxide sits on mouth tissue for too long instead of the tooth. If you are going to use these products at home, be careful to wipe excess whitening agents off your gums and mouth tissue. Similarly with abrasive whitening toothpastes, the active ingredients like baking soda can cause irritation in some patients. If you notice a reaction to whitening products, stop using them immediately.
If you would like to whiten your teeth, professionally-applied peroxide products can be an effective option that is usually done in the form of a gel tray or strip. Dentist-administered teeth whiteners are able to penetrate deeper into the tooth to reach stains in the tooth enamel that over-the-counter whiteners can’t. If you would like to learn more about professional teeth whitening, contact us today.