Home Tooth Whitening: Is It A Good Idea?

18 December 2014
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


A whiter and brighter smile can improve your appearance and your confidence. Home whitening kits promise whiter teeth fast, but they are not always the best or the safest option. Understanding the limitations of a home kit will help you make an educated decision when it comes to cleaning up your smile.

It May Not Work

Not all tooth discoloration is because of stains. The only way to find out why your teeth are discolored is to have a thorough examination by your dentist. Common reasons for dull, stained or discolored teeth include:

  • Tooth decay. Cavities and worn enamel can both make a tooth look discolored, and home whitening products will do nothing to solve the problem.

  • Exposed roots. Dark discolorations near the gum line may be exposed roots, either from gum injury or gum disease. Whitening cannot lighten the roots.

  • Abscesses. Much like decay, whitening is useless against an abscess.

  • Intrinsic discoloration. Unlike stains on tooth enamel, intrinsic discoloration affects the dentin deeper in the tooth. Surface whitening treatments can't penetrate deeply enough to lighten this kind of discoloration. Common causes of intrinsic discoloration include antibiotics or overuse of fluoride as a child.

Whitening Can Cause Pain

If you're prone to sensitive tooth issues, home whitening can make the problem even worse. Most home whitening kits use hydrogen peroxide as the bleaching agent. The peroxide can irritate the gums or the teeth, resulting in painful sensitivity. Minor cases can often be self medicated with a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. If you have major sensitivity issues, home whitening isn't a good option.

Damage May Occur

Although home whitening kits are generally safe for home use, damage can occur. The best way to avoid tooth damage is to first visit your dentist. They can tell you whether your tooth structure is a good fit for home whitening, and often advise on which products will work best for your unique issues.

Some home whitening products contain carbamide peroxide, which is a mild acid. For most healthy teeth this isn't a problem, but it can cause etching to the enamel if you have soft or damaged teeth. Generally, hydrogen peroxide products that only remain active for an hour or less are a better option if you don't want to take any chances with tooth damage.

Professional Options

If you are worried about home whitening kits, your dentist can perform whitening procedures in their office, like those at Family First Dentistry LLC. This gives you the benefit of a skilled professional that will select the best method for your dental needs. Dentists generally use laser whitening, which will not damage or irritate the gums, or a bleaching tray. Laser methods may require up to three treatments. A custom fit bleaching tray is designed by your dentist for home use, so you can keep up with your whitening treatments without scheduling an office visit.