For people who are concerned with their looks, sparkling white teeth are often top of the list.
Recently, recipes for teeth whitening preparations have popped up online that people can do at home.
They use combinations of hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar.
So, should you take on teeth whitening as a DIY project?
We turned to Perth dentist Dr Justina Teo for an expert take.
Is DIY teeth whitening safe?
Many of us are wanting to save money on beauty procedures due to cost of living. But Dr Teo has some warnings.
“Hydrogen peroxide is one of the main active ingredients for a lot of teeth whitening products,” she says.
“However these recipes don’t tell us what the concentration of the hydrogen peroxide should be, they’re just saying use one teaspoon or one tablespoon.
“That sounds a little bit arbitrary to me.”
The consequences of getting the wrong concentration can be serious — even leading to burned gums.
“Sometimes, if the peroxide goes on the gums, it actually turns the gums white,” Dr Teo says.
“That’s why it’s always really important to be doing these procedures correctly, to avoid adverse effects or anything that would really damage the tissues that are not necessarily meant to be whitened.
“I’m a little scared about how much hydrogen peroxide people might actually be putting in [these preparations].
“A lot of the time these things could potentially be ingested as well.”
Check the state of your mouth first
Before embarking on teeth whitening, it’s important to know the state of your oral health.
If you’ve had issues with your teeth, it can affect the success of whitening treatments and make them more painful, Dr Teo says.
“A lot of the time when people come in for a consult regarding teeth whitening, they might not even know what the conditions are in their mouth,” she says.
“They might not know if they’ve got composite fillings on their front teeth, which don’t actually whiten.
“Or perhaps [they have] decay … in between their teeth, which can potentially cause even more sensitivity.
“If they’ve got old fillings or porcelain restorations, they aren’t going to whiten. [They may] just be putting themselves up for disappointment by trying to whiten their teeth with these products.”
Why teeth whitening can hurt
Even people without oral health issues will likely experience some sensitivity from teeth whitening treatments, Dr Teo warns.
“The active ingredient is the hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, and that can actually cause a little bit of change in the proteins within the tooth itself,” she says.
“Basically, what we need to know is that the tooth is alive. It’s got a live nerve and a live blood supply within the pulp [inside the tooth].
“It’s kind of like putting peroxide on your skin or your face — you definitely will get sensitivity because [there are] nerve endings in there.”
Having teeth whitening done by a dentist usually takes between 60-90 minutes and involves four 15-minute cycles of treatment using both whitening gel and UV light.
Despite all this, a teeth whitening procedure won’t be permanent, and the effect will lessen over time, much like a spray tan.
Can you avoid stains?
If you concerned about your teeth yellowing, the other thing to take into consideration is whether you can avoid stains in the first place.
“If you have got a really avid coffee habit where you’re drinking black coffee every day, that can also cause pigmentation on your teeth [which] can make [them] look more discoloured,” Dr Teo says.
“If you smoke a fair bit, that can also cause the teeth to look a little bit more yellow from the stains picked up from the smoking.”
Some stains, however, are more difficult to avoid.
“If you were taking a lot of antibiotics, such as tetracycline as a child, that can actually cause intrinsic staining that can cause the teeth to look grey or darker,” Dr Teo says.
“If a tooth is non-vital, it’s dead, or if you’ve had trauma to your teeth, that can also cause the teeth to look a lot darker as well.”
Teeth yellowing is also simply a part of ageing.
“As we get older, the teeth do tend to have more of a yellow appearance, because there’s more and more of the dentin showing, which is the underlying second layer of the tooth that’s been laid down.”
Dr Justina Teo spoke to Christine Layton on ABC Radio Perth Afternoons.
This is general information only. For personal advice, you should see a qualified medical practitioner.
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