Is Teeth Whitening Safe?

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Many people want to achieve the “perfect” smile by whitening their teeth. Some people undergo teeth whitening procedures that can have consequences. While having yellow teeth is sometimes associated with poor hygiene, this is not the case and is not true for everyone. 

In this article, we delve into the topic of teeth whitening and how you can make a better-informed decision before doing it. 

Are yellow teeth a sign of poor dental health?

Whether or not yellow teeth are unhealthy depends on what’s causing them to appear yellow. It’s natural for our teeth to have a slightly yellow tinge. This is due to a yellowish layer known as dentin found beneath the enamel of our teeth. It is this layer that is often responsible for the slightly yellow tinge of our teeth.

However, there are cases of tooth discolouration that are excessive. When teeth appear stained a dark yellow or with plaque, this can be an indicator of poor oral hygiene.

What causes yellow teeth?

There are several reasons why teeth can discolour or appear yellow. 


The natural ageing process causes tooth enamel to wear, exposing the natural colour of the dentin underneath.


There are certain medicines that can cause teeth to discolour and turn yellow. These include antibiotics like tetracycline and its derivatives. Antihypertensives, antihistamines and antipsychotics may cause teeth to stain yellow. Chlorhexidine mouthwash can also discolour teeth covered with plaque.

Exposure to fluoride 

Fluorosis of teeth can cause yellow spots on teeth. This happens when a person is exposed to high levels of fluoride in toothpaste, fluoride supplements or fluoridated water. Children using toothpaste with high fluoride content are more susceptible to the discolouration of their teeth.

Lifestyle habits

Certain lifestyle habits can lead to yellowing of the teeth, such as smoking or chewing tobacco. A habit of having caffeinated drinks like coffee or drinking wine can stain teeth. 

Failing to maintain good dental hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing, can lead to the building of plaque and stains which causes teeth to appear yellow.

What medical procedures are available for teeth whitening? 

There are different options available to whiten your teeth. When an extensive dental cleaning can’t whiten teeth, bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide may be used. 

A teeth whitening procedure, known as Zoom, can take less than an hour to complete. In this procedure, only the teeth are exposed and the lips and gums are covered. The hydrogen peroxide gel is then applied to the teeth. 

In this 45-minute session, an LED lamp is used over the gel every 15 minutes. These three sessions of light activation cause the hydrogen peroxide to break down, allowing for oxygen to enter the tooth enamel and dentin. This bleaches any stains or discolouration found on teeth. A fluoride gel is immediately applied thereafter to prevent tooth sensitivity.

You could also opt to get a more cost-effective treatment which includes a teeth whitening tray, custom-made by your dentist. This looks similar to a mouthguard, only it’s filled with a peroxide-based whitening gel. The custom fit ensures that all surfaces of the teeth are covered. 

It may take a week or two for the tray to be made and a similar amount of time for treatment. The tray has to be filled with a bleaching agent and worn for about an hour a day or more, depending on your dentist’s recommendation. Once the desired whiteness is achieved, the tray can be removed. 

How can you whiten your teeth at home?

Home remedies for teeth whitening might provide a quick fix, however, they are not as effective and do not last as long as in-office treatments at your dentist. There are tooth whitening kinds of toothpaste, whitening strips and gels available over-the-counter. These products may contain low-dose hydrogen peroxide for a bleaching effect. 

Ingredients found at home can also be used to whiten teeth, such as brushing with baking soda and lemon juice. Coconut oil can be used to whiten teeth in a method known as oil pulling. This involves swishing coconut oil around in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. A miswak stick, which is a natural toothbrush derived from the Salvadora persica plant, is also used for its tooth-whitening properties.

Can you prevent teeth from yellowing?

Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and improving oral hygiene, is a good start to preventing tooth discolouration. Regularly brushing and flossing teeth can prevent plaque build-up which may contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel. 

You can also avoid the overconsumption of food and drinks that can stain the teeth yellow. These include wine, coffee, black tea, sauces, carbonated drinks, betel nuts, berries and brightly coloured candies.

Is teeth whitening safe and worth it?

Teeth whitening is generally safe, however, it’s best to get your dentist’s advice before using a product you aren’t sure about. Some easily accessible teeth whiteners can contain corrosive ingredients which can damage the enamel of your teeth and cause severe sensitivity. It’s also important to use a teeth whitener for the recommended amount of time to avoid adverse effects.

There are certain dental conditions which can make teeth whitening an unsuitable option. This includes gum recession, existing cosmetic treatments and severe tooth decay. Therefore, a consultation with your dentist should be the first step to determine what the best options for you are.

Tooth whitening is not a permanent procedure. If done correctly, it is safe. The best way to ensure teeth whitening is done safely at home is by consulting a dentist.

Teeth whitening can cause some symptoms. Most commonly, people may experience slight discomfort if they have sensitive teeth. Other side effects may include sensitivity of hot and/or cold food and drink, tingling sensations, inflamed teeth and stomach pain. Consult a dentist if you are experiencing severe pain or any side effects.

Teeth whitening can help improve your confidence greatly, as it can enhance a smile aesthetically. However, there are some side effects to teeth whitening. Likewise, teeth whitening can be done for an affordable price at-home. But, not all at-home teeth whitening methods are safe and can have consequences long-term if not done appropriately.

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