Whiter teeth can make you look younger and feel more attractive. It’s no wonder that teeth whitening has become insanely popular. These days, we have about a million teeth whitening options to choose from. If you don’t want to go to your dentist for a professional whitening, you can opt for an at-home kit that contains everything from activated charcoal to baking soda.
But not every teeth whitening method is safe nor effective. And it’s possible you might be whitening your teeth the wrong way. Here are the top seven teeth whitening mistakes according to the experts.
1. Overusing Whitening Strips
At-home whitening strips can be an easy and affordable way to get your teeth a few shades whiter. Yes, they can be effective, but if you overuse them–wearing them too long and too often–you can start to cause some damage. Overuse also increases your risk of developing tooth sensitivity.
When using at-home whitening strips, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They’ll let you know how long to keep them on and how often to use them. If you find yourself experiencing discomfort after using whitening strips, you should talk to your dentist.
2. Using Trays That Don’t Fit Properly
Teeth whitening trays that are sold in stores are one-size-fits-all. But all mouths are different, so using a generic-sized tray can lead to problems.
If the tray doesn’t fit properly in your mouth, the whitening gel can leak and potentially irritate your gums. Yikes.
Over-the-counter teeth whitening trays might seem like a good idea, but you’re better off going to the dentist and getting a customized tray. It may be more expensive, but at least you know those trays won’t cause irritation.
3. Brushing With Whitening Toothpaste Too Often
Whitening toothpaste can give you a brighter smile almost instantly. But those immediate results might be causing some long-term damage. According to dental hygienist Jennifer Berg, RDH, you don’t want to use whitening toothpaste every day.
“This type of toothpaste, including charcoal toothpastes, usually contains abrasives to create that polished effect,” explained Berg to Yahoo News.
Because it’s so abrasive, it can remove tooth enamel and cause gum recession. This can expose the root surface of the tooth and lead to painful tooth wear. Instead of using a whitening toothpaste, Berg says to brush daily using a multi-purpose toothpaste with fluoride.
4. Using Random Products Not Designed For Teeth
While baking soda is an ingredient found in different kinds of toothpaste, that doesn’t mean you should be whitening your teeth with household baking soda. It’s abrasive, can weaken parts of your enamel, and increase sensitivity. Plus, it doesn’t really work. Any household product not designed for teeth–like hydrogen peroxide or bleach–can cause damage.
So, let’s just stick to the basics here.
5. Incorporating The Use Of Acidic Liquids
The same can be said for lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and other acidic liquids. They can cause enamel erosion and put you at risk for cavities. According to the American Dental Association, lemons and other citrus are actually some of the top teeth-damaging foods.
“Acidic fruits have a low pH, which means that they are very effective in dissolving dental enamel,” Michael Gulizio, DMD, MS, cosmetic dentist and co-founder of Core Smiles told Real Simple. “Once enamel has been lost, it won’t grow back. The erosive process that dissolves tooth enamel can cause tooth sensitivity, dental cavity, and ultimately gum tissue recession.”
6. Not Brushing Or Flossing First
Teeth whitening is not a replacement for your oral care routine. Instead, it should be an added bonus.
You should always prep your teeth first by brushing and flossing before whitening to get the best results. This is because plaque and food particles left on the tooth’s surface can interfere with the brightening process.
“If there is residue on your teeth, it will prevent the whitening product from seeping into your tooth’s enamel and down to the stains,” Berg said.
7. Avoiding Your Dentist
It’s tempting to want to tackle the teeth whitening process on your own, but not consulting your dentist before experimenting with at-home whitening methods isn’t really a good idea.
Not everyone is a candidate for teeth whitening due to sensitivities and restorations. For example, crowns, veneers, and fillings are made of porcelain or composite materials. Unlike enamel, they will not whiten. In fact, they might even look darker compared to your natural teeth if you try whitening them.
“Not seeking guidance from your dentist before bleaching can have long-term negative effects,” Berg says. “People who have tooth-colored fillings or restorations in their ‘smile zone’ should limit the whitening they do.”
Your dentist will let you know if teeth whitening will work for you. Plus, they will guide you toward the best options.
At-home teeth whitening can be done both safely and effectively, but let’s try and avoid these top seven mistakes. And it wouldn’t hurt to talk to your dentist first.