START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good

Are Teeth Whiteners Safe?

  • 1 of 2
Are Teeth Whiteners Safe?

By Brie Cadman, Divine Caroline

The scourge of yellow and stained teeth used be looked upon as almost a right of passage–once you became an adult, it was generally assumed your teeth would reflect the wear and tear of coffee, tea, wine, smoking, or just plain living. But less-than-pearly whites are now considered cosmetically damaging, something to be scrubbed, bleached, or zapped away. Toothpastes, gels, dentists, and even kiosks in the malls offer teeth whitening solutions. Almost all of them claim to be safe, but are they really? I’ve seen what happens when you bleach a T-shirt–it usually makes the fabric thin and weak–so what happens to our precious teeth when we bleach them back to our cream-colored past?

Fighting Tooth and Nail
Teeth whiteners work in two general ways, either through surface polishing or through bleaching the tooth and this makes all the difference in their effectiveness and side effects.

Most over-the-counter whitening toothpastes are non-bleaching, meaning they physically or chemically remove surface stains but leave the natural color of your teeth intact. They are often referred to as dentifrices and contain abrasives that polish the tooth or non-bleach chemicals, like sodium tripolyphosphate, that help remove stains. In general, whitening toothpastes can lighten the color of teeth slightly, but won’t be able to make them an entirely different color.

The other way to whiten teeth is through bleaching products, which contain peroxides that can change the intrinsic color of the tooth in addition to removing surface stains.

Many people know that brushing with a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide can help lighten teeth and this is essentially the same mechanism working in bleaching products. Over-the-counter home-based gels and solutions contain around 10 percent carbamide peroxide, which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and then bleaches the teeth.

Professionally applied teeth whiteners work in the same way, but their peroxide concentrations are higher, ranging from 15 to 35 percent. Sometimes they’re used in combination with a laser. While at-home methods usually involve strips that you’re supposed to apply for an hour or so over the course of a few weeks, professional treatment takes an hour or so. Safe or Silly?

Whitening toothpastes are generally considered safe, though people with gum or tooth erosion might want to consult a dentist before using. Teeth bleachers, on the other hand, do come with risks.

  • 1 of 2

Read more: Beauty, General Health, Health, Holistic Beauty, Oral Care,

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love


At, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at


+ add your own
6:13PM PDT on Apr 6, 2013


2:28AM PDT on Mar 23, 2013

Thanks for the info

1:34AM PST on Feb 14, 2013

Thank you :)

3:02AM PST on Nov 8, 2012

This is a nice guide for those who loves to use teeth weighteners. Make sure to do dental consulting to know which one's are safe.

1:47AM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

It amazes me how Americans never stop worrying about how white their teeth air! Bleachexia has become the new big phobia/OCD problem!

9:47PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

thanks =]

1:22PM PDT on Sep 7, 2011

Good information. I had wondered if bleaching your teeth was such a good thing. Think I'll use more natural whiteners.

4:49AM PDT on May 11, 2011

Thanks, my wife use them frequently and I just want some facts on the use of these.

6:26AM PST on Feb 24, 2011

forgive me -- I have so little time, and I want to use it for activism, so just here for points for the animals ...

2:04PM PDT on Aug 22, 2010

i will send this one to few of my patients. useful info.
Gainesville dentists

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Okay, I'm interested, but I need to know more about hormonal issues.

"I’m a strong supporter of natural health therapies, which sometimes also lack scientific proof…

I think I'll take the chocolate over the garlic. ;-)

Push-ups do wonders for the posture.


Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!