The dentist reveals what to do instead of the ‘harmful’ teeth whitening trend

In an age of dating apps and social media, many of us feel more self-conscious than ever about the color of our teeth.

About 37 million people in the U.S. used teeth whiteners as of 2020, according to U.S. Census data, with Americans spending billions of dollars each year on at-home whitening products. The #teethwhitening topic has been used over 300,000 times on TikTok, but could these home remedies do more harm than good?

Newsweek spoke with cosmetic dentist and social media star Joyce Kahng, @joycethedentist, to find out.

“A common set of misconceptions surround the realm of teeth whitening, fueled in part by trends and misinformation, particularly evident on platforms like TikTok,” Kahng said. Newsweek.

White teeth
Stock image of a person’s smile. Many teeth whitening methods can be harmful to our teeth, or simply ineffective.

LuckyBusiness/Getty

Kahng highlighted four particularly misleading trends: “For starters, using natural remedies like turmeric for teeth whitening is wrong. Despite its popularity, there is no scientific support for turmeric as a whitening agent and its color intense yellow certainly does not suggest it would be effective.

“Another trend is the use of coconut oil, which, although it may leave teeth feeling cleaner, has no scientific evidence to support any actual whitening effect. Similarly, charcoal-based products are often believed to mistakenly believed to be useful for whitening teeth.While charcoal is indeed abrasive and can remove surface stains, its abrasiveness can be too harsh on teeth.

“Furthermore, there is a tendency to use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash. Although hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, at this concentration, it is both too weak for effective bleaching and potentially harmful to the gums. unless diluted. It is essential to remember that whitening products should be used in a targeted manner, rather than indiscriminately applied throughout the mouth.”

So if you want a famous smile, what should you do to whiten your teeth? First, it is important to understand that there are different types of tooth staining.

“When it comes to teeth whitening, we’re basically treating two types of stains: external and internal,” Kahng said. “Extrinsic stains are those on the outer surface of the teeth, usually caused by substances such as coffee and tea. These can often be removed during dental cleanings, so teeth can look significantly brighter after such appointments.

Tooth whitening pastes are primarily designed to target these types of surface stains. “They serve not only to remove blemishes, but also to prevent the formation of new ones,” said Kahng. “However, if external stains are not treated immediately, they can penetrate deeper into the teeth, becoming internal stains.

“Intrinsic stains get embedded inside the tooth and require more powerful treatments to break them up, such as peroxide-based products like whitening strips or gels. So while whitening toothpastes can be effective for surface stains, they don’t discolor the tooth from the inside.”

Some whitening pastes can damage teeth if they’re too abrasive, so it’s always best to check with your dentist if you’re unsure about which products to use. That includes some charcoal toothpastes, which Kahng said can be too abrasive.

“[However,]by applying proper brushing techniques, using gentle strokes and not applying excessive pressure, even higher-abrasive toothpastes can be used safely within recommended guidelines,” it said. Kahng.

With that in mind, what does Kahng use to maintain her pearly whites? “For daily maintenance, I prefer to use a whitening toothpaste that’s in the medium to high abrasive range,” she said.

“I think this level provides just the right amount of crunch to keep teeth clean without being too harsh, especially since most people tend to brush more aggressively than they should.

“As for my personal whitening regimen, because of my professional training, I use a unique method. I reuse my Invisalign aligners as custom whitening trays, which I find to be very effective. I pair these trays with an opalescent whitening gel, available in my office, in high concentrations—either 15 percent or 35 percent. This allows for a more powerful whitening effect, tailored to my needs.

“I advocate the use of custom trays for anyone considering teeth whitening. They are an excellent investment for achieving fast and efficient results. This method allows you to use professional-grade highly concentrated gels that are more effective and more cost-effective in the long term compared to over-the-counter options[…]without unnecessary additives”.

However, teeth whitening is not just a one-off exercise: it requires maintenance. And the amount of maintenance required depends a lot on our diet. “Diet plays an important role in tooth staining,” Kahng said.

“Common culprits like coffee can lead to visible staining over time, even for those who regularly whiten their teeth.[…]The more someone indulges in foods and drinks known to stain their teeth, the more often they may need to undergo whitening treatments to maintain their desired level of brightness.”

Are there any health problems that are bothering you? Do you have any questions about teeth whitening? Tell us via [email protected]. We may ask for expert advice and your story may appear on Newsweek.