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Busting four myths about teeth whitening

As the demand for bright, picture-perfect teeth increases, so does the variety of whitening methods featured in online stories and videos. Unfortunately, not every method is safe, let alone effective, in brightening your smile.

In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to post a video or product recommendation online. But you can’t trust everything you see online. As the demand for bright, picture-perfect teeth increases, so does the variety of whitening methods featured in online stories and videos. Unfortunately, not every method is safe, let alone effective, in brightening your smile. The North Carolina Dental Society fact checks four common myths about teeth whitening in today’s DIY world.

“Your dentist wants you to be happy and confident with your smile,” said Dr. Dani Stansell, a dentist in Raleigh. “Many of my patients want to brighten their smiles and ask me about whitening tips they’ve read about or seen online. Unfortunately, most DIY whitening methods aren’t necessarily safe or approved by your dentist, and may suggest you use harsh ingredients that can damage teeth. It’s best to consult with a dentist before using any kind of whitening product.” 

The North Carolina Dental Society warns against four common myths when it comes to whitening your teeth:

  • “You should try activated charcoal” – Probably the most trending DIY method in today’s social world involves brushing your teeth with activated charcoal. But, before you make a quick online purchase, be aware that charcoal itself contains harsh and abrasive properties that can damage your tooth enamel. According to the American Dental Association, there is no evidence indicating whitening with charcoal is either safe or effective.
  • “Strawberries and lemon can whiten your teeth” – Fruits contain antioxidants and other health benefits. However, rubbing your teeth with crushed strawberries or lemon in an attempt to brighten your smile could result in the opposite effect, essentially eroding your enamel. The acids found in strawberries and lemons can both weaken and demineralize your teeth.
  • “Whitening works well for everyone” – Most in-office bleaching treatments work well for patients with some yellow discoloration, assuming healthy teeth and gums. According to the American Dental Association, however, brown- and gray-stained teeth may not respond well to bleaching, nor will whitening work on caps, veneers, crowns or fillings. Your dentist should clearly communicate your anticipated results based on your recommended treatment plan.
  • “Professional whitening is permanent” – In general, whitening treatments typically last anywhere from six months to three years, depending on your diet, lifestyle and how easily your teeth become stained. When you talk to your dentist about safe whitening options, be sure to understand the long-term maintenance requirements.

Teeth whitening can be more complex than it seems. Since many DIY whitening methods have proven to be unsafe and ineffective, consult with your dentist about in-office bleaching or custom whitening trays. Teeth whitening should be supervised or approved by your dentist first.

You might also consider over-the-counter whitening products that have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance, meaning they’ve met the American Dental Association’s criteria for safety and efficacy.

To learn more about teeth whitening and best practices for your oral health, please visit mouthhealthy.org or consult a dentist in your area.

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 About the North Carolina Dental Society
The North Carolina Dental Society was founded in 1856 and remains one of the oldest dental societies in the country. Representing 3,900 member dentists across the state, our mission is to help all members succeed. The NC Dental Society is a part of the American Dental Association, the nation's largest dental association, representing 163,000 member dentists, and the leading source of oral health information. For more information, visit https://www.ncdental.org.

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