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Truth Behind My Smile

Dentists warn of the dangers of DIY Tooth Whitening

April 7, 2011

As the popularity of teeth whitening continues to grow, dentists are concerned about the dangers of DIY whitening kits available for sale on the internet. Whiter, brighter teeth have an instant anti-ageing effect and give a ‘smile confidence’ that everyone loves. But in the pursuit of a Hollywood smile, consumers are risking the health of their teeth as cheap kits containing poor quality goods and strong chemicals can cause serious damage to enamel and gums.

Whitening kits often include a whitening gel which will contain ingredients such as Carbamide Peroxide or Hydrogen Peroxide plus mouth trays which are filled with the gel and fit over the teeth. Alternatively you can buy strips which mould around the teeth and are impregnated with a bleaching agent.

Worryingly, some websites claim their systems deliver results ‘within minutes’ when typically home kits should be used over a series of nights or even weeks. Others claim to be more effective than professional treatments or that their system is the same as ones used by dentists. “Comparing at-home kits to professional treatment is a worrying trend that I feel is very misleading for the public. Laser whitening and clinic treatments must be carried out by experienced dentists and we’ve seen the consequences of DIY treatments that have gone wrong.” States Dr Kaman from the Implant and Aesthetic Center in Budapest.

Russell Fraser from Scotland found out the real cost of using a DIY treatment when he tried an at-home kit. He’d had his teeth professionally whitened the year before and wanted to top up the effect without spending the same money and so bought a kit online. He thought the company seemed trustworthy as he was asked to send in an impression of his teeth to create personalised mouth trays. He followed the instructions supplied but by the morning his teeth were throbbing so badly he was on the verge of going to A&E. Within weeks he noticed brown marks on the teeth and that they seemed to have shrunk – in reality his teeth were literally crumbling away. The effects were like an acid attack on the teeth and the enamel was so badly damaged that he needed a full smile makeover with veneers to remedy the situation. Luckily Russell found Smile Savers Hungary and he was able to afford the treatment needed by travelling to their clinic in Budapest. In the end Russell needed 21 fillings, four root canal treatments and 18 crowns to repair the damage. In the UK the treatment would have cost around £28, 000.00 but in Hungary he paid £8, 500.00.

Dodgy DIY kits can contain chemicals like Chlorine Dioxide which is a bleach not recommended for teeth whitening. If the bleaching gel is too strong or left on for too long the tooth enamel will be breached and cavities weakened meaning the bleach can go straight to the nerves, bone and tissue at the root of the tooth causing damage and considerable pain. Badly fitting mouth trays mean the gel can leak causing stomach upsets and gum damage. If gums are damaged they become susceptible to disease which in turn causes oral and general health issues.

Dr Kaman adds: “Before you undertake any teeth whitening the health of your teeth and gums must be assessed, it’s not a treatment everyone can have. There are so many risks associated with DIY treatments it’s just not worth doing, it’s better to shop around and find a reputable clinic that you can trust to do the treatment and then maintain the whiteness by brushing with a good quality tooth brightening toothpaste.”

There are definitely some things that are left to the professionals and Russell Fraser agrees: “To anyone who’s tempted by a tooth whitening kit, I would say, don’t risk it – go to a dentist.”

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