How many times has someone told you some outrageous fact, and then backed it up by saying, “I saw it on the internet”? As everyone should know, the internet is filled with misinformation, and it’s often fun to see what oddball belief the internet is promoting on any given day.

Recently, it’s been hard to miss people with blackened mouths shown brushing their teeth with charcoal. The claim is that brushing with charcoal is supposed to result in whiter teeth. Is that based in fact? Are any do-it-yourself teeth-whitening claims based in fact?

Home teeth whitening can be done in a number of ways.

  • The whitening product is placed in a plastic mouthguard or tray that fits over the teeth, allowing the teeth to soak in the whitener.
  • The whitener is contained in an adhesive strip that sticks to the surface of the teeth.
  • Whiteners, in the form of a thick gel, can be painted on the teeth.

Many of the solutions used in teeth whiteners contain either hydrogen peroxide, which has been used for decades for various oral health issues, or carbamide peroxide, most commonly used as an earwax removal agent. While both are safe to use orally as directed, the problems most often arise from that “as directed” part.

It’s not uncommon for people to believe that if a little is good, a lot must be better. Those people have problems when they ignore the instructions on teeth-whitening products by either using the products too often or leaving them on the teeth too long. Both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide can damage teeth with prolonged use.

Peroxides get into the enamel, which can be worn away over time. Additionally, as the peroxides penetrate the enamel, they reach the dentin and the pulp inside the tooth which can have the effect of making teeth sensitive. This often happens when the peroxide solution is left on the teeth for too long.

The other problem is that contact with the peroxides aren’t limited to just teeth. Gums and other tissues—for example, if the solutions are swallowed—can be adversely affected. Most commonly, the whitening solutions aren’t applied solely to teeth; the gums also get prolonged exposure to peroxide, causing soreness and irritation.

Many of the issues raised with using a mouthguard, or tray, is that the trays are one-size-fits-all and everyone’s teeth are different. The odds that an off-the-shelf tray is going to exactly fit your teeth are pretty much zero.

A similar problem arises from the whitening strips. The strips adhere to your teeth, and that would be great if your teeth were perfectly flat. Unfortunately, the strips often don’t contact the area where one tooth meets its neighbor, so that only the front of the tooth gets white. The sides of the teeth can often be unaffected by the strips, remaining dark.

Another option for home teeth whitening is through the use of whitening toothpastes. These toothpastes can remove surface stains, slightly whitening teeth with prolonged use. However, whitening toothpastes are unable to change the natural color of your teeth or lighten a stain that goes deeper than the tooth’s surface.

It should be noted that some whitening toothpastes contain a chemical called blue covarine. Blue covarine sticks to the surface of teeth, making them appear less yellow. So, while it doesn’t actually whiten, it creates an optical illusion that makes teeth look less yellow, and for some people, that’s good enough.

Of course, lest we forget, there’s also the new, popular charcoal method of whitening. The charcoal used for brushing is activated charcoal which actually does have the ability to remove dirt and impurities. It may be what’s in your home water filter. However, it can also be abrasive and, when used on teeth, can wear away the protective enamel, which can also lead to increased sensitivity and increased susceptibility to decay. More importantly, there are no studies or research to show that charcoal whitens teeth at all.

Teeth whitening is sold as something that anyone can do at home, and it’s easy to understand why. It seems so logical. We already brush our teeth, why not employ a whitening toothpaste or a bleaching agent to do what regular brushing can’t do?

The problem with that approach is that we forget that we have one set of teeth that we use several times a day and they need to last a lifetime. Wearing down the enamel or creating sensitive teeth or gums just to temporarily get slightly whiter teeth isn’t really a good trade. It seems like a better idea to leave whitening to the professionals. In fact, in the U.K., there are no over-the-counter teeth whitening products; only dentists are legally permitted to whiten teeth.

Getting teeth whitened by a dentist is safer than any type of do-it-yourself home whitening, and the type of stains best removed by a dentist are the most common: discoloration from aging, coffee, wine, soda, and tobacco use.

The in-office whitening procedure at the office of Dr. Brei involves no discomfort and is quick, easy, and safe. For one thing, the gums are protected from any type of irritation the bleaching gel may cause. Dr. Brei will apply a bleaching gel for a specific length of time, checking the teeth after it’s washed off, and possibly employing a second or third application of gel.

After the final gel is applied, Dr. Brei may use an intense light source, which bathes the teeth in specific frequencies of light, enhancing the whitening process.

Afterwards, Dr. Brei may provide a home whitening kit so patients can maintain the color of their newly-whitened teeth.

Everyone’s smile looks better when they have white teeth. If your teeth could use some whitening, you could take your chances with over-the-counter whitening systems. Or, you could make an appointment with Dr. Brei and safely have your teeth whiter with just one visit.

There are many ways to get in touch with the office of Dr. Brei. You can email the office at appointments@drbrei.com, call 520-325-9000, or click here to book online and schedule an appointment directly. If you’d like a brighter smile, don’t try to do it yourself; let Dr. Brei professionally whiten your teeth.