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At-Home and Discount Tooth Whitening Could Destroy Teeth

If sales of teeth-whitening products are any indication, there are a lot of people out there who want whiter teeth. In fact, teeth whitening is a $1.4 billion-a-year industry in the United States. But dentists are cautioning that cutting costs on teeth-whitening products can often backfire, leaving patients with painful injuries and, in some cases, permanent damage.


According to a recent report by the BBC in London, a beautician was caught on hidden camera offering teeth whitening in her salon. Not only is the act of offering these services inside a salon in the United Kingdom a crime, but the beautician was also caught using a whitener that contained 25 percent hydrogen peroxide, which is more than four times the legal limit for whitening products in the UK.

In the United States it’s still legal to offer teeth whitening in salons and many other locations, but dentists across the country have been rallying to change this. In the state of Georgia, it is illegal to offer whitening services unless you are a dentist, a move that has been met with resistance from salon owners.

Dr. Michele Simpson, a dentist based in Wilmington, North Carolina, says her state allows non-dentists to offer whitening services, but the State Dental Board fought to prevent this.

"North Carolina’s dental board initially tried to regulate teeth whitening, but the Supreme Court ruled that it does not have the authority to do this, so for now it is unregulated, which is certainly concerning from a safety standpoint," she says.

That’s because when dangerous chemicals come into contact with sensitive tissue such as gums, plenty can go wrong.

"You can suffer chemical burns on the gums that, in addition to being painful, can cause infection or permanent scarring. If you lose enough tissue you could even lose teeth," says Simpson. "It’s easier to do than you think, especially if you have no medical training and aren’t precise with your application."

Simpson says there are also many other benefits to getting teeth whitened by a dentist, such as making sure the teeth are clean and healthy before undergoing the whitening service and treating any problems visible in the mouth prior to the whitening.

"If you go to the mall to get your teeth whitened and you have a periodontal infection or a cavity, the person doing the whitening probably won’t recognize that, and if they do, they certainly can’t treat it," Simpson says. "Using a dentist ensures you get the safest procedure possible, and that your mouth is in great health prior to the whitening, too. If your teeth have buildup or are decaying, even saving a few bucks on whitening will cost more in the long run, because the procedure won’t be as effective."

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