Is it safe to whiten teeth? | 3 Recommended Ways to do it

Last Updated on: 17th June 2024, 08:44 am

passport photo

Written by

Q.F. Nayibe Cubillos Morales


Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Gustavo Assatourians D.D.S

✓ Fact Checked 🕓

❙ Our team of writers, editors, and medical experts rigorously evaluates each article to ensure the information is accurate and exclusively cites reputable sources.

❙ We regularly assess how the content in this article aligns with current scientific literature and expert recommendations in order to provide the most up-to-date research.


A smile with bright white teeth is essential for a positive self-image, one that – on some occasions – influences the reaction of people in different social settings. This is the reason why many people look for alternatives to achieve that “perfect” aesthetic dental expression, but… is it safe to whiten teeth?

White teeth as a symbol of beauty, while a good image, is something that advertising has positioned as vital to motivate the search for options to whiten teeth, either through home treatments or a cosmetic procedure at a dentist’s office.

In 2015, people in the United States spent more than $11 million on teeth whitening procedures. Other consumer studies in the United States show that by 2018, nearly 40 million people had used teeth-whitening products. Strips and gels have conquered a wide space in the dental aesthetics market.

Studies have shown that the natural color of human teeth is not pearly white. The teeth are not uniform in color and show different shades, tending toward yellow.


How Does Teeth Whitening Work?  

is it safe to whiten teeth

Teeth whitening is an aesthetic dental procedure that reduces stains on the teeth and gives the teeth a whiter and brighter shade. Some oral health professionals consider that this is not a simple treatment.
There are different ways to whiten teeth:

1. Adhesive strips or gels are used to do the procedure at home. They do not require a prescription from a health professional, and they help to whiten teeth and remove stains.

2. Various brands of toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash offer whitening benefits and work differently than the chemical products listed above.

3. You can also resort to professional whitening. The dentist uses products that contain hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide) or carbamide peroxide. These procedures provide very similar, longer-lasting results in less time. 

They may require a single session or a few office visits to achieve the desired result. In some cases, the dentist prescribes additional supervised home whitening therapies to complement the cosmetic procedure.

Changes from the whitening process are likely to be temporary and will disappear after discontinuing the use of the products.


Is it Safe to Whiten Teeth?

The different dental whitening procedures have side effects. You must know the adverse consequences that may occur.

Non-consumer toothpaste, rinses, and floss that offer teeth-whitening properties contain abrasives or particles that work like sandpaper to exfoliate the tooth surface and remove stains, but they can remove the top layers of the enamel.

The current plethora of dental whitening products results from the promotion of their use, without sufficient information about the risks. Excessive application of over-the-counter products, such as strips and gels – among others – represents an evident risk of future effects on tooth enamel.

Among these is carbon-based toothpaste, which has garnered attention for teeth whitening. While advocates claim its ability to remove stains and enhance aesthetics, the scientific evidence remains uncertain.

Dental professionals worry about its potential abrasiveness, possibly harming enamel and causing sensitivity. Before trying carbon toothpaste, seeking a dentist’s guidance is prudent to gauge its suitability and potential impacts on oral health.


Are Whitening Strips Bad for Your Teeth?

using whitening strips

Regarding the chemical products used in aesthetic dental procedures, research indicates that hydrogen peroxide damages the proteins in the dentin layer of the teeth. Dentin is a hard tissue that lies below the enamel surface.

Kelly Keenan, an associate professor at Stockton University in New Jersey, conducted research (2019) on whitening strips and found that hydrogen peroxide, a key ingredient in the product, damages dentin. Peroxide can permeate the enamel and seep into the dentin, the middle layer of the tooth, where about 95% of the collagen protein is found. It fragments when it comes into contact with hydrogen peroxide.

No information is yet available on this effect as to whether the damage is permanent or reversible.


Whitening and Tooth Sensitivity 

tooth sensitivity

Whitening products have several side effects, including damage to tooth enamel, gum irritation, and increased tooth sensitivity, among others. This is alleged by Adriana Manso, a professor at the University of British Columbia School of Dentistry (The University of British Columbia).

Feeling discomfort (sensitivity) when consuming hot or cold food or drinks is the most common side effect of an excessive whitening procedure. She adds that some of these side effects are long-lasting and the damage to tooth enamel is permanent and irreversible.

High sensitivity to food with different temperatures (hot/cold) is a sign that something went beyond the proper limit. It can be a consequence of the application time, the peroxide concentration, cracks, and cavities, or defective restorations.


What People Should not Assume Dental Whitening?

People who have dental sensitivity, stomatitis, gum problems, or other oral pathologies should not undertake dental whitening treatment because the side effects of the procedure can be of variable severity.

In addition, the products used in whitening can lead to burns of the gingival tissue and if they reach the interior tissue, the death of the tooth.


How Often can Teeth Whitening be Done?  

whiten teeth

Whitening has a limit and if it is exceeded, the hydrogen peroxide will break down the proteins in the enamel, generating changes in the structure of the tooth.

The process stabilizes at a certain moment; to identify when the point has been reached, dentists use color guides to verify the progress of the whitening, based on the initial tone of the patient and determine when to end the procedure.


What is the Population Most Vulnerable to the Side Effects of Teeth Whitening?

The population with the highest level of vulnerability to the side effects of teeth whitening are young people because their teeth are more permeable. Typical of this stage of life, they seek a better physical appearance and bright white smiles, but they are not sufficiently informed about the side effects of teeth whitening.

Teeth whitening cannot be recommended to all people. It is pertinent to consult with a dentist since there are different reasons why the teeth become discolored or stained. Some situations require specific treatment, and the results are diverse.

Before starting any dental whitening procedure, a dentist will be your guide on the most appropriate products or procedures for each patient.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can teeth whitening damage teeth?

Yes, it can damage teeth. Bleaching agents can wear down enamel and increase tooth sensitivity, especially if used incorrectly or in excess.

Tooth whitening works by using agents such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide, which lighten tooth stains to improve the whiteness of teeth. It can be performed at home or in a dental clinic with different techniques and concentrations of whitening agents.

Options include at-home whitening kits such as strips and gels, whitening pastes, and professional procedures performed by dentists, which offer faster and longer-lasting results.

The most common side effects are tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. It is crucial to perform these procedures under the supervision of a dentist to minimise risks and to assess the suitability of the treatment for the individual’s dental health.

Enamel is the protective outer layer of teeth, resistant to decay and wear. Maintaining healthy enamel is essential to prevent dental problems and maintain the structural and aesthetic integrity of teeth.



1. Cleveland Clinic (August 26, 2022) Is Teeth Whitening Safe, and Does It Work? / Retrieved December 22, 2022 from

2. (March 2015). The dark side of teeth whitening / Retrieved on December 22, 2022 from

3. Mena, Paola, Quiñonez, Diana (May 2022) Abrasive effect of whitening toothpastes with activated carbon. Literature review / San Gregorio Magazine / / Retrieved on December 22, 2022 from

4. Padilla, Andrea, Fernández , Enrique (July 2022) Historical-cultural variations of dental aesthetics / Faculty of Dentistry Magazine, University of Antioquia / / Retrieved on December 22, 2022 from

Scroll to Top