The at-home teeth-whitening industry has become a billion dollar business as so many people strive to achieve a bright, white smile. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and if these products are not used correctly, it could cause some problems.

The whitening products that you use at home come in one of two basic types. The first is a bleaching agent that actually goes in and changes the color of your teeth. The active ingredient is a peroxide solution which helps get and the stains on the surface your teeth as well as those deep down. There are also non-bleaching products that work by physical or chemical actions to focus strictly on the surface stains (this is usually the category where most whitening toothpastes belong).

So while we all want nice, white teeth, these products – especially those with peroxide in them – are only supposed to be used at specific intervals. If you use them too much, it could lead to unwanted side effects.

Damage to Teeth

Carbamide peroxide, the active ingredient in at-home bleaching treatments, can cause some problems if you use them too much. Most notably, tooth sensitivity and occasional irritation of the gums and other soft tissues in the mouth can result from this kind of over-usage. However, it is usually temporary and will get better in time.

There are some rare cases in which permanent damage has been reported, and it has been suggested that excessive use of whiteners (even whitening toothpastes) can damage your tooth enamel over time.

A good rule of thumb is that if your product has a peroxide concentration of 10%, there shouldn’t be much to worry about.

The “Ross” Problem

Remember that episode from Friends where Ross over-bleached his teeth? Remember the well-deserved ridicule he got for it? Real teeth are actually an ivory color, not pure, blinding white. Yet that’s the look a lot of people go for with their home kits. They leave the trays in too long, they use the strips too much, and they get the teeth that blind you from across the room.

There’s some art to this process, so keep that in mind when you start any cosmetic treatment, and aim for a bright smile – not a blinding smile.

What about Crowns?

Porcelain or composite dental crowns are (shocker) made of different materials from your natural teeth. This, of course, means they aren’t affected by the same chemicals that are designed to whiten your teeth. Be aware of where your crowns are when you start a whitening treatment or you may just be drawing attention to a replacement.

Always Follow Directions

So while most of the whitening treatments that you can buy over the counter are safe for extended use, the key to ensuring your safety is simply to follow all the direction on the product. This is where you will find out exactly how many times that bleaching tray should be used in a year, and whether or not your toothpaste is safe to use on a daily basis.

The Benefits of a Professional Treatment

If you are concerned about potential damage to your teeth, the best thing you can do is talk to us about it. We can also provide a much more thorough whitening so you’ll notice a significant difference after a single treatment. More than that, though, we can carefully analyze your situation and let you know whether you have a reason to be concerned before starting a treatment.