Get a Brighter Smile: Your Guide to DIY Home Teeth Whitening

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Are you looking ideas for home teeth whitening but don’t know where to start? With the rise of social media influencers promoting various whitening methods, it’s important to proceed with caution. Not all techniques are safe for our teeth, and some can even cause permanent damage. As a dental professional, I’ll provide you with expert insight into the different at-home whitening methods available, and which ones you should avoid at all costs. By following these tips, you can achieve a brighter, whiter smile safely and effectively from the comfort of your own home.

1. Home teeth whitening with trays

Home teeth whitening

The safest teeth whitening method available is done primarily at home but under the guidance of a dental specialist. While 90% of the treatment is completed outside of the dental office, the specialist will oversee the entire process. Before starting this method, it’s essential to send x-rays, or at a minimum, a panoramic x-ray, to ensure the patient does not have any underlying dental issues such as cavities or root problems that would make the treatment unsuitable. This is because the active ingredient used to safely remove stains can cause sensitivity in these cases, making the treatment unviable.

It’s crucial to have a dentist guide the teeth whitening process because they are the only ones who can determine the saturation point. In simpler terms, this is the point where your teeth are free of stains and have returned to their natural color, which cannot be altered by any whitening method, except for veneers. Think of it like a beige t-shirt that gets stained with a pencil. Using a special tool, like the syringe prescribed by our office for at-home teeth whitening, will only remove the pencil stain without damaging the shirt’s original color. A dentist can ensure that your teeth reach their maximum level of whiteness without going beyond the saturation point, which could lead to potential damage.

A stain-free, natural tooth color is a beautiful sight to see. However, some individuals may desire an even whiter shade and may attempt to achieve it by adding bleach, similar to bleaching a shirt. They may leave the bleach on for an extended period, hoping for a brighter outcome. But just like the shirt, the result could be detrimental, leaving the tooth enamel frayed and damaged. No one wants to experience that outcome when trying to enhance their smile.

Dentists play a crucial role in preventing patients from taking their home teeth whitening efforts too far, which could lead to tooth fractures and opacity. It’s important to remember that tooth enamel is a precious material and the only tissue in the human body that cannot regenerate. Therefore, it must be treated with the utmost care, much like a diamond. As dental professionals, we must ensure that patients understand the importance of proper teeth whitening techniques to maintain their dental health and achieve the desired result safely.

2. Homemade teeth whitening with baking soda and lemon

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It’s disheartening to hear that more individuals are turning to homemade teeth whitening tricks and falsely associating them with natural and chemical-free methods. Some even claim that they can save money by avoiding dental consultations and opting for at-home methods. However, these statements are extremely misleading and could not be further from the truth. In reality, homemade teeth whitening can be quite dangerous and lead to irreversible damage to tooth enamel. Seeking professional dental advice is always the best course of action to ensure a safe and effective teeth whitening experience.

While natural methods may be safe for many areas of health, the same does not necessarily apply to our teeth. As I mentioned earlier, tooth enamel is a precious material that does not regenerate, which makes proper dental care all the more crucial. Unlike our skin, hair, or nails, which can recover from damage, teeth cannot grow back or regenerate their enamel once it’s gone. Therefore, it’s important to approach teeth whitening with caution and seek professional dental advice to avoid damaging the enamel and potentially causing irreversible harm.

Why is using baking soda for homemade teeth whitening a bad idea? It’s because of the lemon juice. This citrus fruit is highly acidic and frequent use of it in combination with baking soda can lead to significant damage to the gums and erosion of tooth enamel. I have personally seen patients who have damaged their teeth in this way and had to resort to costly resin treatments to repair the damage. What may seem like a cost-effective solution in the short term can ultimately end up being much more expensive in the long run.

3. Homemade teeth whitening with vinegar:

Using vinegar for tooth whitening presents the same issue as with baking soda, due to its acidic content that erodes the teeth. It’s important to note that there are two types of tooth stains: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic stains are usually more recent and appear as noticeable patches on the teeth, while intrinsic stains penetrate inside the tooth and alter its natural color.

It is crucial to understand that extrinsic and intrinsic stains require different approaches to treatment. While extrinsic stains are typically caused by external factors, such as food or drink, intrinsic stains are deeper, often originating from within the tooth. Intrinsic stains can be the result of medication use, trauma, or other internal factors. These intrinsic stains are often more challenging to remove and require a more advanced whitening treatment.

Unfortunately, many home teeth whitening remedies only address extrinsic stains, leaving those with intrinsic stains feeling frustrated with their results. However, there is a safe and effective solution to treat intrinsic stains – home dental whitening with trays, led, or laser, which must be assisted by a dentist. This method is the only way to remove intrinsic stains and achieve a brighter, more radiant smile.

It’s important to note that attempting to treat intrinsic stains at home with untested remedies can be dangerous and cause irreversible damage to your teeth. Therefore, it’s essential to seek the guidance of a dental professional to determine the most effective and safe treatment for your specific needs.

4. Whitening with activated charcoal:

Activated charcoal has been widely promoted as a natural remedy for teeth whitening, and it is true that some toothpaste brands have included it as part of their ingredients. However, not all brands use activated charcoal safely, and some use it solely for marketing purposes, with no real benefits. Moreover, using activated charcoal can have some side effects, such as making the teeth more sensitive and causing abrasion of the tooth enamel.

Instead of relying on activated charcoal, patients who wish to remove extrinsic stains should consider professional dental cleaning, which not only helps with this problem but can also prevent cavities and other dental ailments that may not be immediately apparent. A professional dental cleaning involves the use of specialized instruments and techniques to remove tartar, plaque, and other debris that can accumulate on the teeth and cause discoloration. By having regular dental cleanings, patients can maintain a healthy and beautiful smile without resorting to risky or ineffective home remedies.

5. Whitening with toothpastes and dental rinses:

Unfortunately, whitening mouthwashes are often promoted as the ultimate solution to dental care and many people mistakenly believe they are the answer to removing stains caused by drinking coffee, wine or smoking. However, this is just another example of marketing hype. I have personally heard this belief from people close to me, but I always explain that just like with our body, taking care of our teeth is crucial for keeping them healthy and white. It’s important to realize that using a mouthwash alone won’t solve the problem. I often use the analogy of going to the gym and then eating unhealthy food afterwards. Just like exercise won’t do much good in that scenario, using a mouthwash alone won’t be enough to keep your teeth healthy and white. The best way to achieve a healthy and white smile is through consistent dental care, which includes brushing, flossing, regular dental check-ups, and professional teeth whitening treatments when necessary. There are no shortcuts or tricks to achieving a bright smile, it takes dedication and proper dental care.

Toothpaste with whitening properties does not work against intrinsic stains and may even cause more harm than good. Many patients have come to me saying that they have been using these toothpastes and they worked initially, but then sensitivity kicked in and they couldn’t achieve the desired results. Unfortunately, the erosion caused by these toothpastes may be irreversible and leave no other option but to get expensive ceramic or resin veneers. It’s important to understand that these toothpastes can only remove superficial stains and proper dental care is necessary to maintain healthy teeth.

Dental veneers can be a great option for enhancing the appearance of teeth, but it’s important to consider other less invasive treatments that may also achieve the desired result. In some cases, teeth whitening and minor edge corrections with resins could be enough to achieve the desired cosmetic result.

It’s crucial to seek advice from a dental professional rather than relying on advice from influencers or natural remedy advocates. When in doubt, it’s always wise to get a second opinion from another qualified oral health specialist.

Remember, your teeth are a valuable asset that require proper care and attention. Treat them as such and seek advice from professionals in the field.


Sara Pelaez Monsalve

Aesthetic dentistry with more than 14 years of experience in the field. Founder of Clinica Viena and Viena Kids (clinic focused on pediatric dentistry). Professional focused on patient care, on the application of best practices and high-quality world-class treatments.

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