MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Do Teeth Whiteners Really Work?

Teeth whitening is a multibillion-dollar industry. Products are being used by more than 11% of households every year. We’re definitely paying for whiter teeth, but are we getting them? Do teeth whiteners really work? HOW do they work?

First, do they work? Well…sort of. Their overall effectiveness really varies. Nearly all commercially available teeth whitening products include hydrogen peroxide, from the ones done at your dentist’s office to your at-home whitening strips to even your mouthwash. But their effectiveness ultimately depends on 3 things: how concentrated they are, how long they stay on your teeth, and where the discoloration is on your teeth.

Using a concentrated product as directed will most likely give you a brightening effect. But unfortunately, it’ll only be temporary. Once you stop bleaching, the effects regress & your chompers return to their original color. So, it becomes a process you have to do again & again. But, while bleaching agents are mostly safe in small doses, they’re concentrated products that aren’t intended for long-term use. Over time, soaking your teeth in them ends up hurting your teeth & gums.

So, if a lifelong bleaching habit isn’t viable, what about all those “natural” whitening remedies we’ve all seen online? Well, dentists agree that baking soda is safe as long as you also brush your teeth with toothpaste. But baking soda can only scrub your teeth, not brighten them. Or, if you’re a fan of Dr. Oz, then you may know he once touted that you can whiten your teeth by brushing with a mixture of strawberries & baking soda. On behalf of your dentist: do not do this. Scientists actually tested that mixture on extracted human teeth & basically said “absolutely not”. Because not only does the strawberry/baking soda combo not brighten teeth, it actually hurts them. Strawberries contain a naturally occurring compound known as malic acid, which will eat away at your teeth’s enamel. And that’ll only make them softer, not whiter.

So, just be careful with whatever you may choose to use to brighten your smile. But if your teeth are genuinely important enough to you to try & whiten them, there’s only 2 things that will always help: regular brushing & flossing.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me an email: [email protected].