8 Common Mistakes You Make When Whitening Teeth

by Jennifer Valdez

If you've ever gone through the extreme lengths of brushing your teeth with baking soda, wearing whitening strips or drinking coffee through a straw, and wondered why you're not seeing results, it's probably because you're making one of the most common mistakes made when whitening your teeth. Learning how to whiten your teeth isn't as easy as it sounds, and the sad truth is you're probably doing it all wrong. Dr. Sharde Harvey, who specializes in cosmetic and restorative dentistry, gave us the rundown on the most common whitening mistakes made by patients, which range from simply ineffective to seriously harmful.

Everyone dreams of having a smile so bright it reflects the sun, but there are right and wrong ways to go about getting that perfect celebrity smile. There are certain foods you can eat and other natural methods you can use to brighten your smile, like how Kylie Jenner whitens her teeth with coconut oil. Just make sure you've done your research before putting any chemicals in your mouth, and simultaneously into your body.

Dr. Harvey has over 10 years of cosmetic dental experience, and shares with us her suggestions on the best and worst ways to whiten your teeth.

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda, and other strong chemical components, actually break down the enamel in your teeth, which results in more yellow teeth in the long run because the enamel will have been worn down.

2. Not Brushing & Flossing Daily

You simply will not have white teeth if you don’t floss and brush daily because bleach can’t get past buildup. Teeth must be clean (meaning no plaque) in order for the whitening process to work.

Also, make sure you're flossing correctly because chances are you've been flossing wrong all along.

3. Not Going in for Regular Check Ups

Patients who benefit from whitening products the most are those who already go in for regular dental checkups and treatments (once every 6 months). Teeth become yellow because of calicos, not coffee stains, and only dentists can oxidize that kind of decay.

4. Having an Untreated Cavity

Dr. Harvey says, "If a patient has cavities, the whitening product will not only be ineffective on that tooth, but will also irritate it even more causing intense pain."

5. Using Products That Are Not FDA Approved

Certain products, especially those that are not FDA-approved, can cause cavities by breaking down the enamel, and whitening products will only work on enamel.

For the same reason, any crowns, veneers or fillings covering the tooth structure will not whiten.

6. Drinking Coffee While Using Whitening Strips

Using white strips while drinking coffee, tea, red wine, or smoking might actually soak in stains because the abrasive products cause groves in the teeth, which can allow food and drink stains to soak in more readily. Dr. Harvey describes it as "opening the pores of teeth." You need to give the product time to set in before your teeth come in contact with dark foods.

7. Free Radicals

All whitening products are made of oxidizing agents, which are free-radicals. Free-radicals are what cause cancer. This is one of the main reasons Dr. Harvey suggests doing in-house whitening treatments because the suction tube dentists use when operating isn't just for the saliva, but also to ensure that patients don't take in free-radicals from products.

8. Long-Term Consequences

Long-term use of whitening strips can interact with the mucus membranes on the inside of your cheeks, which serves to keep bacteria out of the body. Using too many abrasive chemicals in your mouth actually burns the membranes and therefore can result in making you more prone to illness over time.

The Verdict:

Dr. Harvey absolutely recommends zoom in-house whitening treatments because it soaks up all the oxidizing so you don’t absorb it and because dentists will ensure that your teeth are healthy and not just white.

Images: Fotolia (1); Flickr/ Amanda Brean, Kate Ter Haar, Adam Drewes, Esther Simpson, daniel, Charlie Barker, kc7fys, Denise P.S.