IS IT DANGEROUS TO USE HOUSEHOLD BLEACH TO WHITEN YOUR TEETH?
I’ve seen some strange home remedies in my day, but this week, we’re focusing on the home remedies that make us cringe – home remedy horrors, if you will. Today I’m revisiting the idea of whitening your teeth at home.
I know the temptation is there; as someone whose dentist’s clientele was so large that I couldn’t book an appointment every six months, I understand how hectic it can be trying to see your dentist for something other than your bi-annual check up. But hear me out; your dentist or another professional may “bleach” your teeth, but by no means is this the same household bleach you rely on to whiten your white clothing and disinfect your kitchen counters.
The Basics of Household Bleach and How It Will Whiten Your Teeth
To start off, let me just refer you to Clorox.com. Under its FAQs, one question reads, “Can I use Clorox Regular Bleach to gargle, brush my teeth or clean cuts and scrapes?” to which the website responds, “No, Clorox Regular Bleach is not for personal usage.” And while I’d like to just leave it at that, let me explain a little bit further.
Your generic household bleach contains the following: water; sodium hypochlorite; sodium chloride; sodium carbonate; sodium chlorate; sodium hydroxide; and sodium polyacrylate; each of which is a poisonous ingredient that you probably shouldn’t be putting in your mouth.
And yes, your household bleach will whiten your teeth, according to one study that used it to gauge the efficacy of a tool used to measure gradual changes in tooth color (Journal of Clinical Dentistry). But while its main ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, is used in root canal irrigation, it’s not exactly the best thing for your teeth. Researchers compared the effects of a saline solution, 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution, and a 5.25% sodium hypochlorite solution on the dentine and weakening of teeth, finding that the 5.25% sodium hypochlorite solution significantly decreased both the elastic modulus and the flexural strength of the dentine (International Endodontic Journal). I should point out that household bleach contains about 3-6% sodium hypochlorite, so it’s likely to inflict similar damage to your teeth (Journal of Forensic Sciences).
What bleach will also do, thanks in part to star ingredient sodium hypochlorite, is dissolve “soft tissue.” According to a study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, researchers found that household bleach was a “safe, effective method” to rid trauma-induced bones of “soft tissue.” And if sodium hypochlorite can do that to dead tissue, I’d hate to see what it can do to your precious gums.
The Dangers of Household Bleach
Say you like to live a little on the wild side, and decide to try this home remedy despite my desperate pleas. Well, basically, there’s a reason my parents put Mr. Yuck stickers on the container of bleach underneath our kitchen sink: swallowing or inhaling bleach fumes can lead to poisoning. Period.
Of course, diluted bleach will only cause mild stomach irritation when consumed or inhaled in small doses, but what happens when you accidentally consume a little too much? Vomiting, stomach or abdominal pain, burns or blisters on your esophagus, pain in your mouth or throat, and even lower blood pressure (Medline Plus). Sorry guys, but that’s not the kind of risk I want to take for the sake of a whiter smile.
How to Safely Bleach Your Teeth
The safer and recommended way to bleach your teeth, whether it’s by a dentist or an over-the-counter product, lies within the use of hydrogen peroxide, although not by taking a swig out of that brown bottle, as explained here. Hydrogen peroxide lightens your teeth by degrading and subsequently releasing oxygen radicals, which stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from surrounding pigment molecules. This breaks up the pigments on your teeth. When performed by a dentist, this typically involves the use of a light source, such as an LED light or diode laser (Photomedicine and Laser Surgery).
If you’re looking to whiten your teeth at home, choosing your favorite household bleach will definitely do more harm than good. It’s full of poisonous chemicals that will corrode your teeth and your gums, and accidental ingestion of the substance will likely cause more than mild stomach irritation. Instead, try visiting your dentist for an in-office whitening treatment. You can also opt for some at-home options, like the Crest 3D White Whitestrips Gentle ($27.90, Amazon.com), an extended-use version of the popular strips that whitens your teeth gradually over a period of 28 days to minimize sensitivity, or the GLO Brilliant Personal Teeth Whitening Device ($149.99, Amazon.com), which uses heat resistors and LED light to accelerate the whitening process. Be sure to talk with your dentist to figure out the best option for you and your teeth.
*Editor’s Note: This post contains affiliate links.