If teeth whitening is just bleaching your teeth, why can’t I use the laundry bleach I have at home?
Stan W.- Little Rock, AR
You wouldn’t believe how often I get that question. The whitening ingredient in professional tooth whitening is not chlorine bleach, but peroxide. I know it sounds logical to think that bleach will whiten your teeth, but it’s not likely to work well. Professional whitening places peroxide on your teeth for extended periods of at least 20 minutes. Swishing with bleach will not leave the bleach on your teeth long enough to penetrate into your teeth and whiten them.
Bleach like Clorox is corrosive. You have to be very careful with it. so as not to eat away at the soft tissue in your mouth. We have heard where people have swished with Clorox and it hasn’t hurt them, but that is a brief swish – not long enough to whiten them. That’s all that is safe to do.
Clorox is a 5% solution of sodium hypochorite, which is a toxic chemical. Under certain conditions, it can release chlorine gas, which is lethal. Swallowed, it can cause vomiting and stomach irritation. Larger amounts can result in death.
Now, just because I said that teeth whitening uses peroxide, don’t think it will work to self-treat with that either. While it is useful for reducing bacteria as a rinse, in order to be effective in whitening it must be on your teeth for quite some time to make a difference. It is tricky to do that without damaging your gums. The problem with rinsing regularly with peroxide is that it reduces the bacterial population in your mouth while favoring the growth of yeast. If used for a couple of weeks, you will likely get an oral yeast infection, which can be painful.
It is much better to whiten your teeth through your local dentist. Under professional supervision you can use strong concentrations of peroxide – much stronger than anything you could get over-the-counter.
This blog is brought to you by Tulsa Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Jerome Cha.