DIY Teeth Whitening

My dentist refused to whiten my teeth until I got my teeth cleaned. It kind of ticked me off so I’ve been looking into DIY Teeth Whitening options. The one which seems to be the most legit is charcoal whitening. Is there anything I need to know about it to make it the most effective?


Dear Dan,

An image of charcoal

First, let me explain why your dentist was insisting on a cleaning. If you haven’t had a cleaning in a while and your dentist whitened your teeth anyway, the results would end up splotchy. You will end up embarrassed by how your teeth look. But, when you start with professionally cleaned teeth, the results are smooth and amazing. So, don’t get too annoyed at your dentist. He’s just trying to make sure you end up with results you’ll be happy with.

Charcoal and Teeth Whitening

The type of charcoal they’re talking about when it comes to DIY whitening isn’t the kind you’d use in a grill. They’re referring to activated charcoal, which is completely different.

The theory behind activated charcoal is it’s natural, non-toxic, and absorbent. All of that is true. You can ingest it and you’ll be perfectly safe. Unfortunately, it’s not safe for your teeth. Charcoal has quite a high abrasiveness rating. The upside is it will whiten your teeth— temporarily. The downside is because of its abrasiveness it will also scratch the enamel on your teeth, causing it to pick up stains much more readily. That lost enamel doesn’t grow back. You’re stuck with teeth that look duller because their shiny glazing is damaged and pick up stains so often you need to whiten your teeth much more than you’d ever need to under normal, healthy tooth circumstances.

If you truly want beautiful, white teeth you’re better off having professional teeth whitening done. Or, if there are other things you want to change about your smile, you could go all out and get a total smile makeover with porcelain veneers.

Professional Teeth Whitening Options

Most cosmetic dentists offer two types of teeth whitening:

  • In-office Whitening
  • Take-home Whitening

How do you know which option is better for you? It really depends on the level of whitening you want. If you just want to get your teeth as white as they possibly can get, then I’d suggest in-office whitening, such as you’d get with Zoom Whitening. The benefit is you can get it done in just one appointment. The downside is you have no real control over the level. Your teeth will be as white as they can get. It also costs just a little more than take-home whitening.

IF you want to whiten your teeth, but gradually with control over just how white they’ll get, then take-home whitening is for you. It costs a little less, but if you want them very white, it could take several weeks.

Getting a Total Smile Makeover

I mentioned porcelain veneers earlier. This is the top of the line for cosmetic dental procedures. These tiny wafers of porcelain can remake every aspect of your smile. They can change the shape, size, and color of your teeth all in one fell swoop.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Jerome Cha.