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Are Over the Counter Teeth Whitening Products Safe?

It seems like just about every product having to do with your mouth shouts the word "whitening" all over it. Gums, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and whitening kits are available to make your pearly whites even whiter. Who doesn't want gleaming white teeth, right? The question is, how safe are these products?

When used as directed, these products are safe and cause minimal side effects. Although, common complaints do include tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.

Since teeth whiteners are not drugs, you should know that the FDA does NOT monitor them. Some products have the ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Acceptance, which means that they have met ADA guidelines for safety and effectiveness. Only a few whitening products contain this seal, and manufacturers have to voluntarily seek acceptance.

However, only whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes and gum can receive this approval. You won't find whitening kits on their list since the ADA strongly feels that professional consultation is important to ensuring safe and effective use.

Just because a whitening product doesn't have the ADA Seal, doesn't mean it's necessarily unsafe. What things should you look for when buying an over the counter whitening kit? To find out

  • Look for kits that allow you to customize or mold the mouthpiece. These are better than the ones that come with a standard mouthpiece or strip, since the chemicals can irritate your gums.
  • Get recommendations from your dentist to see which kit brands work better than others.
  • Follow the directions on the package. If it says to keep it on your teeth for 30 minutes, don't leave it on for an hour.
  • If your gums change color, or you experience tooth sensitivity to hot or cold, stop using the product immediately.
  • Fit's Tips: If you are really serious about whitening your teeth and are also concerned about your safety, you should get it done professionally by your dentist. For around $300-400, they'll take impressions of your teeth and make a tray that fits your mouth perfectly, so the chemicals end up on your teeth and not on your gums. You can still whiten your teeth at home, which is great, but it'll be more effective than the store-bought kits.

    Also, to keep your pearly whites as white as you can, read this: Stained Teeth? Coffee Is Not the Only Culprit. It will tell you which foods you should avoid.


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