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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.


Join The Conversation
nopenope nopenope 9 years
I love the Listerine strips. I've tried Crest and those damn strips move so much, it drives me crazy! The Listerine ones stay in place! It definitely takes more time to dissolve than they list, but I don't mind it at all. In fact, I figure the longer they stay, the better job it's doing. It doesn't leave that gooey film on your teeth that Crest does and it honestly don't taste bad. I think the Listerine costs less, too. I got the sample in the mail and ended up buying a box. :)
Kate14909563 Kate14909563 9 years
I tried the Listerine dissolving strips this morning on my way to work. They take a lot longer to dissolve than the 5 to 10 mintues it says on the package. It did make my tongue tingle a bit but most listerine products do. Overall I liked them, I will probably buy them in the future. To me the after taste was a lot sweeter than with other whiteners. One product I do really like is the new purple listerine, I can't remember the name of I think it's supposed to help with restoration.
caitlinannmary caitlinannmary 9 years
i used to use crest white strips but all they did was make my teeth extra sensitive and hurt! now i use crest whitening mouthwash and an electric toothbrush and people are always commenting on how white my teeth have become!
CestLaVie CestLaVie 9 years
I have used the basic Crest Whitestrips numerous times over the past 3 years or so and was always pleased with the results. Even my dentist would comment on how white my teeth looked, I like to do it every 6 months or so.
ggfan ggfan 9 years
I tried the Listerine ones, I got a free sample and they did dissolve but still left a little film and the taste really wasn't that pleasant, i would stick with the crest ones.
ur_momm ur_momm 9 years
ashcwebb - what brand of toothpaste/mouthwash do you use?
Kate14909563 Kate14909563 9 years
In the past I have used the crest whitestrips, but my teeth were a little too sensitive. I got a free sample of the Listerine strips that I am looking forward to trying, I will do that tonight and see how it goes!
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I just use whitening toothpaste and mouthwash! My teeth are super white! It's weird, but I get people telling me that all the time!
ur_momm ur_momm 9 years
by the way, has anyone tried the new ones from listerine that supposedly dissolve in 10 minutes on your teeth? im eager to try them!
ur_momm ur_momm 9 years
my dentist recommended i try the crest whitestrips when i asked about whitening. they did a good job (altho the mess is annoying) and they did make my teeth very sensitive by the end of the... i guess 2 weeks? so i just stopped when they got too sensitive. but my teeth havent fallen off yet!! :)
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