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Everyone loves a nice smile. Most people do what they can to keep their smile as white as it can be. A session for teeth whitening with Zoom! can be hundreds of dollars. Over the counter whitening products are cheaper, but what are the risks of using these products? Is it worth the savings?

While the American Dental Association believes that using a home kit is primarily safe, they do note the possible risk for gum and teeth sensitivity. Teeth whitening kits that are purchased for home use contain hydrogen peroxide. Home whitening systems are not regulated by the FDA. Hydrogen peroxide can cause sensitive and even burns in a person’s mouth. In the European Union, the amount of hydrogen peroxide cannot exceed six percent. Since whitening kits are not classified as drugs, the FDA does not regulate the industry.

At-home whitening kits can be sold as teeth whitening strips, found in a brush on system, or as a whitening tray. The teeth strips can slide around and cause gum irritation. This can increase the risk of uneven whitening of your teeth. They often have a bad taste and can be messy. A brush on system comes in the form of a pen. While this is certainly more accurate than a strip, it is still not easy to keep your gums and lips away from the whitening agent. The whitening agent can cause sensitivity. Whitening is not as effective when it is wiped off of the teeth by surrounding soft tissue. With a tray whitening system, you get more control of the fit compared to the strips. The downside is that while it is a tray, it is not as accurate as a custom fitted whitening tray offered by your cosmetic dentist. They can be difficult for someone who is not a dental professional to shape or trim. If shaping is done incorrectly, the whitening agent can leak out exposing the soft tissue to the risk of sensitivity or burns.

Products purchased through your dentist to whiten your smile have the seal of approval from the ADA. While over the counter options are available and often less expensive, they carry an increased risk of sensitivity. Your gums, cheeks, and lips are not protected from the whitening agent like they would be during a session with your cosmetic dentist. It is important that you talk to your dentist about your choices for at-home teeth whitening. Anyone with gum disease, teeth sensitivity, or with damaged teeth should seek the advice of their dentist. If you are finishing an orthodontic treatment plan, wait until it is finished before you whiten your teeth. Whitening agents only have an effect on natural tooth surfaces. Those with front surface work should consult their dentist.

While we all love to save money, an at-home whitening system may cause you to need to purchase other products to care for your mouth. Talking with a cosmetic dentist about whitening options and risks before deciding to purchase an at-home teeth whitening kit can save you a mouth full of pain. Your dentist will know which one is least likely to cause mouth sensitivity. They can also offer suggestions on products to use should you experience sensitivity.