Did You Know DIY Teeth Whitening Could Ruin Your Smile?

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

March 19, 2021

cosmetic dentistry, DIY teeth whitening, teeth whitening

The desire to have a dazzling white smile can lead to bad DIY teeth whitening decisions. While there are many commercial teeth whitening products that can be used safely, if not used properly they could lead to a DIY disaster. Worse yet, many DIY suggestions being posted on social media are actually harmful to your teeth – and this includes “natural” teeth whitening tips as well. Here’s how DIY teeth whitening could ruin your smile and the health of your teeth.

Over-The-Counter Mishaps

No doubt the commercial teeth whitening products you can pick up at your local drug store have truly improved in their effectiveness. That said, despite their effectiveness, improper use can lead to unsightly mistakes that actually make your teeth look worse, including:

  • Uneven Application: If you don’t put whitening strips or trays on properly, you can cause uneven whitening. If the product is applied in some areas, and less or not at all in others, you can wind up with “tiger stripes” that are very noticeable. Once this happens, every time you apply the gel, it removes the yellowing unevenly as your teeth colour is uneven.
  • Too Long: Many people think if they leave the gel on twice as long it will work twice as fast. This causes several issues, including extreme tooth sensitivity and potential damage to your enamel. When enamel thins, teeth become more yellow as the yellow-tinged dentin level is exposed below.


In-office professional dental whitening treatments avoid these issues, while also offering far more noticeable levels of whiteness.

The Reason For Stains

There is a difference between stains and discolouration. Discolouration can occur for reasons related to aging, medications, tooth trauma or illness. In these cases no matter how effective a DIY teeth whitening option might be, it won’t work if your ‘stains’ are not stains at all. We can confirm whether your teeth are stained or discoloured, and provide alternative treatments to get that white smile.


Natural Whitening Dangers

There are many natural whitening myths circulating on social media that can quickly turn into DIY teeth whitening dangers, including:

  • Charcoal: Because of charcoal’s abrasiveness, many are singing the praises of its whitening finesse. However, the abrasiveness is dangerous for your smile. You can actually destroy your tooth enamel by applying too much pressure. The result is enamel erosion, which actually ends up making your teeth look yellow while causing irreversible damage.
  • Strawberries and Lemons: Both of these fruits can help with whitening, but are just as damaging as charcoal when crushed with baking soda and “brushed” on your teeth as social media tips suggest. In this case, it’s the acids that help remove stains, but those acids will also damage your enamel when these fruits are rubbed abrasively on your teeth. A much better idea is to consume these fruits whole and let their natural teeth whitening compounds go to work from the inside.


The lesson here is, just because something is natural doesn’t mean it can’t cause harm.

Dental Restoration Nightmares

A big mistake DIY teeth whitening enthusiasts make is thinking teeth whitening works on their restorations and cosmetic dental work too. Unfortunately, teeth whitening only works on natural teeth. As a result, if you invested in dental veneers on your front teeth, or have a crown that can be seen when you smile, these will remain stained after teeth whitening treatment, while the rest of your teeth are bleached white. This often looks worse than having consistent staining on all your teeth! If you have dental restorations that can be seen when you smile, your only option is to get them replaced to match your natural teeth after whitening.


Tooth Sensitivity:  Ouch

Even if you have mild tooth sensitivity you can make it much worse with DIY teeth whitening products. The peroxide, even in low doses, can create sensitivity and pain following your treatment. It might also hurt while you are applying the product. If you already have serious tooth sensitivity you should avoid DIY teeth whitening treatments and speak to our team instead. We can determine if we can apply the whitening treatment in our office to reduce issues, or first treat your sensitivity issue before your whitening treatment begins.


Side View

Another issue with commercial DIY teeth whitening products is that they often only cover your front teeth since these are the teeth people see when you smile. However, depending on how you smile, this could lead to an unpleasant side view where your back molars remain yellow, and your front teeth are white.


Thinking DIY Teeth Whitening Is For Everyone

The problem with DIY teeth whitening treatments is that you might not be the best candidate to use at-home kits. This can lead to issues if you have:

  • Dental restorations such as crowns, veneers, and bonding
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gum lines
  • Stains resistant to treatment

You should also not use DIY commercial kits if you are pregnant or lactating. The benefit of speaking to our team first is that we will assess your dental health and let you know if treatment is recommended or not. As mentioned, we can also discuss remedies for issues that might interfere with achieving the white smile you desire, such as treating gum disease, sensitivity, or tooth decay first.


Thinking DIY Is As Good As Professional Whitening

We use Zoom teeth whitening which has a 25% hydrogen peroxide gel, while commercial DIY teeth whitening products have no more than 10 to 14%. Therefore DIY whiteners just can’t get the same brilliant smile as we do. You can choose between our in-office treatment or our at-home option:

  • Clinic Treatment: Clinic treatments are the most comfortable option as we cover your lips and gums to protect them from the bleaching solution. We also speed up the process using Zoom whitening gel and an LED light that helps the gel break down the stains faster. This approach sees whiter teeth and reduced sensitivity.
  • Take-Home Treatment: For the take-home treatment, we create customized trays by taking impressions of your teeth. When you pick up your trays, we provide you with the gel and your choice of formula you either use overnight, or you apply for 30 minutes twice a day.


As you can see, your best option truly is speaking with our team first. If you are interested in teeth whitening, give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.



Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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