Tooth whitening better left to dentists

Latanya Jones, 26, remembers her 5-year-old niece naming colors around the room.

“Red book, blue flower, orange shirt.” Next she pointed to Jones and said, “yellow teeth.”

“You know kids, they shoot it to you straight,” said Jones, a Florida A&M University alumna from Callahan.

Soon after, Jones began using an over-the-counter tooth whitening system but the results were not as great as she expected.

“When I drank and ate hot or cold foods, the sensation was like hitting your funny bone,” she said.

As tooth whitening products gain popularity in an attempt to get a Hollywood smile, consumers are finding that using over-the-counter whiteners can leave not-so-healthy results.

“It makes your enamel porous; it may change the color of your fillings and cause tooth and gum sensitivity if not used under the care of a dentist,” said Cynthia Biron, a dental hygienist and chair of the Tallahassee Community College Dental Health program.

The American Dental Association seal of acceptance, a symbol of safety and effectiveness for dental products, has only placed its seal on three home-use or over-the-counter products: Colgate platinum daytime professional whitening system, Opalescence and Nite White Excel 3 by Discus Dental Inc.

Popular whitening products like Crest Whitestrips, Colgate Simply White and Oral B Rembrandt whitening strips do not carry the seal.

Carbamide peroxide is the active ingredient in most whitening products. To carry the ADA seal, over-the-counter products must contain only 10 percent carbamide peroxide. However, many whiteners contain 15 to 22 percent of the peroxide causing adverse symptoms.

“When there is an increase in the percentage of peroxide, there is an increase in the sensitivity side effects,” said Bison. “The more potent it is, the more damage can be done; so start out with the mildest thing that works.”

According to, an Internet consumer review site, Crest Whitestrips are considered the best over-the counter option because the strips only contain 6 percent peroxide and are easy to use.

However, the ADA highly recommends professional whitening or use of over-the-counter whiteners with the care and direction of dental hygienists.

“It costs between $300 and $400 to get your teeth whitened,” said Robin Beeman, a former dental assistant to Dr. Douglas Evans. “The advantage is some people never whiten again.”

Over-the-counter products are much cheaper, priced between $4.99 and $100, but Beeman cautioned that over-the-counter products may not live up to their promise.

“They promise your teeth will become six shades whiter – we haven’t seen that result,” she said.

According to Biron, over-the-counter results may last only six months, but that does not seem to discourage the pursuit of Hollywood’s white smiles.

“They aren’t as white as I would like them to be – like Jessica Simpson,” Jones said. “But I am satisfied because they are whiter.”

Contact Radhiya Teagle at