MAR 31, 2017 11:45 AM PDT

Is it Safe to Bleach Your Teeth?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

With the explosion of teeth whitening products on the market, from do-it-yourself kits to services offered straight from the dentist, it seems that a dazzling white smile is within everybody's reach. But how does teeth whitening work and do the pearly whites come with unknown risks?

Because tooth enamel is porous, stains from our foods and drinks can seep in over time. While brushing and regular cleanings at the dentist office help to minimize the process, discoloration of the teeth as we age is naturally unavoidable.

Teeth whitening procedures are designed remove the stains at the deep level and restore a white brilliance. Most whiteners rely on a common chemical known as hydrogen peroxide. On the teeth at clinical-grade concentrations, this chemical breaks down the stain-causing compounds, essentially bleaching the enamel.

The process of whitening your teeth has become so common that nearly every major tooth-care brand has their own version of a DIY whitening kit. But before you commit, watch the video to understand the side effects like teeth sensitivity, and why whitening doesn't work on everyone.
About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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