DIY Teeth Whitening: A Beginner’s Guide

Can you safely make your teeth whiter at home? We ask the experts.


Blame Hollywood, Holly Willoughby and even those high street wearing reality stars because white teeth are in.

And as ever in our quest for gleaming teeth, we’re going to extreme lengths – and spending extreme money – to get them.

With various treatments available to do at home, it’s no wonder we’re a nation obsessed. These options might be cheaper, but do they work and are they safe?

Oil Pulling

You can blame Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop for the comeback of oil pulling, the process of swishing a tablespoon of oil (usually coconut oil) in your mouth for 15 minutes. This is said to draw out toxins in your body and mouth, improving your oral health and in turn, whitening your teeth as stains are drawn out.

It definitely makes your mouth feel cleaner but whether it whitens the teeth is extremely personal; some people see great results, others nothing but the general consensus is any results take time – many say 10 days before any difference.

What the expert says: Dr Peta Leigh from award-winning dental and orthodontic practice, eleven (Teeth Whitening): “If you are going to try this technique make sure you do not substitute your regular visits to the dentist as it will not reverse tooth decay or help extensively to whiten teeth.”

Whitening strips

They resemble a strip of sellotape and are easy as pie to use. They’re a thin, elastic type of plastic coated in peroxide, which you stick onto your teeth. When you strip it, your teeth look whiter and brighter instantly.

What the expert says: Dr Leigh recommends using strips no more than once a year, as they can lead to tooth sensitivity if used excessively.

She also points out that you could get an uneven colour, as the strips don’t get into the crevices between your teeth.

Over-the-counter UV Kits

These often include a mouth tray which you fill with a paste that’s supplied, wear and shine a blue light onto. They use light-activated technology to whiten the teeth, and the light speeds up the process.

What the expert says: While people see great results, you can get better. Dr Leigh comments:Products available on the high street do not contain enough active ingredient of Hydrogen Peroxide or Carbamide Peroxide to have any real effect on the tooth colour. Professional home whitening systems provided by a dentist are more effective.”

Bicarbonate of soda toothpaste

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Bicarbonate of soda is a natural teeth whitener and can have fantastic results in the short-term. Only problem? These toothpastes can be quite abrasive to the tooth’s enamel, and if used repeatedly, can weaken the enamel forever.

What the expert says: Limit use to once a week to save your enamel.

Whitening pens

In literal terms, a whitening pen is just that – a tool that contains a whitening solution that you paint onto the teeth. They’re particularly useful if you feel you have the odd off-colour tooth and don’t need to whiten all of your teeth as they do literally whiten them on the spot.

What the expert says: Again, sensitivity on the teeth can be an issue but they can also cause gum irritation. Don’t use if you suffer from bleeding or receding gums.




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