Why should you be wary of home teeth whitening kits – which ones? New

The pursuit of a sparkling smile is very popular in today’s Insta-perfect world. Attracted by the promises of brighter, whiter teeth, consumers are shopping for a dazzling array of whitening powders, paints, gels, pens, strips and kits to use at home.

According to a recent Mintel report, 52% of those surveyed used home teeth whitening kits at least once a day.

They are usually much cheaper than professional whitening administered by the dentist, but do home whitening kits really work – and are they safe for your teeth?

We’ve taken a look at what’s in them and what to watch out for, and found that you’re unlikely to get the results you want at home.

As part of our research, we also discovered international sellers posing as UK-based sites selling illegal bleach products to UK consumers. We have reported them to Trading Standards.


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Professional whitening vs home whitening kits

The standard treatment for whiter teeth is the use of hydrogen peroxide at concentrations of up to 6%.

In the UK this can only be done by a dental professional – either a dentist or dental hygienist or therapist under the supervision of a dentist.

It is illegal for anyone other than a dental professional to whiten their teeth using this concentration of hydrogen peroxide, and it must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). Beauticians cannot perform the procedure.

Professional whitening generally involves:

  • Take an impression of your mouth to make a mouth tray that is exactly right for you.
  • A whitening gel containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (which also contains hydrogen peroxide) will be placed inside the trays and put in your mouth.
  • The oxygen in the active ingredient then enters your tooth enamel and lightens its color, eventually to several shades.
  • You will need repeated treatments. Some of these can very well be done at home, but the treatment must be prescribed by a dentist.

Even performed by a professional, bleaching can sometimes cause side effects such as transient tenderness, gum discomfort, white spots on the gum, or a sore throat for a few days. Proper adjustment of the mouthpiece and following directions should help to minimize these problems, however.

Home Teeth Whitening Kits: How They Are Different

Over-the-counter home whitening kits are widely available in the UK, but cannot contain more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide under EU regulations. This is due to the risk of damaging or burning your gums or mouth if the kits are misused.

The Oral Health Foundation (OHF) says the concentration of hydrogen peroxide allowed in home kits is too low to have a noticeable effect on the underlying color of your teeth, regardless of the manufacturer’s promises.

It is possible that the kit contains other stain removal ingredients that could help teeth appear whiter, but you could probably achieve this just as well with stain remover or whitening toothpaste.

Also, don’t forget that the swatches provided in these kits are included so they can promise “up to 10 shades lighter!” – are likely to be very different from the color scales used by dentists, and their interpretation of a shade change may be a smaller incremental change.

The addition of blue or UV light, included because it is believed to speed up the whitening process, is also unlikely to make a difference to the end result, unlike the power or laser whitening offered by some dental professionals.

You should also treat any UV light product with caution and protect your eyes and other exposed areas from light.

Are Home Whitening Kits Safe to Use?

Due to the extremely low levels of hydrogen peroxide allowed in home kits, some use other ingredients with claimed bleaching potential, such as sodium chlorite and phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP).

While it is possible that some of these chemical ingredients could lighten your teeth, a recent study published in the British Dental Journal found that they could potentially damage tooth enamel as well, especially when the kits were used for longer. provided that.

However, more research is needed in this area, as the study was relatively small in scale and had some limitations.

Don’t tinker with it

We’ve seen tips online and on social media suggesting painting hydrogen peroxide directly on your teeth.

3% hydrogen peroxide is easily obtainable legally – it can be used as a skin sanitizer or as a mouthwash, but should always be diluted with water.

Dr. Nigel Carter, Director General of the OFF, says that “using undiluted peroxide directly on the teeth could damage your gums and this concentration of hydrogen peroxide should not be ingested.” There is also a risk of the solution splashing in your eyes and causing damage.

Be careful where you buy

The real risk comes when you buy kits from vendors who are not based in the UK or who sell illegal products.

Trading Standards told us that it regularly runs into sellers selling non-compliant products online, which can have serious consequences.

In 2016, a father and son were jailed for selling hydrogen peroxide kits containing 110 times the legal limit. One of their clients had to be hospitalized for chemical burns.

Illegal laundering kits sold to unsuspecting UK consumers

We purchased products from two sites which at first glance appear to be UK based retailers: www.ukteethwhitening.com and www.crestwhitening.co.uk.

Both sell Crest whitening strips which are available in the US but are not approved for sale in the UK as they contain well above the legal limit for hydrogen peroxide here.

Procter & Gamble, which manufactures Crest whitening tapes, is not allowing their sale in the UK because it knows they do not comply with the regulations.

We have investigated and found out that one of the companies selling the product to UK consumers is based in Hong Kong and the other is in Canada. Both use UK distribution centers to circumvent regulations as both products we ordered arrived within 48 hours of ordering.

The products came without instructions and were unpacked. The Crest bands from www.crestwhitening.co.uk did not have an ingredient list. This presents an additional risk because you don’t have the information to use it properly and don’t really know what you are getting.

We have reported our findings to Trading Standards who have confirmed that these products are not compliant and are currently investigating further action.

Neither retailer responded when we reached out to them for comment.

The problem of illegally imported bleaching kits

It might seem like a lower risk option when a product is legal elsewhere, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Richard Knight, trade standards specialist and cosmetics safety expert, says, “Ultimately, any at-home teeth whitening kit involves a concoction of chemicals that will all have toxicological profiles. Any wording must be approved by a qualified safety assessor based in the UK or EU.

“A product that is imported or distributed illegally will simply not have undergone this process and will not be subject to recognized quality control and could therefore be harmful to a consumer, even if the list of ingredients seems relatively benign.

“Also, if you buy from someone who is not based in the UK or who may be operating through a UK distribution center, when you have a problem you may find a repair, or even to get in touch, very difficult. ‘

Anyone suspected of supplying illegal products should be reported to Trading Standards.

Home whitening kits: the verdict

So what is the result? Home whitening kits may work if you are looking to restore a whiter smile, but beware of what you buy and from whom to avoid kits that contain unproven or potentially harmful ingredients. Always follow directions carefully and don’t be tempted to overdo it.

However, you will likely get better results with treatment administered by professionals, so it is worth talking to your dentist for advice if you have concerns about your smile, and trying a stain remover toothpaste as well. Check out our toothpaste buying guide for advice on effective stain removal ingredients.


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