These days, most of the teeth whitening systems available include a form of peroxide. This is true both for at-home whitening and professional whitening systems.
But when anything gets popular, it’s going to have detractors, and those detractors are likely to promote alternatives that they say are better. But don’t be fooled: alternatives to peroxide whitening aren’t better, and they can be bad for teeth. Some even carry significant overall health risks.
DIY Whiteners Damage Teeth
There are many people who recommend that you shouldn’t go with professional whitening, that you should, instead, make your own whitening solutions at home. However, this approach frequently ends up with something that is very damaging to teeth.
At-home whitening formulas are usually acidic, abrasive, or both. Acids eat away your tooth enamel. Abrasives wear away your tooth enamel. The result may make your teeth whiter in the short run, because it’s destroying the enamel where staining molecules are trapped. But in the long run, newly exposed enamel can get stained just as easily, and eventually the enamel is thin enough that it allows the darker colors of the interior tooth layers to show through. This makes your teeth look permanently discolored in a way that whitening can’t correct, and makes your teeth more vulnerable to chipping, cracking, and decay. Your teeth will need to be whitened with veneers or crowns.
Charcoal Is Ineffective and Abrasive
A recent whitening trend is charcoal toothpaste. The theory behind this is that activated charcoal is capable of trapping organic molecules, so it can perhaps trap the stain molecules from teeth to leave them whiter.
The problem with this is that there’s no evidence that it works. When activated charcoal is used to neutralize poisons, the organic molecules are loose in the gut, not trapped in tooth enamel. It’s never been shown that charcoal can pull molecules out of enamel to lighten teeth.
However, charcoal is abrasive, and it’s likely that any whitening effect from using charcoal toothpaste is linked to removing stained enamel.
Some companies are offering non-peroxide whiteners as an alternative to more common peroxide whitening.
One non-peroxide alternative is sodium perborate monohydrate. This compound has been banned from beauty products in Europe because of the potential for reproductive harms. Although the compound has not been banned in the US, it’s important to understand that this isn’t really an alternative to peroxide. When exposed to water, sodium perborate monohydrate turns into peroxide and boric acid. So, it’s peroxide with just a pinch of potential reproductive harms–not a good alternative. This is the active ingredient in a whitener recently pulled from Amazon.
Another non-peroxide whitener is sodium chlorite. Sodium chlorite converts readily to chlorine dioxide, which is literally a bleach. It is not only toxic, but can also damage tooth enamel, as was documented in a recent article in the British Dental Journal.
Safe, Effective Whitening
If you are looking to whiten your teeth, don’t listen to people who are trying to convince you to try some form of alternative whitening. Peroxide whitening has become common because it’s been proven to be safe and effective. Other whiteners simply cannot achieve the desired results without causing damage to teeth.