8 Common Mistakes Made When Whitening Teeth

Everyone dreams of having a smile so bright it reflects the sun, but there are right and wrong ways to go about getting that perfect celebrity smile. There are certain foods you can eat and other natural methods you can use to brighten your smile, like how Kylie Jenner whitens her teeth with coconut oil. Just make sure you’ve done your research before putting any chemicals in your mouth, and simultaneously into your body. Learning how to whiten your teeth isn’t as easy as it sounds, and the sad truth is you’re probably doing it all wrong.

If you’re like me and have ever gone through extreme lengths of brushing your teeth with baking soda, wearing whitening strips or drinking coffee through a straw, and wondered why you’re not seeing results, it’s probably because you’re making one of these most common mistakes when whitening your teeth. After speaking with Dr. Sharde Harvey, a dentist who specializes in cosmetic and restorative dentistry, she gave me the rundown on the most common whitening mistakes made by patients, which range from simply ineffective to seriously harmful. Dr. Harvey shares with us her tips on the best and worst ways to whiten your teeth.


1. Brushing With Baking Soda

Baking soda, and other strong chemical components, actually break down the enamel in your teeth, which results in more yellow teeth in the long run because the enamel will wear out.

2. Not Brushing & Flossing Daily

You simply will not have white teeth if you don’t floss and brush daily because bleach can’t get past buildup. Teeth must be clean (meaning no plaque) in order for the whitening process to work. Also, make sure you’re flossing correctly – yes, there is a right and wrong way to floss – and chances are you’ve probably been flossing wrong all along.

3. Skipping Your Regular Check-ups

Patients who benefit from whitening products the most are those who go in for regular dental checkups and treatments (once every 6 months). Teeth become yellow because of calicos, not coffee stains, and only dentists can oxidize that kind of decay.

4. Having Untreated Cavities

Dr. Harvey says, “If a patient has cavities, the whitening product will not only be ineffective on that tooth, but will also irritate it even more causing intense pain.” Like any doctor will tell you, the longer you wait to get something checked out, the worse (and often more expensive) it is to get treated.

5. Using Products That Are Not FDA Approved

Certain products, especially those that are not FDA-approved, can actually cause cavities by breaking down the enamel, and whitening products will only work on enamel. For the same reason, any crowns, veneers, or fillings covering a tooth structure will not whiten.

6. Drinking Coffee While Using Whitening Strips

Using white strips while drinking coffee, tea, red wine, or smoking will actually soak in stains because the abrasive products cause groves in the teeth, which can allow food and drink stains to soak in more readily. Dr. Harvey describes it as “opening the pores of teeth.” You need to give the product time to set in before your teeth come in contact with dark foods or drinks.

7. Consuming Free Radicals

All whitening products are made of oxidizing agents (aka free-radicals), and free-radicals are known to be a main cause of cancer. This is why Dr. Harvey strongly suggests doing in-house whitening treatments because the suction tube dentists use when operating isn’t just for the saliva, but also to ensure that patients don’t ingest free-radicals from whitening products.

8. Over-Using Whitening Strips

Long-term use of whitening strips can interact with the mucus membranes on the inside of your cheeks, which serves to keep bacteria out of the body. Using too many abrasive chemicals in your mouth actually burns the membranes and can result in making you more prone to illness over time.

In short, Dr. Harvey absolutely recommends zoom in-house whitening treatments because it prevents the harm of absorbing free-radicals and because dentists ensure that your teeth are not just white, but also healthy!