‘Do tooth whitening strips from TikTok really work?’

Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a weekly column from news.com.au. This week, Dr Zac Turner shines a light on more influencer spruiking.

QUESTION: Hi Dr Zac, I think I might have an obsession with Hollywood-white teeth. I want Kim Kardashian’s smile and have an unhealthy addiction to the teeth whitening strips I buy online. Will these ruin my natural enamel and make my teeth weaker over time? My husband loves to tease me – saying I’ll be 30 years old and wearing dentures. Will these strips make my teeth fall out earlier?

All the ads and many of the influencers I follow on Instagram say it’s safe! Also, do those light-up mouthguards I see on Instagram work? – Jade, 27, NSW

ANSWER: Anyone who’s on Instagram or TikTok these days will have seen the avalanche of teeth whitening ads overtaking our newsfeeds. They are becoming a bit of a pest, and I feel are taking people down the wrong path. They all preach the same thing: DIY.

There is a big difference between receiving treatment from a dentist, and using some crap you bought on the internet. I’ve said it a million times, and I will say it again: influencers should not be allowed to spruik any health related information unless they have qualifications.

Let me just say something first. Teeth are meant to be slightly yellow. Pearly whites are not a sign of health, and do not get that twisted. I understand that people prefer the look of white teeth, and I do not judge those who are in the pursuit of happiness through beauty. I do, however, judge those who put their own health at risk in order to look good.

Teeth are vitally important and humans only get one set of adult ones – and keeping them tough, intact and healthy is key to maintaining good overall health.

Teeth whitening strips typically contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which can penetrate the enamel to remove surface stains. While this process is generally safe when used as directed, overuse or misuse can lead to enamel erosion, making teeth more susceptible to decay and sensitivity.

Enamel erosion occurs when the outer layer of the tooth is worn away, exposing the underlying dentine. This can happen due to the acidic nature of some whitening products or abrasive brushing techniques. While enamel does not regenerate, it can re-mineralise to some extent with proper dental care. If you strip enamel too much you will end up with really sore teeth.

If you are desperate to do it at home, I recommend you do it for half the prescribed time with half the dose. This limits your chance of any damage to your teeth.

Now, will teeth whitening cause you to have a toothless smile? There’s no evidence that this will be the case. But I will say if enamel erosion continues to occur, a tooth will weaken and the risk of tooth loss does go up.

As for light-up mouthguards advertised on social media, they often claim to use LED light to enhance whitening effects. While LED light may have some minor whitening benefits by activating the whitening agents in certain products, the effectiveness of these mouthguards alone is limited. Professional dental treatments, such as in-office whitening or custom-fitted take-home trays, typically provide more significant and longer-lasting results.

It is crucial to follow the recommended guidelines for teeth whitening and consult with a dentist if you have concerns about the health of your teeth.

Got a question? Email askdrzac@conciergedoctors.com.au

Dr Zac Turner has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Sydney. He is both a medical practitioner and a co-owner of telehealth service, Concierge Doctors. He was also a registered nurse and is a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist along with being a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering.

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