Don’t Be “Fooled” By These 4 Tooth-Whitening Scams!

By: Rosie Torres, R.D.H.

“Instant Results!… Removes Years of Stains!… Order Now!… Hurry, this is a limited time offer only!”

Do any of these catchy phrases sound familiar? On a daily basis we’re bombarded with advertisements
over social media and commercials featuring bright, white, Insta-worthy smiles. The model shows us just
how easy the product is to use while another attests to how effective it is.

In honor of April Fool’s Day, we’re exposing some of the trendiest and most highly overrated popular at-
home tooth whitening products and trends.

“But wait…. there’s more!” 

I even tried a few of these popular trends and offer tips on how you can too.


The Claim: You’ve probably seen this popular ingredient listed in many beauty products such as face
masks, soap, shampoo, supplements and dental products. Due to its detoxification properties, brushing
your teeth with ingredients like activated charcoal can whiten and brighten your smile, without the
harsh effects of bleaching.

The Facts: Charcoal is very abrasive and regular use can damage tooth enamel (the hard, outer surface
layer of your teeth that serves to protect against tooth decay). It can also irritate your gum tissue.
Additionally, many charcoal-based toothpastes leave behind a black residue that still requires using a
regular toothpaste to wash it away afterwards.

Trying it Out: When choosing any whitening toothpaste, always choose one containing fluoride (a
natural mineral found in your bones and teeth that helps to remineralize your tooth enamel, which can
prevent cavities and reverse early signs of tooth decay). Also make sure that the toothpaste has the ADA
Seal of Acceptance so that you know that it is safe, effective and won’t damage your teeth.

I tried Crest 3D White Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste and hello Activated Charcoal Whitening
Toothpaste. While both toothpastes produced similar results, I liked the Crest toothpaste better. Even
though the paste is black, it foams up and turns white right away, so there is no mess. The hello
toothpaste made too much of a mess, since the paste is black and stays that way. It got all over my
white sink and the splatter was everywhere, especially while using my electric toothbrush.

Using the charcoal-infused toothpastes were fun to try, but they didn’t necessarily make my teeth that
much whiter. According to the American Dental Association, there is no evidence that proves that any
dental products with charcoal are safe or effective for your teeth. Additionally, prolonged use of any
material that is too abrasive for your teeth can actually make them look more YELLOW! The enamel is
what you want to whiten, but ironically – if you’re using a scrub that is too rough, you can wear it away.
When this happens, the underlying layer (called dentin) becomes exposed. Dentin is naturally a softer,
more yellow tissue. Bottom line? Go ahead and try the trend but don’t use pure-powder or non-
fluoridated versions and avoid prolonged use.


The Claim: Like most mouthwashes, whitening rinses freshen breath and help reduce dental plaque and
gum disease. These types of mouth rinses usually contain ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide, to
whiten teeth.

The Facts: Because a whitening rinse is only in contact with your teeth for a very brief period, (60
seconds is the recommended “swishing time”) and the concentration of peroxide is low, don’t expect to see any results..

Trying it Out: When choosing a whitening mouth rinse, look for one that contains fluoride in addition to
hydrogen peroxide. Use twice daily after brushing your teeth with a toothpaste. Vigorously swish 10mL
(2 teaspoons) of rinse between your teeth for 1 minute and then spit out. Do not swallow the rinse and
do not eat or drink for 30 minutes after rinsing. I tried Listerine Healthy White Vibrant Multi-Action
Fluoride Mouth Rinse. This product claimed to start working “on contact” and remove teeth stains for
whiter teeth and a brighter smile in as little as 5 days. While I haven’t noticed any dramatic whitening
effects after 5 days of use, I did not experience any sensitivity as with other whitening products and I do
think that my teeth “feel” cleaner than they do with just flossing and brushing alone.


The Claim: Oil pulling is an ancient holistic process that has grown in popularity mostly due to social
media influencers and celebrities who believe in its benefits. Supposedly, the practice of oil pulling helps
to clean and detoxify the mouth, (literally “pull” toxins from the mouth) whitens teeth, improves bad
breath and reduces gum inflammation.

The Facts: Based on the lack of scientific evidence, the American Dental Association does not
recommend oil pulling as a dental hygiene practice. There are no reliable scientific studies to show that
oil pulling reduces cavities, whitens teeth or improves oral health and well-being.

Trying it Out: Take one tablespoon of either organic coconut, sunflower or sesame oil (I used Vita Coco
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil) and swish it around in your mouth for 20 minutes once daily, prior to
brushing your teeth. Spit the oil out onto a piece of paper and put it in the trash. It is not recommended
to spit the oil out into the sink since the fat could clog the pipes over time.
Swishing my mouth with coconut oil for 20 minutes was not easy to do. It’s a long time to be exercising
your facial muscles and after a few minutes, the oil feels like it multiplies as it mixes with your saliva. I
did not notice any whitening benefits and the whole process was too time consuming and
uncomfortable to continue doing on a daily basis.


The Claim: At-home teeth whitening kits might contain strips, trays or brushes/pens that contain
peroxide that bleaches your teeth to reach the deeper stains that products like whitening toothpastes
can’t reach. Results take about one to two weeks when used daily for the recommended time period.

The Facts: Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity after prolonged use of these at-home kits.
Others may experience sensitivity after just one use. Overuse or misuse of at-home whitening kits can
damage enamel and cause permanent discoloration.

Trying it Out: I tried two different at-home tooth whitening kits (not at the same time of course). I tried
whitening strips with Crest’s 3D White Dental Whitening Kit and LED whitening with Colgate’s
Advanced LED Whitening Treatment. Both products did whiten my teeth, but I did not have nearly the
same significant effect as when I’ve done in-office whitening with Zoom. The instructions for the strips
were to apply to the teeth for 30 minutes, once per day. The problem was that the strips touched areas
of my gums, which caused burning, discomfort and redness. Additionally, my teeth were slightly
sensitive afterwards. With Colgate’s LED device, the product comes with a 10-day supply of whitening
serum (containing hydrogen peroxide). The gel is squeezed onto the device that is worn in the mouth for
10 minutes per day. The LED light activates the whitening gel while it is on your teeth. The device is easy
to use but it can be uncomfortable and somewhat heavy to wear in the mouth since it is not a custom


For a whiter and brighter smile, try to avoid foods that stain your teeth such as wine, coffee, tea and
berries (such as blueberries and raspberries). Brush your teeth twice a day for two full minutes with a
whitening toothpaste that has an ADA Seal of Acceptance and floss daily. Keep your regularly scheduled
dental cleanings and talk to your hygienist or dentist about in-office teeth whitening procedures. Having
teeth whitening done professionally means there won’t be gaps in the coverage area (a typical problem
with whitening strips since they don’t cover in between the teeth) and there will be no damage to your
gums (a common problem with at-home over the counter products).

A healthy mouth and a white smile starts with good oral hygiene habits and collaboration with your oral
healthcare team here at Gallery 57 Dental…and that’s no joke!

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