So Are Whitening Strips Actually Safe?
Any time you use a product that goes in or on the body you should question whether or not it is safe for you to use. Since whitening strips are placed inside the mouth, it is in your best interest to know if they could pose any kind of health related risk to you, personally. What may cause problems for one person may not act the same way on another, so you need to view any, and every, product from your personal vantage point.
Are whitening strips safe? The simple answer would be, yes they are known to be safe for the average person but, as usual, there are always a few exceptions to the rule. Let’s take a closer look at whitening strips so that you can decide whether or not they will be safe for you to use.
Are There Any Known Risks or Adverse Side Effects?
When you ask, “Are whitening strips safe?” you want to know if you can use them without any health related risks or adverse side effects. The only way to determine that is to look at the ingredients to see if you have ever had a problem with them and also you will want to know what the strips themselves are made of.
To begin our search on possible side effects, let’s look at the ingredients in one of the leading brands of whitening strips so that we can inspect each ingredient individually. For this we will look at Crest 3D Luxe Whitestrips Professional Effects. This particular brand has longest list of ingredients that are also known to be of a strength comparable to what is used in professional procedures. Are whitening strips safe? If you can handle these, all other whitening strips will most likely be safe as well.
PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone) – PVP is sometimes used as a binder and other times as an antiseptic. The FDA has given its approval for the use of this chemical in several medical applications. There is a possibility to be allergic to PVP but generally not when used in whitening strips. Typical reactions occur when used subcutaneously and sometimes when injected into the veins. Most often the reaction is a result of a PVP product that is mixed with iodine and it has been found that iodine was most likely the cause of the allergy.
PEG-8 (polyethylene glycol esterified with lauric acid) – Used as an emulsifying agent, the concentration is quite low. What has been found is that PEG-8 can cause eye irritation in test rabbits but it isn’t likely that you will be applying whitening strips to your eyes, is it? The word of caution here is that you should always, always, always wash your hands both before and after using whitening strips, or before putting anything at all into or near your mouth. Are whitening strips safe if they can cause irritation? Again, the concentration is very low so you shouldn’t experience irritation of the gums, but if you do, take the strips out and consult with your doctor or dentist.
Water – This shouldn’t be a problem. If you have ever met anyone allergic to water they must be from an alien planet. More than 2/3 of the earth is composed of water and as for the human body? We are comprised of anywhere from 55% to 65% water depending on age and gender.
H2O2 (Hydrogen peroxide) – Everyone knows that this is the first bottle mothers reach for when their child falls and skins a knee. Few people have reactions to this antiseptic but in teeth whitening strips, it is also used as a bleaching agent. H2O2 is the ingredient in most hair dyes that lift color a shade or two and if used in low concentrates can deposit color. In stronger concentrations hydrogen peroxide can cause redness and irritation and it is said that serious side effects and/or allergies are extremely rare.
Acrylates copolymer – This ingredient has been approved by the FDA and reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert (CIR) and found to be safe. Here it is used as a fixative to keep the whitening strips in place and the gel also in place on the strips. In higher concentrations it may cause irritation but in this strength there have been no known cases of it having done so.
Sodium Hydroxide – In high concentrations sodium hydroxide can be corrosive and should not be inhaled. The strength used in whitening strips is very weak but still strong enough to be a bleaching agent. This is the ingredient which ‘may’ cause some small amount of irritation but there have been no complaints of any serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may want to be aware of how long you keep the strips in your mouth and follow the directions explicitly.
Sodium Saccharin – By this point in time we have all heard the horror stories that saccharin was found to cause cancer in laboratory rats but at concentrations that were tens of thousands of times the normal amount when ingested. The comparison here would be like a grain of sand on an entire beach. There are no known allergies or side effects to sodium saccharin at this concentration.
Are Whitening Strips Safe for Everyone?
While there have been no reports of any serious side effects or adverse reactions, there are always a few exceptions to every rule. It is always recommended that pregnant women or lactating mothers talk to their doctor before using any product whatsoever. There are no warnings that this product shouldn’t be used by pregnant women but it is always best to get your personal doctor’s approval.
Following is a list of people who may want to consult with their dentist or orthodontist prior to use:
- If you wear braces.
- If you have had any problems with dental health.
- If you have fillings, crowns and/or any type of dental restorations.
- If you are taking any prescription medications at the moment.
Also, if you have ever had a reaction to hydrogen peroxide you should consult with your doctor as some whitening strips have professional strength H2O2.
The strips themselves are made from polyethylene which is a synthetic material, a type of plastic. Are teeth whitening strips safe that are manufactured with plastic? These are not known to cause any allergies such as latex does, so are generally thought to be extremely safe from this perspective. It would not be the plastic causing irritation but if there was any at all it would be from one or more of the active ingredients.
As you can see from the above information, teeth whitening strips work by the application of a safe bleaching agent which is held in place by polyethylene strips. So, are teeth whitening strips safe? If used as directed and there are no contraindications such as known allergies, they are deemed safe to be used by the general public. They have been approved for this use by the Food and Drug Administration as well as by the CIR expert panel.
Disclaimer: It is always recommended that you consult with your doctor prior to using any cosmetic or medical formulation on or in the body. While products have been certified safe for use, there may be exceptions and only your doctor can advise whether or not specific products are safe for you personally.
Image credit: Dee