I have a friend who has been gargling with Clorox to whiten her teeth. Is that smart? Can she be poisoned?
Vince from Massachusetts
While this might seem scary, I’m guessing that your friend hasn’t died yet. 🙂
You might be interested to read that PubMed states that it is safe to use laundry bleach (e.g. Clorox) as an oral rinse, though they suggest it be only periodically and to use it at a 1:20 dilution.
And you might also be interested in what I heard from a nationally-known cosmetic dentist who told me that early in his practice he had a young, attractive woman in his practice who told him that she was gargling with Clorox to make her teeth whiter. He said that he told her he didn’t recommend it, but he didn’t freak out over it. He said that her teeth were actually a nice, pretty white, and while bleach is quite caustic, he didn’t notice any burning of her gums or other oral tissues.
Chlorine bleach is a base (the opposite of an acid), like lye. It is corrosive and destroys living tissue. In addition, if it mixes with certain other types of substances it creates chlorine gas, which is a potent poison. For those reasons, it is clearly not a recommended practice. But we can’t deny that some people are getting away with using it. I suspect that they are gargling for only very short times. At least I hope so.
If she is determined to whiten your teeth without a dentist, then you could suggest she get some of the over-the-counter whitening strips, such as Crest Whitestrips. These do work, with some limitations:
- They only cover a few teeth. For instance, Crest will only cover about 6 teeth. Most people have a smile which is 8 to 10 teeth wide.
- They are not very strong. By law, over-the-counter treatments have to be milder than you’d get under professional supervision.
And, of course, the best way to whiten her teeth would be to just buckle down and go to a dentist. Opalescence teeth whitening, for example, is very effective. It might be less expensive than she is imagining. If you are in a hurry to get your teeth whitened, see if your dentist has Zoom Whitening available. This allows patients to get their teeth whitened to their fullest in just one appointment.
This blog is brought to you by Midtown Manhattan cosmetic dentist, Dr. Marianna Farber.