It's Your Health
Help on accessing alternative formats, such as Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft Word and PowerPoint (PPT) files, can be obtained in the alternate format help section.
Home tooth whitening kits have become very popular with consumers who are hoping to enhance their appearance. When used correctly, they can produce noticeable results.
In the past, most tooth whitening was performed in a dental office by a qualified professional. Today, there are several products available directly to consumers in different applications such as strip, paint-on, or tray kits.
In Canada, all tooth whitening systems (unless they contain fluoride) are considered cosmetics. In terms of regulatory requirements, this means that the manufacturer must submit a cosmetic notification form to Health Canada, accompanied by safety and labelling information. Health Canada does not 'approve' notifications, but submitted information is reviewed to assess that all requirements have been satisfied. Ultimately, the safety of a cosmetic product is the responsibility of the manufacturer.
Home tooth whitening kits are similar to those a dental professional would use, but the concentration of active ingredients are lower than a dental professional's product. Higher concentrations are permitted for in-office formulas because they are applied by a professional who has precise control over the application and understands how it works. A professional can also instruct the consumer on take-home applications and be a direct advisor should an adverse reaction occur.
Tooth whitening systems use peroxide or peroxide-generating compounds as the whitening ingredient. Most are formulated with hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide or urea peroxide. The latter two are most common, and are about three times less potent than hydrogen peroxide itself.
In general, the more peroxide, the greater the whitening power. Formulations differ depending on the way the product is applied either painted on, as a strip or in a tray. Some products are worn for 30 minutes twice a day, while others are worn all night.
Depending on the strength of the whitener, the peroxide acts on the surface of the tooth, as well as the next layer below the dentin. It does not go far enough to reach the pulp (the innermost part of the tooth).
Tooth whiteners will whiten only natural teeth, not caps, crowns, veneers, fillings or dentures. The results are not permanent, but will last for about six months. The products should not be used more often than every six months.
Current clinical studies show that home tooth whitening products are not harmful when used as directed. Based on the available scientific information, there is no concern about possible adverse effects on tooth structure or enamel hardness.
However, it is important to follow the instructions on the product and pay attention to any precautionary statements. You should not use the product for more than 14 days without supervision by a dental professional.
Tooth whitening products are known to cause tooth sensitivity in some individuals, although this is usually temporary.
Health Canada continues to monitor the information available regarding the safety of tooth whiteners. It examines peer-reviewed, scientific studies from recognized sources, in addition to the safety data submitted by manufacturers. Health Canada also performs product testing when a pattern of adverse reactions to a product occur.
For more information about tooth whitening, contact:
Canadian Dental Association (CDA)
1815 Alta Vista Drive
Ottawa, ON Canada
Telephone: (613) 523-1770
Canadian Dental Association (CDA) tooth whitening information.
The It's Your Health article on The Effects of Oral Health on Overall Health.
American Dental Association, Tooth Whitening Treatments.
For more information about cosmetics, see Health Canada's Cosmetic and Personal Care Web section.
Contact your Regional Product Safety Office.
For additional articles on health and safety issues go to the It's Your Health Web section.
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-465-7735*.
Updated: November 2009
Original : June 2004
ę Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2004