Dental Whitening Safety for Kids and Teens

Concerned about teeth whitening for kids and teens? We’ve put together a list of tips and cautions for you and your family.

Twin girls who are young teenagers smile at the camera.
Many popular whitening trends aren’t safe for teeth.

It seems like society puts a lot of pressure on us to look a certain kind of way. “Perfect” white teeth are highly sought after–it only takes a walk down the toothpaste aisle to see it. There are even teeth whitening filters to make teeth appear gleaming on camera.

But for teeth that are still developing, are harsh chemical bleaching products safe? What about the latest trends to DIY white teeth at home?

We’ll give you all our advice below.

Whitening Strips

What are they?

Thin strips of plastic coated in chemical whiteners that a person can buy in the store and use at home.

Who should use them?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says whitening strips aren’t safe for kids and teens under the age of 15 due to a lack of research and testing. Kids and young teens should avoid these products because of possible reactions with the ingredients and because of a high rate of user error. You can read more of their policies in this PDF. (Opens in new tab.)

Charcoal Whitening Products

What are they?

There’s a variety of charcoal-infused or activated charcoal dental products from brushes to pastes.

Who should use them?

Nobody! Charcoal is very abrasive to the tooth’s surface and can cause damage to your enamel. There’s also no evidence that it actually works, either.

Hydrogen Peroxide

What is it?

H2O2 is a disinfectant that’s often used in dental products for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. When used in things like mouthwash, it’s diluted to a solution of about 1%.

This past year, people on social media were using undiluted peroxide–basically bleach– to whiten their teeth. Just because the same ingredient shows up in toothpaste doesn’t mean it’s safe to use in home remedies.

Is it safe?

Hydrogen Peroxide is an irritant and even in diluted form, it’s effects on young teeth are still unstudied. Use caution with children under 15, and NOBODY should be using undiluted hydrogen peroxide on their teeth.

Baking Soda

What is it?

Much like hydrogen peroxide, this is a common ingredient in dental products like toothpaste. It’s mildly abrasive and can be safe and effective when used in the proper amount. But, in DIY uses, baking soda can do more harm than good.

How’s it being (mis)used?

Social media influencers were using baking soda mixed with hydrogen peroxide to whiten their teeth. This is definitely NOT a good idea. Combined, the two can weaken your enamel and leave your teeth weaker.

Lemons… Really?!

Lemons are NOT an appropriate ingredient for teeth whitening! Anything that’s highly acidic like lemon or vinegar is damaging to enamel and is no way to get a brighter smile.

Prevention is Key to Whiter Teeth

This probably isn’t the most exciting answer, but preventing dental stains before they happen is really the best way to keep your smile bright. Avoiding teas, coffee, soda, and of course smoking and vaping are all dentist-recommended ways to prevent stains. And, no, using a straw to drink your beverages won’t eliminate staining.

Dental Whitening Treatments

If your child is concerned about tooth discoloration, talk to their dentist about your options. Many people have dental whitening done by a professional after having braces or in cases of visible dental fluorisis. The safest options for your child will the ones a dentist can recommend for them specifically.

What’s more important than having the whitest smile is having a healthy smile. Abrasive irritants might give short-term results, but the long-term damage of weakened enamel is not worth the risk.