Can I whiten my teeth while I am pregnant or nursing?

Question: I’m pregnant. Should I continue my tooth whitening treatments?

Answer: The effect of the tooth whitening gel on the baby, if you’re pregnant, is unknown. It is normal, during the bleaching process, to swallow a little bit of the gel. While this is safe for adults, pregnancy is such a delicate time for mother and baby that cosmetic dentists advise against teeth whitening while you are pregnant. And remember, that the most vulnerable time for the baby is in the very early stages of pregnancy, so if you could possibly be pregnant but aren’t sure, I would still recommend against teeth whitening.

The tooth bleaching gel contains peroxide, which is just water with an extra oxygen atom. It’s the oxygen in the bleach that accomplishes the teeth whitening. Since oxygen is hardly a foreign substance, many cosmetic dentists assume that bleaching or whitening your teeth is a fairly harmless procedure. No studies have shown any harm from this peroxide tooth whitening. But pregnancy is such a delicate time, and there is so much we don’t know about how substances affect babies during pregnancy, that it’s wise to avoid anything unnecessary if its effect on pregnancy isn’t known.

And while whitening toothpaste isn’t very effective at changing the color of your teeth, it is safe to use while you are nursing or pregnant.

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This content was written by Dr. David Hall.