I was checking out the dental questions on the Yahoo! Answers websites this morning, and found this interesting one from a guy. Here’s the question:
“Can I bleach my teeth with regular bleach?
“I want to bleach my teeth, and I have a whole like jug of bleach (like what you use on white clothes), how should I use it just gurgle it around in my mouth or what?”
He had thirteen answers from sensible people who responded with varying levels of horror.
I have a rather different take on this question, colored by my experience as a cosmetic dentist. It was maybe about 25 years ago, before teeth bleaching was widely practiced, that I had a patient who told me that she gargled with Clorox to help keep her teeth white. She was a young woman, and I have to admit that she had nice, white teeth. But I told her that I didn’t think that was smart.
Clorox isn’t an acid, it’s a base, kind of like lye. And it’s corrosive and, given enough contact time, can burn living tissue. Plus, contact with certain other chemicals can cause it to release chlorine, which is a toxic gas that will kill you. Though, clearly my patient was alive, quite healthy, and had nice, white teeth.
Interestingly, it’s probably a majority of dentists who use Clorox or another brand of household bleach in doing root canal treatments. The active ingredient is sodium hypochlorite, which is an excellent cleanser to use inside a tooth root for dissolving away all the dead organic debris inside a cleaned-out root, and for disinfecting the tooth. They taught us this technique in dental school.
But don’t gargle with it.
There’s actually a question posted on the Clorox website in their FAQ section: Can I use Clorox® Regular-Bleach to gargle, brush my teeth or clean cuts and scrapes? Their answer: “No. Clorox® Regular-Bleach is not for personal usage.”
So there you go. That’s the official word. There is also a notice on the label: “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” So beware. In addition to poisoning yourself, someone may sic the bleaching police on you. It would be a bad scene all around. Just don’t go there.
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