DIY Teeth Whitening: One Man’s Dance with Death

hydrogen peroxide photo
Photo by Trenten Kelley

You’ve all heard of possible side effects about DIY teeth whitening strips, including tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. However, many people are willing to risk it for pearly whites that shine like the sun. It’s more convenient than going to a dentist’s office, and perhaps it gives you a sense of pride to know that you’ve accomplished something, like a million dollar smile, all by yourself. Maybe this was the mindset of 22 year-old Jake Barrett whose DIY whitening kit left him with a gaping hole in his throat.

The Story

Many women swoon at the sight of actor Channing Tatum, while much of the male population would like to be him, or at least, be like him. This held true for Jake Barrett who sought DIY tooth whitening to achieve what he called a “Hollywood Smile.” Whether he wanted to dazzle the ladies with a beautiful smile, or just needed a little confidence boost, his tooth whitening kit landed him a 10 day stay at Northhampton Hospital.

48 hours after using Crest 1 hour Express Strips, Barrett noticed a painful sac in his throat. Assuming it would just go away, he spent six days drinking nothing but smoothies and eating soup, due to the pain from what turned out to be an abscess caused by the hydrogen peroxide solution in the whitening strips. According to the UK Huffington Post, after being rushed to the hospital, Barrett underwent a three hour surgery. Surgeons made an incision in Barrett’s throat, through which they inserted a tube to drain the infected sac. According to Barrett, the abscess could have resulted in poisoning and,ultimately, death. Since the incident, Barrett has opted to go with professional whitening.

Hydrogen Peroxide, Human Tolerance and Bombs

The Crest Express strips which Barrett used are made up of about 15% hydrogen peroxide. This has been commonly accepted as an “okay” amount for human tooth whitening purposes, however, is it good for you? Barrett’s case was rare, it’s true, but hydrogen peroxide can be a dangerous substance. In fact, it’s a key component for many homemade bombs. Barrett’s case aside, maybe there’s a reason bottles of peroxide says “for external use only.”

The Takeaway

While DIY whitening is usually safe, incorrect usage of it can be dangerous to your health, which has been the speculated cause behind Barrett’s incident. Always consult a dentist before partaking in any whitening treatment. For best results, seek professional tooth whitening. Dr. Dan Matthews of Austin, Texas uses Zoom tooth whitening. This procedure uses a special gel and a light to penetrate the enamel and actually break up stains instead of just bleaching them out. It’s much safer and more effective than DIY methods. Also, the process will be monitored to assure safety, something you won’t get from a box of whitening strips.

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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