Some over-the-counter teeth whitening kits can cause chemical burns and painful mouth ulcers, dentists have warned.
Increasing numbers of consumers are turning to cosmetic dental treatments to give their teeth a new lease of life.
But the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) has warned that DIY kits can cause permanent damage.
It says that some kits bought abroad or online are particularly strong and contain acids and abrasives that can harm your teeth.
BACD board member and dentist James Goolnik said: ‘All whitening is based on a hydrogen peroxide solution; the only difference in the hundreds of systems out there is the concentration and the way the solution is applied to your teeth.
‘Not all of them are safe and it is essential people consult their dentist, as some whitening kits bought over the counter or abroad can cause permanent damage.’
Dr Goolnik recently saw a patient, Tamara Morris, who had suffered painful mouth ulcers after using a whitening kit bought at a high-street pharmacy.
Ms Morris, 27, said: ‘Although it burned my mouth slightly when first I used the gel, I thought this was normal. Afterwards, it hurt when I brushed my teeth, or when I drank anything hot. When I went to the dentist he discovered I had sores on my gums resulting from the treatment.’
Consult a dentist
The BACD says there are two main ways of properly carrying out tooth whitening. The first involves putting gel in a custom made night-guard provided by a dentist. The guard is then worn for seven to ten nights.
Patients can also choose laser or power bleaching where more concentrated gels are applied directly to the teeth and accelerated with heat or light.
However, the BACD says that before anyone uses a teeth whitening treatment they should ask their dentist to check their teeth are healthy.