Can You Whiten Your Teeth While Pregnant?

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

If you’re asking if you’re physically able to do it despite all risks and odds then yes you can do it. There is nothing physically stopping you from whitening your teeth even though you’re pregnant. However, whether it is safe or recommended is a different story.

Kor Whitening take home kit
KoR Whitening Take Home Kit

The American Dental Association has their own stance on it but we would like to provide you with all of the facts so we’ll include some research studies as well. Then we’ll lay it all out about whether its recommended or not.

Is it safe to get teeth whitening while you’re pregnant?

Unfortunately, the answer is we don’t know if it is truly safe or not to whiten your teeth while you’re pregnant. The main reason being there hasn’t been an actual research studies which were performed on pregnant women.

It seems unethical to subject expecting mothers to teeth whitening in order to find out whether or not it can harm the unborn child. That is most likely why we don’t have any actual research data on it.

However, the vast majority of teeth whitening products utilize hydrogen peroxide as the main whitening ingredient and we can extrapolate data based on that.

Is hydrogen peroxide safe to use while you’re pregnant?

Interestingly enough according to the Public Health of England, hydrogen peroxide is not likely to cause damage to the unborn child since it becomes rapidly detoxified prior to reaching the bloodstream. Only trace amounts get into the blood.

Although just to be clear, they are referencing LOW concentrations of hydrogen peroxide that is used in everyday products such as skin whitening and mouthwashes.

hydrogen peroxide

In addition to that, we also found another reference on Medscape in regards to the use of hydrogen peroxide during pregnancy. Basically during pregnancy and even afterwards for breastfeeding, topical hydrogen peroxide use is NOT expected to result in fetal exposure.

In other words, they came to a similar conclusion as the Public Health of England. The drug will become rapidly detoxified prior to even getting into the blood.

Is hydrogen peroxide dangerous at high concentrations?

Despite what those two studies have found, we did find evidence that hydrogen peroxide can be extremely toxic and dangerous at HIGH concentrations. This isn’t unusual because those two studies were based off of low concentrations. So it isn’t contradictory.

We found a labchem SDS for 30% hydrogen peroxide which explicitly says to avoid contact while pregnant and also nursing. This concentration is of course significantly higher than the 3% that you’ll find at the drug stores. It is literally 10x as potent.

In addition to that we also found evidence that hydrogen peroxide can be LETHAL if consumed in large quantities or high concentrations. The European Union Risk Assessment Report presented multiple scenarios which resulted in death for said individuals who drank the solution.

The first case was of a 2 year old boy who drank about 4-6 oz of 35% hydrogen peroxide. Ultimately, he died four days later.

With that being said, most of the over the counter teeth whitening products are of lower concentration. However the in-office whitening products tend to be of a much higher concentration. What that means is that it can potentially be harmful!

Do doctors recommend it?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Dental Association (ADA), all elective procedures should be postponed until after delivery. Cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening do happen to fall underneath the umbrella of elective procedures.

The most likely reason for them saying so is because the higher concentration whitening products which contain a lot more hydrogen peroxide may be harmful. There is also the fact that there haven’t really been any research studies done on the actual safety of the product.

Putting that all together means that it is unnecessary risk for the pregnant mother to take. It’s not as if you need to have whiter teeth during pregnancy. There is no harm in waiting until after giving birth to have Hollywood white teeth.

Therefore, we will have to agree with both the ACOG and the ADA in recommending that you postpone all teeth whitening procedures until after delivering the baby.

Exception

When we say to avoid teeth whitening products we mean the ones that don’t do anything other than whiten your teeth. They typically come in a higher concentration.

Here are some examples:

  • In-office whitening
  • Take home customized trays
  • Crest 3D white strips with or without the LED light
  • Whitening pen

There are whitening products which are acceptable such as whitening toothpaste. You may use whitening toothpaste while you’re pregnant without much detrimental side effects. The reason is actually because most whitening toothpastes do not even contain hydrogen peroxide.

You read that correctly! The vast majority of these toothpastes don’t have whitening ingredients in them. How they “whiten” your teeth is actually via mechanical abrasion and NOT via chemical bleaching. It is akin to scrubbing really hard to remove colored stains. When we think of bleaching, it is more like using OxiClean to whiten your shirt.

Toothpaste with actual hydrogen peroxide

Your toothpaste does not whiten like Oxiclean BUT there is an exception. The Colgate Optic White toothpaste actually does contain hydrogen peroxide (HP) in it. You can find them ranging in a 2-5% concentration of HP.

colgate optic white pro series toothpaste

Despite containing hydrogen peroxide it is probably still safe to use on a daily basis even if you’re pregnant since it does contain a very low concentration. The studies above only showed harm when it was significantly more potent or highly concentrated. The everyday products with low concentrations did not show any adverse effects.

However, we would shy away from the 5% one and stick with the 3% optic white toothpaste just to be safe… You can switch back to the higher concentration one after your baby comes.

For your information, that 5% peroxide optic white product is literally the best whitening toothpaste on the market.

Takeaway

Due to uncertainty with the risks involved from whitening your teeth while pregnant, the recommendation is to wait until after giving birth to bleach your teeth. This is consistent with the ACOG and the ADA’s stance on delaying all elective and cosmetic procedures until post-partum.

Most of that has to do with the fact that we don’t have any actual studies that were done on pregnant women. That is a risk which is not worth taking.

However, if your toothpaste says “whitening” on it, it is actually still safe to use because most of them don’t have any hydrogen peroxide in it anyway. The only exception is if you were using one with HP such as the Colgate Optic White. Although if you’re using the 3% one it should still be okay because according to studies, low concentration hydrogen peroxide products are not expected to result in fetal exposure!

But just to reiterate, you MUST stay away from all products which are solely meant for whitening and nothing else such as the whitening strips and anything that you can purchase at your dentist. You only have to wait nine months until you can whiten your teeth again.

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