Q: I’m 4 months along and would like to get my teeth bleached. Is having this done safe during pregnancy?
A: Almost certainly. “To my knowledge, there have been no human studies on the safety of using tooth-whitening products in pregnancy,” says Christina Chambers, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor in the departments of pediatrics and family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “However, we don’t have any reason to think they would pose a risk to the developing fetus.” The main ingredient in tooth whiteners, whether they’re the types purchased over the counter or those used in dentists’ offices, is usually hydrogen peroxide, aka carbamide peroxide, adds Chambers, who is the director of the California Teratogen Information Service. (Teratogens are substances that cause birth defects.) Though they are formulated at varying strengths, these products are used topically, so the amount of chemical absorbed into the bloodstream is minimal and, therefore, risk to the fetus is minimal. “The main concern with the higher-strength products, or those left on for long periods of time, would be irritation to the gums,” Chambers says.