A young man from England suffered a severe allergic reaction that left a gaping hole in his throat after using a tooth whitening kit, the Huffington Post UK reported.
Forty-eight hours after applying Crest 1hr Express strips, Jake Barrett, 22, said he noticed a painful sac had formed under his tongue. "I wasn't sure what the liquid was, or why it had formed, but I assumed I would be OK and that the penicillin I was taking for something else would treat that, too," he said.
The report said that over the next few days, the bulge continued to grow to the point where Barrett could barely swallow. He went to the hospital where medics discovered the sac was filled with hydrogen peroxide, an ingredient that makes up 15 percent of the Crest strips.
"The doctor told me that the sac that had formed was the size of a grape, and so delicate that any moment it could have leaked hydrogen peroxide down my throat," Barrett said.
He underwent an emergency procedure to drain and remove the sac, leaving him with a gaping hole under his chin. One of his back teeth was also removed after it had become infected, the Huffington Post reported. Barrett said he spent 10 days in the hospital after his pursuit of a "Hollywood smile" went bad.
Crest's parent company, Proctor and Gamble, have said they are aware of the incident and are investigating.
"Nothing is more important to us than the wellbeing and safety of the people who use our products," a spokesperson said in a statement. "We're sorry to hear about Mr. Bartlett's experience and wish him a full recovery. Whilst not sold directly by P&G in the UK, Crest Whitestrips have been available in the United States for more than ten years, complying with all relevant legislation including peroxide levels. They are safe to use when applied as indicated on the packaging."
Dr. Mark Wolff, chairman of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the New York University College of Dentistry, told CBS News that while he could not comment on this specific case, he's never heard of anything like it in the medical literature.
"There doesn't appear to be a real history of oral peroxide-induced abscesses anywhere," he said. "This is not the normal type of presentation you see from strips, even those that are high concentration. People can handle extremely high concentrations of peroxide without it being toxic."
Wolff said whitening strips are generally safe if used as instructed, but cautions that there can be some side effects, including tooth and gum sensitivity and discoloration from over-bleaching.
"We actually see a lot of patients that come in with gray or translucent teeth and that's associated with over-bleaching," he said. "The color's been stripped out of the teeth. There's no magic that dentists have available to get the color back."
Wolff said that over-the-counter whitening products can be effective, but recommends seeking professional help if you don't see a noticeable result.
"If it hasn't achieved what you're looking for after about a week, consider seeing your dentist," he said. "We have more powerful agents used in different formats that could get the results you're looking for."