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Does Whitening Your Teeth Have Side Effects?

Saturday, January 22nd

Does Whitening Your Teeth Have Side Effects?

What is the number one most requested cosmetic procedure in America today? If you guessed Botox injection, you're wrong.

Teeth-whitening procedures are actually the number one requested cosmetic service in the United States today. Americans reportedly spent over a million dollars on over-the-counter teeth-whitening products within the last year. Those figures do not take into account the number of people who seek whitening procedures from a dental professional.

Tooth whitening is the process by which bleach, or another chemical agent, is applied to a person's teeth in order to help remove stains and discoloration, making them appear brighter. The procedure can be done in a dentist's office, or at home using special over-the-counter whitening kits.

Tooth-whitening procedures work best on surface, or extrinsic, stains. Those are the kinds of stains which are produced by drinking too many dark-colored drinks (coffee, tea, red wines, and cola), smoking or chewing tobacco, or through the aging process. It is possible for teeth to have what is known as an intrinsic stain. That is a stain that actually occurs within the tooth itself. These kinds of stains can be caused by a number of things: overuse of fluoride products as a child, usage of antibiotics in children under age 8 and use of antibiotics by a mother who is in the second half of her pregnancy. Various forms of trauma also can result in intrinsic stains. Tooth-whitening procedures do not have a great track record when it comes to handling intrinsic stains.

While the end result can be pleasing to the eye, there still are questions concerning the safety of tooth-whitening procedures, especially if they are repeatedly performed.

The two most commonly-occurring side effects from tooth whitening products and procedures are increase in tooth sensitivity and irritation of the mouth and gums. Both side effects are generally temporary and will disappear within a few days, but can be quite painful to endure while present.

Another risk of overusing tooth-whitening products is the onset of early decay. Most products - whether the kind used by a dental professional or the over-the-counter variety - are intended to be used just once annually. Using them more frequently can soften the enamel on teeth, which can make the tooth more susceptible to decay.

Softened enamel also can cause another serious problem: the thinning out of the tooth. Some people who overuse tooth-whitening products actually thin out the layers of their teeth, making them more prone to breakage and other serious issues.

So how does one know if a tooth-whitening procedure or product is safe?

Most bleaching products used in dental offices consist of 10 percent carbamide and/or 35 percent hydrogen peroxide. Those products have been tested and approved as safe by the American Dental Association (ADA). While many over-the-counter products have sought the ADA's seal of approval, none have received it. Does that mean all over-the-counter products are unsafe? No. However, the ADA does not endorse any at-home products because it believes that a professional dentist should be consulted before any procedure is performed.

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Teeth Whitener FAQ

Many people have stains on their teeth from coffee, cola, and even just day-to-day foods. Most teeth whiteners work by combining oxygen from the air and carbon in the dentin layer of the teeth, which breaks apart any colored molecules still stuck to the teeth (and which aren't removed by regular dental cleanings). Some teeth whitening systems use a whitening gel in combination with an LED light appliance for increased effectiveness, while others only use topical application of liquids or strips.
The process itself usually takes anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on which system you choose. How long will it take to see a whiter smile? Some teeth whiteners produce noticeably brighter teeth within one or two applications, while others take a week or more of regular treatments.
Teeth whitening can result in sensitivity in the teeth and gums. If you're experiencing sensitivity, you can shorten your treatment time during each application or use the product less often than recommended. There are also special toothpastes that can ease sensitivity. But, the whitening process itself is rarely painful, no matter which method you choose.
It is possible for teeth whiteners to damage tooth enamel when not used properly. However, if you follow the manufacturer's directions carefully, there should be no risk to your teeth. (In other words, don't try to whiten your teeth faster than recommended!)
Not much! Most in-office teeth whiteners use the same treatment solutions (hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide) and send you home with trays to use for maintenance that are exactly like what you'd buy to use on your own in the first place. Yes, having your teeth whitened at the dentist's office gives you the reassurance that you're not overdoing it, but you're paying a lot more for it too.
That depends on you! If you avoid smoking and teeth-staining foods and drinks (like coffee and blueberries!), use a straw whenever possible, and keep up with your regular dental cleanings, your pearly-white smile should last a long time - several months to a year or more.
At-home teeth whitening systems are surprisingly affordable! Some of the most effective products cost less than $50 for 20 applications (and you'd pay four times that much for a single in-office whitening treatment from your dentist!).
Most manufacturers of teeth whitening products offer a satisfaction guarantee of at least 30 days, giving you plenty of time to try it out and see if you get results. Just be aware that some products' fine print says that you can only get a refund if the product is unused (not very helpful, we know).
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