Manufacturers of teeth whitening products have set out to convince you that you need a whiter smile, and they’re willing to sell you all sorts of solutions. True, yellow teeth may not be as attractive as snow white ones, but neither are damaged ones. If you’ve been using whitening treatments to bleach your teeth to a perfect pearly white, you could be doing your teeth harm, especially if you are doing the treatments yourself and doing them often.
Teeth whitening treatments may cause permanent damage to enamel, and the risks may increase with each use. To reduce enamel damage, avoid peroxide-based whiteners and talk to your dentist about fluoride remineralization treatments. Consider getting your teeth whitened by a trained professional or using a whitening toothpaste, which removes surface stains without peroxide.
Possible Permanent Damage
Teeth naturally have a light gray or yellow tint, but many of us have been conditioned to believe a paper-white smile is a healthy one. Tooth whitening has long come with risks of temporary tooth sensitivity and gum irritation, but dentists have generally viewed the treatments as safe, especially if the treatments are done by those in their office who are trained. Research is now showing that some peroxide-based whiteners may actually have damaging effects. This is due to some temporary softening that occurs when peroxide penetrates the different layers of the tooth.
Multiple treatments can increase negative effects, so the more you whiten your teeth, the higher your chances of permanently damaging your enamel. Unfortunately, whitening only offers temporary results, so people who want to maintain a bright smile usually must repeat at least yearly. Smokers and those who consume teeth-staining foods and drinks may need to whiten as often as monthly.
Reducing Your Risks
The risks of irritation and damage may be present, but you don’t have to forego whitening altogether if it helps you feel better about your smile. You can reduce your chances of causing permanent damage by having the whitening performed by your dentist; this can avoid misuse of the bleaching trays which can lead to the bleaching agent leaking out of the tray and causing chemical burns, or accidental swallowing of the bleaching agent. In addition, your dentist can provide fluoride remineralization treatments. This will help to strengthen your enamel when the peroxide makes it most vulnerable.
Avoid home teeth-whitening kits and, if you must use them, do it as infrequently as possible. One study found the effects of whitened teeth could be maintained longer with the use of an electric toothbrush over a manual one. Alternatively, you can use an ADA-approved whitening toothpaste instead of a bleaching treatment, which relies on gentle abrasives rather than peroxide to remove surface stains. It’s not as effective, but it’s also much safer.
You can remove surface stains naturally by brushing with baking soda, but remember that baking soda can wear down enamel if used on a regular basis, over time. Many people swear by oil pulling. This 3000-year-old practice may have some benefits to dental hygiene, such as reducing germs and remineralizing teeth, but unfortunately stain fighting doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Regardless of how bright you make your smile, keeping your enamel strong is vital to the long-term health of your teeth. Protect yours by doing what you can to avoid permanent damage from harsh whiteners. Your future smile will thank you.
~ Here’s to Your Health and Wellness