Teeth whitening kits line the walls at supermarkets, are plastered all over billboards, and are advertised on most social media sites. Despite the prevalence of teeth whitening products, many people are lost when it comes to how to effectively whiten teeth, and fail to turn to dental professionals to make sense of available products.
Is there danger in using whitening products too often?
Teeth Whitening: An Introduction
Teeth whitening is typically a cosmetic procedure. Although it is not usually covered by insurance, be sure to check your dental benefits prior to treatment. Teeth whitening usually targets the surface of the teeth, in order to remove discoloration or lighten teeth that have a genetic predisposition toward being darker or more yellow in tone.
What Are Teeth Whiteners?
There are several different types of teeth whiteners, but the two most common types are abrasion whiteners and bleaching whiteners. Abrasion whiteners use abrasive agents, like baking soda, to “scrub” the teeth and reveal lighter teeth beneath discoloration caused by food or drinks. Bleaching whiteners are whiteners that typically utilize peroxide to chemically lighten the surface of the teeth, whether by removing staining or changing genetic coloring.
Are Teeth Whitening Treatments Safe?
For the most part, teeth whitening treatments are considered safe. When used in excess, whitening treatments can prove harmful to the teeth and gums–especially when they are used without the supervision of a qualified dental professional.
When Should You Avoid Teeth Whitening?
Teeth whitening should be avoided in certain cases, to prevent the risk of injury or damage. The most common contraindications for teeth whitening include the following:
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy causes numerous shifts to the body, some of which may prove harmful for those interested in using teeth whiteners. Elevated blood flow and the ability to cross the placenta both make teeth whiteners inadvisable during pregnancy.
- Childhood. Unless otherwise suggested by your family dentist, children should avoid using teeth whiteners. Developing teeth may be more susceptible to damage, and children are not likely to have the wherewithal to avoid swallowing whitening substances in home settings.
- Untreated cavities. The agents used to whiten teeth can be quite caustic. If cavities in the teeth are untreated, teeth whitening tools can cause increased pain and sensitivity.
Although some of these issues can be addressed by a dentist, most dental professionals agree that whitening teeth in the situations above is ill-advised.
How Often Can You Whiten Your Teeth?
Teeth whitening formulas are generally considered safe, but this does not mean that excessive use comes without consequences. To determine how often you can whiten your teeth, you must first take some important factors into consideration.
Speaking to Your Dentist
Your dentist has far more insight into your unique situation and knows the strength of your teeth and gums. To determine how often you can whiten your teeth, you should speak to your dentist. Because whitening agents can cause increased sensitivity to both teeth and gums, your dentist may not recommend consistent use of teeth whiteners for people with gum disease, damaged enamel, or teeth prone to damage and decay. Your dentist can also determine the root cause of your staining.
Evaluating Your Unique Situation
Each individual’s oral health is different, and even one individual will have drastically different states of their oral health at any given moment. Before you decide how often you whiten your teeth, consider the state of your teeth. If you have been experiencing a lot of inflammation, discomfort, or pain, you should avoid using at-home whiteners, or avoid using whiteners more than once or twice each year.
Following Standard Treatment Protocol
Professional teeth whitening is always preferable to at-home whitening kits because professional teeth whitening products are given under supervision and are typically more powerful. Talk to your dentist to learn more about office bleaching to find the best whitening system for your needs.
If you want to use a whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, or whitening gel at home, ask your dentist for recommendations about their favorite products. Bringing your dentist into the equation can help make sure you prevent tooth sensitivity and damaging teeth at risk. Your dentist can help you make sure you follow all treatment protocols on the packaging and can offer more tips to ensure your whitening treatment is completed effectively.
Whitening Your Teeth Safely
While it can be tempting to whiten your teeth the moment that you experience discoloration, it is neither necessary nor healthy to whiten your teeth every single month, or every time you see a darkening of your teeth. Prevention is far more effective in managing tooth discoloration. Brushing and flossing at least twice each day, avoiding foods and drinks prone to staining, and bringing your concerns to your dental provider are all preferable to using teeth whiteners every month or even every few months.