Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tooth Whitening:Is It Safe?

Have you ever wondered if there are any harmful effects to your teeth when you whiten them?  If so, you’re not alone.  I am frequently asked this question by patients at my Queen Creek dental office.   The good news is that when dentist-recommended tooth whitening products are used correctly, there is no known long or short-term harm to teeth.  
Tooth whitening systems that would be used or prescribed by a dentist typically use hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient.   As opposed to tooth whitening toothpastes which only remove stains on the exterior of your teeth,  hydrogen peroxide based tooth whitening systems can remove both the stains on the interior and exterior of your teeth.  The stains inside your teeth were acquired during the development of those teeth and were influenced by environmental factors you were exposed to at that time such as tetracycline use or extremely high amounts of fluoride in drinking water.  The stains on the outside of your teeth are ones you’ve accumulated from substances you’ve put in your mouth such as ketchup, soy sauce, berries, wine, coffee, tea and smoking.
A study in the June 2012 issue of the  Journal of the American Dental Association looked at the percentage  of tooth demineralization on patients after whitening their teeth.   The samples that were taken from these people’s teeth showed that no demineralization (or damage) happened as a result of the whitening process.   
One thing to remember though is to use moderation in all things.  Anything can be detrimental if overdone.  Excessive whitening or bleaching for prolonged periods of time have not yet been fully studied and should be avoided.  Ask your dentist what they recommend as an appropriate amount for you.
One possible down-side of whitening is that it can make your teeth sensitive.  This is particularly a problem when the bleaching solution reaches exposed tooth roots (i.e. gum recession) or irritates the gums themselves.  Here are some suggestions to help avoid sensitivity:
·         Talk to your dentist before starting either an in-office, take home tray, or OTC whitening regimen
·         Certain fluoride treatments have been shown to decrease sensitivity
·         A product called Amorphous Calcium Phosphate (ACP) can also help
·         Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory medications (like Motrin or Aleve) can help
·         Make sure the tray or strips you are using do not cover your gums
So now that you know the facts, you can feel comfortable pursuing that dazzling smile you’ve been dreaming of.  There are lots of options out there so consult your dentist and find the best method for you.  I would be happy to answer any other questions here or at my Queen Creek dental office (480-888-8123).  You can also find our office on the web at
For more information on the safety and effectiveness of tooth whitening products visit
To see some videos about whitening visit
Post by Dr Alex Matheson of Matheson Dentistry

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