F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal
Don’t Be Fooled by White, Shiny Teeth
A gleaming, white smile is a sign of a healthy mouth, right? Not necessarily.
“Whiteness and the health of your teeth are totally unrelated,” says Mark Wolff, an associate dean at New York University College of Dentistry.
In fact, many dentists worry that people who whiten their teeth may have a false sense of complacency, since their teeth can still be harboring tooth decay and serious gum disease.
Even people who have no cavities can still have inflamed and infected gums. It could be that their saliva is particularly protective of their tooth enamel, while their brushing and flossing habits, needed to keep gum tissues healthy, could be lax.
“I get these patients in their mid-30s who don’t have cavities, so they haven’t been to a dentist in 10 years. But they have full-blown periodontal disease,” says George Kivowitz, a restorative dentist in Manhattan. “They are losing all the supporting structure, and I have to tell them that these gorgeous teeth will fall out of your head if we don’t turn this around.”
Using whitening products more often than recommended can erode some of the enamel and cause teeth to appear translucent. But whether that actually harms teeth is controversial. “No one has really shown that it’s damaging, but no one knows the long-term results,” says Dr. Marcus, the periodontist in Yardley, Pa.