Question from reader: I heard extreme whitening toothpastes can damage tooth enamel? I love bright white teeth but don’t want to cause irreversible damage. Is there truth to this?
All toothpastes actually have the potential to damage tooth enamel when used incorrectly (excessive scrubbing, incorrect angling of the tooth brush, or when used with a firm toothbrush for example). The stains that build up on teeth on a daily basis are superficial and can be removed with almost any brand of toothpaste. Most dentists recommend toothpastes that have the ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval which indicates that the toothpaste has been tested to be safe with normal use.
Extreme whitening toothpastes may contain excessive abrasives and pH altering chemicals that can erode the surface of teeth by being excessively acidic or basic, especially if used beyond the recommended time. These products may not have been tested on teeth in a controlled study to evaluate their effects. The damage can be irreversible. You only get one set of adult teeth and your best bleaching results will be obtained with a dentist recommended custom bleaching product and custom bleaching trays. The dentist should evaluate your progress and monitor your results to see if any modifications are needed during the bleaching process, and to make sure that the teeth are not over bleached!
How much is too much when it comes to teeth whitening?
This will vary by the patient’s desires and often teeth are bleached excessively – whiter than any naturally existing teeth. Some teeth will even become translucent with excessive bleaching and depending on the lighting may end up looking bluish or gray. . The dentist should evaluate your progress and monitor your results to see if any modifications are needed during the bleaching process, and to make sure that the teeth are not over bleached!
How long should you wait in between treatments?
This will vary by the patient and the type of bleaching process. Although we do a lot of “Power Bleaching” in our office where the teeth are bleached with professional strength products while the patient is in the dental chair, we have found this to only be necessary when speed is the only criteria. We have the best results and the least side effects with custom tray bleaching (our office makes the custom trays from good impressions of a patient’s teeth) using recommended bleaching products. The patient will wear the custom trays at night while they are sleeping or for 30 – 60 minutes per day. It there is no sensitivity, a patient can safely bleach with custom trays daily. If the teeth become sensitive, we recommend skipping a day or two between bleaching or using a different product or other materials that help with sensitivity.
What are some other negative side effects of teeth whitening?
The most common side effect from tooth bleaching is short term sensitivity which will usually go away within a day. Our office takes care to make sure that the professional tooth bleaching products do not harm the gum tissue – the tissue can become irritated, even ulcerated with improper application of strong bleaching materials. We take care to make sure the custom trays are comfortable and non-irritating. Unregulated tooth bleaching products may cause irreversible etching of the tooth enamel and burning and/or ulceration of the gum tissue. There is also the permanent problem of over bleaching when the process is not monitored well. The teeth should be healthy when they are bleached as the bleaching material can get into areas of decay and damage the nerve of the teeth. Again, it is best to use products from your dentist after you have had your teeth examined and your mouth has been treated as needed to be healthy. White teeth will not hide unhealthy gum tissues!
The most often side effect is positive – increased smiling and an increase in self-confidence.
Does it damage your teeth in the long run?
Good quality tooth bleaching materials, administered and monitored in a dental office should not damage teeth.
What brands do you recommend for at home whitening?
Although there are many good home whitening or tooth bleaching products, our office primarily uses products from Ultradent and Discus Dental.
Should you do it in office or at home? Does it really make a difference?
Although we do a lot of “Power Bleaching” in our office where the teeth are bleached with professional strength products while the patient is in the dental chair, we have found this to only be necessary when speed is the main criteria. We have the best results and the least side effects with custom tray bleaching (our office makes the custom trays from good impressions of a patient’s teeth) using recommended tooth bleaching products.
Custom tray bleaching allows for bleaching of individual teeth without bleaching all the teeth at the same time. This can be useful for hard-to-bleach teeth where it would be undesirable to bleach all the teeth and you just want the darker one(s) to catch up!
How should you prepare for whitening?
A thorough dental examination is necessary to make sure that you are a good candidate for bleaching. If there is any decay or periodontal disease, this should be addressed first.
How long should you wait before consuming foods and drinks that cause staining like wine and coffee?
Tooth bleaching products open up pores in the teeth and make the teeth more susceptible to staining during the time of bleaching. We recommending avoiding these types of drinks or using a straw so that the colored and/or acidic liquids will bypass the teeth. The pores will close by themselves with the minerals in saliva with time but in our office we usually do a final fluoride treatment to seal the pores and minimize further staining at the end of the bleaching process.
Any other tips for how to keep smile white?
Keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy AND whiter by brushing and flossing daily. Maintain regular dental checkups and ask your dentist to monitor the color of your teeth to see if it is time for a bleaching ‘touch up’. Teeth darken with age and although the tooth bleaching process creates a permanent color change, the teeth will continue to darken over time and a brief touch up – ideally with custom trays – may be needed periodically, perhaps once every year or two.
This information shared with you by Julie Gillis, DDS PC . We feel that your dental health is the top priority, and if we can make your smile more attractive while improving your health that is wonderful! Dr. Gillis practices restorative and cosmetic dentistry including porcelain veneers, tooth whitening, implants, crowns, bridges and periodontal care. Our office website is www.juliegillisds.com. For further information, please contact us at (970) 242-3635.