Having a set of nice pearly whites can really instill a sense of confidence in yourself. However, everything from your morning cup of Joe to your evening glass of wine seems as if it exists just to stain your teeth and take away that confidence.
Since no one really wants to give up life’s simple pleasures, they turn to teeth whitening products and procedures to combat the issue. Of course, while millions of people turn to teeth whitening, a common question still lingers: Is teeth whitening safe?
Below we’ll address the side effects of teeth whitening and cover the various methods you can use to safely get the job done.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work? 🦷
Put simply, your teeth have special molecules that reflect light. These molecules are what give your teeth their bright appearance when you smile. The more complex these molecules are — meaning the more carbon atoms they contain — the more light they’ll reflect.
While it may seem counterintuitive, the more light that’s reflected from your teeth, the more they’ll appear to be stained and discolored.
Most teeth whitening applications involve active ingredients (also referred to as bleaching agents) such as hydrogen peroxide and its cousin carbamide peroxide. Both of these ingredients work by breaking down the complex molecules so you can achieve a brighter, whiter smile.
Is Teeth Whitening Safe?
So, is teeth whitening safe? When done by a dental professional or by using a product that’s approved by the American Dental Association (ADA), teeth whitening is considered both safe and effective. Of course, teeth whitening does still come with potential side effects.
Those side effects include the following:
- Gum irritation: The hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide used in over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening applications and dental treatments vary in levels. The products and treatments containing higher levels of these bleaching agents are known to cause mild irritation when they come in contact with your gums. This is why dentists will use protective gel to shield your gums for in-office treatments while most at-home whitening treatments are designed with custom trays or strips that will only fit over your teeth to prevent contact.
- Tooth sensitivity: Another common side effect of these whitening treatments is tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity generally occurs when the pulp of the teeth becomes inflamed from the exposure to the bleaching agent used. There are also a few other factors that will influence the severity of the tooth sensitivity, such as bleaching agent concentrations, the presence of any dental restorations, or the intensity of the light used for LED teeth whitening.
- Adverse effects on dental restorations: whitening treatments may also have an effect on dental restorations, including fillings. These effects depend entirely on the material used for your restoration as well as the concentration of the bleaching agents used, the age of the restoration, and the type of restoration. (For example, some crowns and implants are resistant to the bleaching agents used in teeth whitening products).
What Are the Safest Teeth Whitening Treatments?
There are a variety of teeth whitening products on the market today. You may feel more comfortable having a dental professional carrying out the whitening treatment (and helping you decide which is the best option for you) or you may want to try an at-home treatment.
Either way, these are your safest options:
- OTC whitening toothpastes and gels: Whitening toothpaste and whitening gels are among the simplest ways to get a brighter smile. The key ingredients in whitening toothpaste are baking soda and silica, which are abrasive agents that work to remove the surface stains on your teeth. Whitening gel usually contains some type of peroxide to break down those same stains.
- Whitening strips: Whitening strips are convenient, affordable, and effective — which is what makes them so popular. Most strips are coated with a whitening gel and they are applied directly to the teeth and stick there until you remove them.
- Custom-fitted whitening trays: If you consult with your dentist, he or she may suggest a custom-fit whitening tray that’s made from a mold of your teeth. These trays are typically filled with a higher-strength whitening gel and worn for a certain amount of time each day. The process is repeated until you get the brighter smile you’re aiming for, but it can take several weeks to get that smile.
- In-office blue whitening treatments: In-office treatments to whiten teeth involve the use of blue LED light. Your dentist will apply a high-strength whitening gel to your teeth and direct a blue LED light over your teeth to activate the gel. The process is usually carried out in 15 to 20-minute increments and is often repeated up to four times to achieve the desired level of whitening. The in office treatment is considered the safest option for teeth whitening.
- Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mixture: This is an at-home paste that’s good to use in a pinch to lift tooth stains and get your teeth a little whiter. However, it’s important that you use a 2:1 hydrogen peroxide-baking soda ratio to ensure your paste isn’t gritty and won’t weaken your enamel. From there, just brush your teeth with the paste one to two times daily — and be sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water once you are done!
Who Shouldn’t Whiten Their Teeth?
There isn’t a whole lot of safety data regarding tooth whitening products for certain populations. Generally speaking, children under the age of 16 shouldn’t use teeth whitening products without consulting their dentist first. The same goes for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, as well as people with:
- Gum disease
- Tooth infections
- Sensitive teeth and gums
Regardless of the teeth whitening method you choose, you can rest assured that it’ll be perfectly safe. However, you will want to be careful not to get any of the product on your gums and discontinue use if you feel any abnormal sensitivity.
Visit a Trusted Dentist
Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult your dentist if you want to whiten your teeth. That’s where Wayzata Dental comes in. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a dental professional to determine which course of whitening treatments is right for you.