Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Teeth Whitening

Dear Dr. Walt,

Is teeth whitening safe? Can it cause problems?

Nervous in Nebraska

Dear Uneasy,

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), teeth whitening products are both safe and effective. However, there are cautions of which you need to be aware. But first, some background.

To make teeth whiter may be achieved a couple of ways. First, teeth can be bleached, which means that the whitener actually changes the natural tooth color. These products usually contain peroxide(s) that help remove deep (intrinsic) and surface (extrinsic) stains. Second, teeth can be whitened with non-bleaching products that contain agents that work by physical or chemical action to help remove surface stains only.

Whitening products may be administered by dentists in the dental office, dispensed by dentists for home-use, or purchased over-the-counter (OTC) and are categorized as either (1) peroxide-containing bleaching agents or (2) whitening toothpastes (dentifrices).

Some dentists use a high-concentration peroxide in their offices along with a special light or laser. Although some claim this accelerates the whitening process, the ADA points out that “most studies have reported no additional long-term benefit with light-activated systems.”

Nevertheless, the peroxides are generally more effective, but can also cause more side effects. The most commonly observed are tooth sensitivity and occasional irritation of soft tissues in the mouth, particularly the gums. Both of these are usually temporary and stop after the treatment. On rare occasions, irreversible tooth damage has been reported.

According to the ADA, there is “not enough information is available to support unsupervised long-term and/or repeated use of bleaching products.” The ADA recommends “if you choose to use a bleaching product, you should only do so after consultation with a dentist. This is especially important for patients with many fillings, crowns, and extremely dark stains. “


This Q&A was originally published in the March 2016 edition of Today’s Christian Living.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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