Bright, white teeth really are something to smile about. And there are many over-the-counter treatments and dentist’s office solutions to help you whiten your teeth if you have stains on your teeth due to food, drink, medications or other causes. But is it really, truly safe to whiten your teeth? Let’s take a closer look.
The effects of hydrogen peroxide
Many over-the-counter teeth whitening strips, gels and other treatments use a hydrogen peroxide solution to whiten the teeth. While the solution can be effective at removing surface stains from tooth enamel, studies show that hydrogen peroxide may damage proteins in the tooth dentin layer. The dentin is a hard tissue that is situated directly under the outer layer tooth enamel. Also, whitening solutions can cause minor irritation to the gums and inside of the mouth. Both of these concerns can be managed and addressed through careful coordination with your dentist, but it is important to be aware of the potential side-effects of tooth whitening.
The potential for surface damage
Some research also indicates that certain types of tooth whitening products can soften the surface layer of the tooth or even cause pitting, roughness or other abnormalities, making teeth more susceptible to decay and additional damage. However, many believe that these surface changes are only temporary and can reverse when you cease the use of whitening products. Most whitening products contain specific instructions regarding duration and frequently of use, and following instructions is essential.
The significance of fine print
When you are considering over the counter options for teeth whitening, always look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval on items. Whether your researching whitening toothpaste, trays with gel, whitening strips or another option, the ADA designation will tell you if certain items have been independently tested and determined as safe. Also, after selecting an item, follow the printed instructions. This should go without saying, but using an item more often than directed or in quantities larger than directed can cause damage and lead to unintended damage or negative results.
The importance of regular dental visits
Listen to your teeth. If you are experiencing pain, sensitivity or discomfort, it’s time to contact your oral care provider for a checkup. Some tooth whitening products can cause tooth sensitivity, but some tooth staining can be caused by larger dental issues like decay or injury. Your dentist can help you develop a plan of care to address dental health concerns, and can advise you on tooth whitening solutions that are the best fit for you.
To avoid tooth staining, take good care of your teeth. Visit your dentist often for cleanings and an overall checkup. Brush and floss regularly to keep your mouth clean, and avoid staining foods like coffee, tea, dark berries and red wine. Shun tobacco products, as they cause tooth staining, ample oral health issues and numerous general health concerns. And if you must utilize a tooth whitening product, do so with caution and with the advice of your dental health care provider. Careful care of your teeth will prevent emergency trips to the dentist and will keep you smiling for years to come.
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