When it comes to achieving a brighter, whiter smile, teeth whitening is one of the most popular treatments available. Teeth whitening is a great option for people looking to make a cosmetic change without a hefty price tag or painful procedure.
But is it safe? Many people are concerned about the potential risks of whitening their teeth, and one of the biggest concerns is whether or not it can damage enamel. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the potential risks associated with teeth whitening and how you can minimize them.
What Is Enamel?
Before we dive into the potential risks of teeth whitening, let’s take a moment to understand what enamel is and why it’s so important. Enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that protects them from decay and damage. It’s made up of minerals like calcium and phosphate that help keep your teeth strong and healthy. Without enamel, your teeth would be vulnerable to cavities and other dental problems.
When you get tooth decay or sensitivity, it typically indicates that the enamel layer is compromised. Under the enamel layer is the dentin, which supports the enamel structure. Under the dentin is the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves of the tooth.
How Can Whitening Affect Enamel?
Teeth whitening uses peroxide gels that help break up stains on teeth, resulting in brighter teeth. The peroxide penetrates into the enamel and oxidizes darker pigmented stains within the tooth. This process actually bleaches the underlying tooth to a lighter color.
The main concern when it comes to whitening your teeth is that some products may contain harsh chemicals that can weaken or damage enamel over time. The most common ingredients in these products are hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which can be abrasive when used in high concentrations. When used correctly, these ingredients can help remove surface stains from your teeth without damaging enamel; however, if they are used too often or in too high concentrations, they can cause irreversible damage to your enamel.
The most common downsides of whitening your teeth is that it can cause:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Gum sensitivity
- Ineffective results
Tooth and gum sensitivity results when peroxide gel demineralizes or strips enamel from your teeth and makes them more porous. This process exposes dentin tubules that are tiny, microscopic channels that lead to the inner pulp of the tooth. When teeth are porous, think of pouring water through a sieve with small openings. When your tooth is compromised from teeth whitening, it means that when you consume foods and beverages that are too hot or cold, your tooth will feel a “zing” feeling or pain.
Gum pain or irritation can result if teeth whitening gel accidentally contacts your gums. Your gums should be properly isolated in a professional whitening treatment and whitening strips should minimally contact your gums. If whitening is not properly applied, it can cause ulceration or irritation to the gums, but it is typically reversible.
Who shouldn’t whiten?
While teeth whitening is generally a safe procedure, there are people that should not whiten or take greater precaution.
- People with crowns or veneers: Their dental prosthetic won’t whiten and will leave an uneven color if you whiten adjacent teeth
- People with dental problems: If you experience gum disease or tooth decay, do not use whitening products because it will aggregate the problem. First, fix your dental issue and then discuss whitening with your dentist.
Whitening Products to Avoid
Always try to opt for a product that has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of acceptance. This means the product underwent rigorous testing to ensure effectiveness and safety.
Avoid activated charcoal because there is not enough supported research to show that it is safe and won’t cause damage to your enamel. There are a lot of over-the-counter products that claim to whiten, but they may not give any effective results.
What Are the Alternatives?
It is always tempting to use new whitening products because they are everywhere: on social media, on television, and even our friends and family use them. Before using any whitening products, you should always discuss your oral health with your dentist so they can guide you on the right product and appropriate concentration to ensure it is safe and limits enamel damage.
Alternatives to bleaching your teeth include using over-the-counter lower concentration of peroxide or a carbamide peroxide to reduce your chances of sensitivity and damage.
If you are looking for a more natural way of whitening, you should work on brushing your teeth well each day, because most yellowing or darkening is from poor brushing and plaque build-up. Avoid darker stain-causing foods and beverages like soda, teas, soy sauce, red wine, and coffee. This leads to teeth staining and can make your teeth appear less white.
You could try using natural remedies such as baking soda or apple cider vinegar to remove surface stains from your teeth. Finally, you could visit your dentist for a professional whitening treatment that uses special gels and lasers to safely brighten your smile without damaging enamel.
When it comes to achieving a brighter smile, there are several options available; however, some treatments may carry a risk of damaging enamel if they are used incorrectly or too often. To minimize this risk, it’s important to understand what ingredients are in any product you use for whitening and how they may affect your enamel over time. If you have any questions about which treatment is best for you, be sure to consult with your dentist before starting any new regimen. Contact us today and we’d be happy to help!