Everyone wants a white, shiny smile. White teeth are a sign of good health and social status – people judge each other by appearance, and a healthy smile makes you look more approachable and trustworthy.
There are a number of over-the-counter teeth whitening options available. Crest Whitestrips® are one of the most popular and widely-recognized over-the-counter teeth whitening systems. Other examples include whitening/bleaching gels that are applied with a mouth guard (allowing the teeth to “soak” in the whitening gel).
Before you start trying to whiten your teeth, you should talk with your dentist. It’s important to get some professional advice as to whether or not your teeth coloration would be improved with whitening – not all types of teeth discoloration can be effectively treated with whitening systems. Your dentist also might recommend “in-office whitening” – professionally applied whitening done in the dentist’s office.
But if you feel that over-the-counter teeth whitening is right for you, keep the following risks in mind:
- Chemical burns: It sounds scary, but it’s true – some teeth whitening systems use high-concentration chemicals which can cause harm to your gums and other sensitive tissues if they come in contact. Follow the directions closely and use caution with any over-the-counter teeth whitening method.
- Tooth sensitivity: Especially in the early stages of the teeth whitening treatment, you might experience heightened sensitivity or discomfort in your teeth.
- Too much of a good thing: Some people experience “overbleaching” – “hyperodonto-oxidation” – caused by over-the-counter teeth whitening systems. Again, read the directions closely and watch for excessively bright results. You want a white, shiny smile – not blindingly white.
- Watch out for “the rebound:” No, this is not relationship advice…sometimes when you get your teeth whitened, the new white color doesn’t stay. “Rebound” is the technical term for what happens when newly whitened teeth go back to their old color. Read the directions closely and consult your dentist if you feel that you are not getting the lasting results that you were hoping for.
In addition to these possible side effects and risks, some people should be especially cautious about teeth whitening. For example:
- If you have sensitive teeth, receding gums, or if you’ve had restorative dental work done in the past (cavities, bridgework), you should ask your dentist before you start using any kind of tooth whitening system.
- If you are sensitive to hydrogen peroxide (the “active ingredient” that actually makes the teeth whiter), don’t try to whiten your teeth without talking to your dentist first!
- Teeth whitening is not recommended for children under age 16. Children’s teeth are still maturing at this age, and the pulp chamber, or “nerve” of the tooth, is especially large until people reach about the age of 16 – which puts kids at risk of irritation of the tooth pulp.
- Teeth whitening is also not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.
Teeth whitening – whether it’s done at your dentist’s office or with over-the-counter systems – can be a big difference-maker in how you feel about the smile you present to the world. But make sure you’re aware of the risks and possible side effects. It’s always best to consult with your dentist before starting on a new teeth whitening system.