Teeth Whitening: Good or Bad?
A cautionary tale on teeth whitening is that of Mona Schlater-Hewlett, a 45-year-old woman who suffered acute pain after undergoing a teeth whitening procedure. Mona was in the middle of an aerobics class when she felt a sharp pain and immediately dropped to the floor. Is Teeth Whitening bad for my teeth
Initially, her trainer and the other trainees at the gym thought she collapsed because of dehydration. Even when she mentioned the piercing pain, the first thing she thought was that the strain in her muscles brought her down. But it wasn’t that either. It was her teeth!
“It came out of nowhere,” she recalls. “One minute I was fine and the next I buckled down, my hand over my mouth with a kind of pain I had never felt before.” An investigation found that the source of her misery was a tray full of tooth bleach she had worn to bed the previous night!
Mona was using 10% carbamide peroxide. This method is part of the three ways of whitening.
- The first option is done at a dental clinic. A 40% solution of hydrogen peroxide power bleaching gel is applied to the teeth under the careful watch of the dentist.
- The second option is where you purchase a professionally supplied whitening kit Most take-home whitening kits contain 10-35% carbamide peroxide.
- The last option is over-the-counter (OTC) whitening strips.
Mona was using the second option – a professionally supplied 10% carbamide peroxide whitening kit prescribed by her dentist.
She says she even tried taking a month off before returning to the bleaching schedule. And she has also been using desensitising gels before and after applying the treatment. But neither of these helped with the pain which she says can last several minutes.
Whitening is attractive, but what are the risks?
This story reveals what is little known about teeth whitening. When people hear about teeth whitening, all that comes to mind is teeth whiter than snow, glowing smile, and increased self-esteem.
But what your dental salon “specialists” may never tell you is the gruelling pain and suffering you may experience long after the whitening procedure is done.
First, let’s dispel rumours that teeth whitening can cause serious health issues. Although there have been reports that the chemicals used in teeth whitening can cause oral cancer, there has been no proof this is true. What’s confirmed is that whitening can cause the following:
Pain due to sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity has been reported in more than half of people who undergo teeth whitening, irrespective of the whitening procedure used. This starts with severe discomfort when drinking hot or cold drinks.
Snacks such as ice cream and cold soda may become almost impossible to drink because of too much pain.
The cause of this extreme sensitivity is exposure of the nerve-packed surface beneath the enamel to external stimuli such as a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide.
To obtain maximum shades of white, the peroxide solution needs to get past the enamel – the outermost hard layer that protects the tooth. Anything that goes past the enamel and reaches the inner soft components of the tooth will obviously cause some sensitivity.
The degree of sensitivity will vary with the patient’s dental health. Patients who already have sensitive teeth may experience a lot of pain for days. Other patients may only feel mild pain for a short period.
The hydrogen peroxide or carbide peroxide used in whitening products are strong, reactive chemicals that may cause burning effects, ulcers, or other types of sores to the soft tissues inside the mouth.
The degree of irritation will depend on how sensitive your teeth are. If you have mouth sores, your dentist may recommend treatment before the whitening procedure begins. The concentration of the bleaching gel and how long you’re exposed determines the degree of irritation.
Besides these, irritation may also come from the whitening procedure. At-home whitening kits have been found to be a major cause of irritation because patients sometimes purchase trays that don’t properly fit their mouths. The exposed areas of the mouth that come in contact with the whitening chemicals, resulting in burns or irritation.
Three, while whitening products indeed work, these chemicals aren’t perfect. They can’t cure every dental problem that may have caused stains on your teeth. As such, in certain cases, you may end up with uneven whiteness, a situation where some teeth are whiter than others.
This is often the case if you use veneers, for example. Whitening products can’t make veneers whiter than they already are. If our teeth become whiter than the veneers, you may have to live with that. Also, a tooth with a decayed root may not benefit a lot from whitening. It may become just a little whiter, but not as white as you’d want.
Overuse of whitening agents
Lastly, teeth whitening results are not permanent. In fact, most results only last several months to two years. As you continue to subject the teeth to daily use, drinking caffeine and coke, your teeth will lose the white shade gradually.
To maintain the whiteness, people end up using whitening products longer than recommended. For instance, over-the-counter whitening strips should not be applied daily for more than five years.
Going beyond the recommended time is very dangerous. Remember that whitening agent work by stripping your teeth. Repeated stripping over a long period can damage your enamel and even the roots of your teeth, leading to more serious medical conditions.
To avoid or minimise these risks, get your teeth whitened only by a dentist.
We are Chatswood Dentist with over 60 years. Simply Dental has been providing bright smiles for families all over Sydney.
Source: courtesy of Simply Dental Chatswood