What is the first thing you notice when you meet a person? Is it their eyes, hair…smile possibly? I feel like I am seeing more ads and celebrities promoting whitening systems than ever before. As soon as one company comes out with a whitening product, it seems as if 6 more pop up out of the woodwork. Are these companies legit and safe to even use?
What type of teeth will not whiten?
The most important thing we need to be aware of when whitening is that not all materials on our teeth will whiten. Lets say you have small old yellow fillings in between your front teeth. There is no bleaching gel that will lighten these composite materials. However if they are stained with plaque or food, they can possibly be brightened with a cleaning at your dental office.
Filling materials, crowns, and veneers will not whiten. They may look similar to natural teeth but their structures are very different and do not absorb hydrogen peroxide like our enamel does.
If you have a natural tooth that is “dead” or dark because of a root canal treatment, there may be options for you. There is a bleaching method where the dentist can bleach from the inside. This is a very specific and slightly invasive treatment so this treatment would only be done in office.
What if my teeth are sensitive?
Often times sensitivity comes from gum recession and exposed root surface. Our enamel has no nerves or blood supply and this is why once it is lost, we cannot get it back. However the layer underneath the enamel (the dentin layer) and the root surface do have nerves and blood supply. When they are met with temperature changes such as cold ice cream or hot soup, they can cause a shocking or painful sensation.
Whitening can make this painful sensation worse due to the chemical reaction it causes while working. Fortunately this sensitivity from the whitening gel is not permanent. Some doctors recommend that their patients use “sensitive toothpaste” or use an analgesic medication after the treatment.
There also is the possibility that your gums may become irritated due to the concentration of the hydrogen peroxide in the gel. A treatment at the dental office will usually have a high concentration, and the higher the concentration, the more likely your gums will be irritated. Thankfully dental offices will cover the gums with a barrier so that the gel does not come into contact with them
At home treatment systems are often low enough so that no burning will occur. Obviously every person will have a different reaction to gel concentrations and thus the possibility of irritation still remains. The irritated tissue will often have a burned or white appearance to it that heals rather quickly depending on the degree of irritation. If you are suspecting that you may be sensitive to at home whitening treatments, your dentist or hygienist may have some great recommendations for you!
Will it harm my enamel?
There are currently no significant findings detailing any damage to enamel structure due to whitening treatments. That being said purchasing a product from a trusted brand is always a good strategy to have.
The makeup and cosmetic industry are among the highest in available counterfeit products. Unknown online retailers could be selling whitening products with unknown or even harmful ingredients in them. If you are looking for a couple recommendations on trusted at home whitening products I have a blog post HERE and a YouTube video HERE.
Are there products without Hydrogen Peroxide?
Yes! Often times, whitening toothpastes can do a great job at removing staining without the added hydrogen peroxide in them. They even have the added bonus of minerals such as fluoride to help reduce risk of cavities and help strengthen the enamel.
These toothpastes often have some type of abrasive and micro silica as a whitening agent. The toothpaste I use, AP24, helps to smooth the enamel surface and prolong the adherence of plaque and stain. I often recommend this toothpaste to my patients and see them with significantly less staining the next time I see them.
Your hygienist is your best friend!
Your hygienist has seen your teeth inside and out. They can give you great advice specific to your needs. I encourage you to talk to your hygienist and see what they recommend for you!