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Is Teeth Whitening Dangerous?

Seems everywhere you look these days advertisers are extolling the virtues of the latest and greatest tooth whitening products. Teeth whitening is riding a big wave of popularity - everyone wants their smile to be whiter and brighter and sales of over the counter tooth bleaching products are at an all time high. This poses the question: could tooth whitening be dangerous to your teeth or even bad for your health in general ?

In most cases, you'll be happy to hear the answer is "no". Unlike the teeth whitening products of yesteryear ( which removed stains through the use of heavy-duty abrasives - frequently damaging tooth enamel in the process) today's peroxide based products are almost always safe for you and your teeth when used as directed.

There are however some situations under which use of over the counter teeth whitening products is inadvisable:

  • If you are allergic or otherwise sensitive to peroxide - With the exception of some toothpastes (dentrifrices) virtually all products which promise to whiten your teeth contain peroxide. Read those labels!
  • If you have gum disease or damaged teeth - Peroxide coming in contact with your tooth root via broken teeth or exposure due to receding gums is likely to cause tooth sensitivity and discomfort. Using whitening products on damaged teeth can even put you at risk for irreversable irritation of the tooth pulp (pulpitis).
  • If you have artificial tooth material - caps, veneers, etc. which is visible when you smile - Teeth whiteners only work on natural teeth. Tooth bleaching probably won't harm artificial teeth - but it won't make them whiter either!
  • If you are pregnant or nursing - There are no studies indicating teeth whitening is dangerous, however there no studies proving it safe either. Ask your doctor, or better yet wait a few months.
  • Always use products as directed, don't overuse - Overuse of products can lead to serious and occasionally permanent tooth sensitivity.

  • If you whiten constantly, never feel your teeth are white enough and find yourself unable to stop - While tooth whitening products aren't physically addicting, some people might find themselves constantly whitening their teeth, never thinking their smile is white enough although to their friends and family their teeth may actually look unnaturally white. This can indicate a compulsive disorder relating to one's body image, similar to the overuse of plastic surgery. People with this rare fixation may continue to bleach their teeth even when their teeth have become so sensitive that is causes extreme pain! Anyone thinking they have this problem should seek professional help.

The best way to safely whiten your teeth? Discuss tooth whitening with your dentist to determine the best options for you!