Managing Wellness

The Pros and Cons of Teeth Whitening: Is It a Good Idea?

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Posted by September 4, 2016

It’s easy to understand the appeal of teeth whitening. After all, who doesn’t want whiter, brighter teeth? But, without understanding the pros and cons of teeth whitening, it can be difficult to make an informed decision about whether or not to whiten. Here are the facts about teeth whitening, so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.

What Is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening is a common procedure in cosmetic dentistry that uses whitening products (generally containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as bleaching agents) to make your teeth appear whiter and brighter. Your dentist can whiten your teeth in the office, or you can choose at-home whitening products such as gels and strips.

Pros of Teeth Whitening

The benefits of whitening your teeth are mainly cosmetic. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports that 96 percent of adults believe attractive smiles make members of the opposite sex more appealing, and 74 percent of adults think unattractive smiles hinder employment success. The confidence that often comes with a whiter smile is another key benefit of whitening your teeth.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Teeth whitening can cause several side effects. Tooth sensitivity and gum irritation can occur. However, Cleveland Clinic notes that gum irritation is usually caused by ill-fitting whitening trays (rather than the bleaching agent itself), and sensitivity and tissue irritation often disappear within one to three days of completing the treatment.

One 2014 review reports that strong bleaching agents can cause soft tissue (gum) burns, a burning sensation in the throat and an upset stomach. The review also notes that there is still controversy over whether or not teeth bleaching affects the physical structure of teeth, including the enamel.

Is It Safe?

When manufacturer’s instructions are followed properly, peroxide-based teeth whitening agents are safe, according to one 2015 review. Such whitening products include whitening rinses, toothpastes, strips, gels, tray-based whiteners and in-office whitening treatments. The review recommends that teeth whitening should be supervised by an oral health care provider to reduce possible risks and maximize whitening results. The American Dental Association (ADA) also recommends whitening your teeth only after consulting with a dentist to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

When to Avoid It

While whitening your teeth does have cosmetic benefits, it isn’t for everybody. Teeth whitening can often be expensive, and doesn’t work on all types of tooth discoloration. The ADA notes that whitening agents aren’t effective on veneers, fillings, crowns, and caps and likely won’t work for discoloration that is brown, gray or caused by injury or medication. That’s why it’s important to check with your dentist before spending money on teeth whitening products.

How Often Should I Whiten?

Whitening your teeth too often increases the risk of negative side effects, such as tooth sensitivity and damage to tooth enamel and gums. But there’s no official guideline for how often whitening can be done safely. That’s why it’s important to get your dentist’s recommendation and always follow product instructions. Some people notice that the whiteness fades after just one month, while others can go a year before needing another whitening treatment.

Bottom Line

Knowing the pros and cons of teeth whitening will help you determine if it’s a good fit for you. When used properly, teeth whitening products are considered to be safe, but they are not effective for all type of stains. Always check with your dentist before whitening.

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