When it Comes to Teeth Whitening, Age Should Come Before Beauty
|Document - Health|
|July 17 2008|
Teenagers these days are bleaching more than just their hair. One of the latest trends among adolescents—not to mention their parents—is teeth whitening. However, according to the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS), when it comes to whitening teeth, young patients should keep their minds open and their mouths shut—at least for a while.
In this age of reality TV makeover frenzy, many people, including teenagers, are making changes to improve their appearance. And for teenagers, physical appearance is an important element of peer pressure. But if this includes teeth, then white may not always be right.
Methods of Whitening
There are three ways you can bleach your teeth, with two of these methods requiring the expertise of a dental professional. You can purchase over-the-counter whitening products and do it yourself at home; this typically involves applying pretreated strips or gel directly to your teeth for a set amount of time each day. Or you can visit your dentist for chairside bleaching, where the dentist applies a chemical solution to your teeth and may use a special light to help activate the bleaching agent.
To achieve optimum results with this method, several visits may be required. Lastly, your dentist can provide you with at-home bleaching trays, which can be either prefilled readymade trays or custom-fitted trays that you add bleaching gel to and wear during the day or at night. (Note that the latter are custom-fitted to your teeth and will, therefore, fit perfectly and more comfortably, meaning that the bleaching agent has a better chance of sustaining exposure to your teeth.)
The main difference between storebought bleaching kits and take-home systems from your dentist is that over-thecounter products contain about 5 percent or less of active whitening ingredients, whereas a dentist uses products that have 10 to 35 percent of active whitening ingredients, which, obviously, means whiter teeth.
But, according to the MDS, whether teeth whitening is done by a dentist or with over-the-counter products, no one under the age of 14 should whiten their teeth because teeth are still developing before the age of 14. If children whiten both permanent and primary (baby) teeth, the outcome could be mismatched, discolored teeth.
That is, permanent teeth that have erupted will be whitened through bleaching treatment and primary teeth will still have their own natural color. In addition, it takes time for permanent teeth to fully emerge from the gums. As a result, a teenager could have teeth that are noticeably whiter on the biting surfaces only.
Adolescents will most likely buy the store-bought whitening products because they are more accessible and cheaper than professional whitening. Over-thecounter products are safe and generally effective if the directions are followed.
However, before using store-bought products, patients of all ages, including teenagers, should contact their dentist to determine any potential problems that might be caused by over-the-counter whitening. Prior to using professional or store-bought whitening, all patients are urged to come in for an exam and cleaning to ensure that their teeth and gums are healthy to begin with and to fully understand their treatment options.
Some common side effects of whitening are gum irritation and sensitive teeth. However, these side effects usually subside once the bleaching treatment has stopped. Something else to keep in mind is using whitening products too much or for too long. If you whiten your teeth without professional supervision, you risk overdoing it and could seriously damage your tooth enamel.
For more information on teeth whitening, contact the Massachusetts Dental Society
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|Last Updated ( February 19 2010 )|
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