Ask a Dentist: When is Whitening your Teeth a Bad Thing?
Bleaching or whitening your teeth is a good thing in general. It reduces the visual evidence of aging and overuse and is a sign of beauty in our society. In fact, it is a growing industry. New York Post quoted the American Academy for Cosmetic Dentistry, “Teeth whitening is expecting to become a $7.4 billion industry by 2024. Americans are spending $1.4 billion alone on over-the-counter whiteners.”However, if one were to look at this trend objectively, they can’t help but ask, “Is this really a good thing?”
America is no stranger to excess. The minute we find something we like, we consume it to the point where it becomes an obsession. Whether it is alcohol, fast food, or an idea, we tend to take things to an extreme. So, it is unsurprising that a good bit of people in the American population could overdo it when it comes to whitening their teeth. But just how much is do much? What would any dentist recommend in the case of how much you should whiten your teeth? And, at what point is there any irreversible damage?
How Tooth Whitening Works
What dentists and at-home kits use to whiten teeth is a chemical compound known as hydrogen peroxide. This combination of chemicals, for the most part, is used for antiseptic purposes. It does a good job of killing bacteria. So much so, that we only buy and use a small percentage of it mixed with water as a solution. The most we can handle without it causing more than slight irritation is food grade at a 35% concentration. Even then, it is never recommended that you swallow it.
If you were to apply 100% of the chemical onto your skin the acidic levels alone would burn a hole into it. It is also combustible.
So what does it mean in the case of tooth whitening products and overuse? Well, just like using too much of a percentage of hydrogen peroxide, consistent use of tooth whitening strips will literally wear down your teeth.
Tooth whitening stripes can bleach your teeth because it uses a chemical that effectively kills bacteria. However, it is a chemical compound, not a microbe or a bacterial lifeform. It indiscriminately kills bacteria and cells, whether they are good or bad for you.
Teeth are made of bone, but most people don’t realize that bones are still human tissue. There is a strong reason to suspect that too many tooth whitening products can cause cellular damage to the tooth. It even has confirmation through cadaver studies by undergraduates. So, if someone who uses these strips is not careful, they will wear down two of the three layers of the tooth, the enamel, and dentin.
How Much Should I Whiten My Teeth?
Dentists and other oral health care professionalsand alike agree that there are several things to keep in mind when you are using an at-home kit or whitener. The advice ranges from how much time you need to use the whiteners, how often you need to do it, and other health and safety tips.
- If your gums are irritated or your teeth are feeling sensitive, stop treatment. You might be overusing the whitening kit
- Your teeth should not look chalky white or have even whiter spots in them. That is a sign that your dentin is wearing down.
- Don’t use tooth bleaching products if you have crowns, veneers, or bridges. These restorations do not lighten, so you could end up with unevenly colored teeth.
- If you are pregnant you want to abstain from bleaching kits. There has been no testing on the effects of them on pregnant women and it can lead to disastrous results.
- Follow the directions on the packaging of the kit you are using. Do not use it more than the recommended timeframe.
- The right shade of white to aim for is the whites of your eyes. Any more than that and your white will come out gray from the lack of dentin in your tooth.