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Your Oral Health

Tooth Whitening: Know the Risks

With the increasing value many people place on sparkling white teeth as part of an attractive smile, more and more consumers are requesting teeth whitening, also known as bleaching, when they visit their dentists.

A child's baby teeth are generally whiter than the adult teeth that follow. Over time, adult teeth often darken due to changes in the mineral structure of the tooth. Tobacco use or drinking coffee, tea, and other beverages can cause darkening, and certain medications can discolor teeth. These factors lead many adults to consider teeth bleaching to restore their once brilliant smiles.

Oral health experts caution however, that bleaching carries with it some risks that consumers should discuss with their dentists – especially if they are going to bleach their teeth using at-home teeth whitening systems. While dentists cannot predict if a patient might have an adverse reaction to teeth whitening procedures, discussing these risks as part of a regular examination can help patients to avoid undesirable consequences.

The risks oral health experts associate with bleaching include tooth sensitivity and damage to the roots of teeth. Dentists may be able to help patients alleviate sensitivity and recommend toothpastes designed to treat sensitive teeth. Dentists can also monitor patients for signs of root damage and treat the condition if detected promptly.

Because most research shows that in-office and at-home bleaching both substantially lighten the shade of the teeth, consumers are expected to continue the trend of increased use of bleaching products, despite their potentially temporary results. While undergoing teeth whitening procedures, oral health experts recommend continuing preventative dental treatment to maintain good oral health.