Is Whitening Bad for Your Teeth?

October 17, 2017

Let’s face it, for many of us, our pearly whites have become more of a faint yellow. Age, our eating and drinking habits, and tobacco usage can lead to tooth discoloration. Even among those who take very special care of their teeth, it’s impossible to keep that white color we all had when we were kids.

Many people are therefore interested in whitening their teeth, hoping to revitalize their smile. They also have a lot of questions about teeth whitening, such as:

  • Is teeth whitening safe?
  • Is teeth whitening bad for you?
  • Is teeth whitening covered by insurance?
  • Is teeth whitening permanent?

If you have been wondering the same thing, you’ve come to the right place. We frequently get these questions from our dental patients in Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, and other parts of Maricopa County. Read on to find out everything you ever wanted to know about teeth whitening.

Why Whiten Your Teeth?

Teeth whitening used to be the domain of movie stars and rock gods, but not anymore. Advances in technology have made teeth whitening available to the masses, and for less money than you may expect.

There are many reasons to whiten your teeth. A few might include:

  • Wanting a brighter smile: White teeth can make a huge difference in your appearance.
  • Eliminating embarrassing spots: Aging teeth can make you self-conscious about your smile.
  • Wanting to change your look: Whitening your teeth is much cheaper than other cosmetic procedures, such as a facelift or Botox.
  • Creating a more uniform look: Some people get stains only on the tops or bottoms of their teeth and want them all to be the same shade.

Is teeth whitening worth it? Reasons for teeth whitening are all tied to vanity, in one way or another, but that does not mean it’s not a worthy procedure. You can feel better about your appearance when you whiten your teeth, which will improve your own self-worth. That may give you the confidence to stand up for yourself, ask for a raise, or demand better treatment for your kids.

Whatever your reason for wanting your teeth whitened, it’s a valid desire. Teeth whitening can be a safe and relatively inexpensive way to improve your outlook on life. Teeth whitening has gotten some bad press because of restrictions, such as not doing it when you are pregnant or nursing. Those are more precautions than actual dangers. When a dentist is asked “is teeth whitening bad?” they will answer it is not. Every dental procedure has side effects, but is teeth whitening bad for your teeth? No.

Why Do Teeth Turn Yellow?

Your tooth enamel forms when you are a developing fetus. This enamel is what gives your teeth their white color when you are born, including both your baby and adult teeth. Of course, your teeth aren’t 100 percent white, but they do have a brighter sheen to them when you are young. That is because you have not yet been exposed to all the things that can dull your enamel’s shine.

As you get older, your enamel begins to wear away. This wear reveals the darker tissue that surrounds the nerves and blood vessels in your teeth. There is no way to repair this natural erosion, and so your teeth begin to take on more of a dull gray color.

At the same time, teeth can also stain.

While people often become self-conscious about yellowing teeth, leading them to wonder is teeth whitening worth it, yellowed teeth usually are not a sign of bad hygiene. Genetics play into how much your enamel gets worn down, and it’s hardly realistic to expect people to stop consuming hot caffeinated beverages.

Different Ways to Whiten Teeth

It is up to you to figure out is teeth whitening worth it for you. To assist, here is a rundown on the different types of teeth whitening methods that can be used. Two are overseen by dentists. One can be done without the supervision of a professional, which may be why many people wonder is teeth whitening safe.

Whitening at the Dentist’s Office

We can help whiten your teeth. A 40% hydrogen peroxide power bleaching gel offers brighter, whiter teeth in less than one hour in the dental chair. It is chemically activated, so it starts working as soon as it is placed on your teeth. And it doesn’t require a hot, uncomfortable light for efficacy.

It is administered in a safe, dentist-supervised procedure. First your gums are protected with a rubber dam that is painted on to ensure that teeth whitener does not damage the gum line. Then the dentist or hygienist applies the gel to the teeth for an hour. One to two shades of bleaching is typical. We recommend this to our patients who want to jump-start their bleaching process. In order to get lasting results, though, this needs to be followed by at-home bleaching with custom trays which are included in the cost.

Professionally Supplied Whitening Kits

You can get professionally produced whitening kits that you can administer to yourself. This take-home whitening gel offers sustained whitening power in the comfort of your own home. The whitening gel comes in syringes and is delivered via custom trays made in our office. It is placed into the custom bleaching trays that are then inserted into the mouth. This gel is only dispensed by a dentist and comes in formulations of 35% and 10% carbamide peroxide with wear times from 30 minutes to overnight.

This method of teeth whitening is safe as long as you follow the directions and don’t keep the trays in longer than is recommended. The results are excellent.

This can be convenient because you do not have to schedule time to go to the dentist, but it can also be cumbersome because walking around your house with bleaching trays in your mouth is distracting and uncomfortable.

On-The-Go Whitening

There is also an on-the-go whitening kit with an enhanced tray design for an adaptable whitening experience. The unique tray material (not custom-made) easily conforms to your individual smile. Its molar-to-molar coverage insures the gel comes in contact with more posterior teeth. It is available in Mint, Melon and Peach flavors. This on-the-go kit is only dispensed by dentists like AZ Family Dental.

Over-the-Counter Teeth Whiteners

By far the cheapest option, these products are sold at grocery and drug stores. They usually consist of strips or paint-on applicators. The gel is much less potent that what your dentist would employ.

This is certainly an easy option. However, what you gain in convenience and price, you may lose out on effectiveness. Because you do not have a professional administering the product, you may find inconsistent results. These kits are not customized for the patient and can lead to increased sensitivity or possible gum burns.

Benefits and Cons

As with any cosmetic dentistry procedure, there are pros and cons to getting your teeth whitened.

Common Questions and Concerns About Teeth Whitening
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Is teeth whitening bad for your teeth?
Will teeth whitening hurt me?
Is teeth whitening covered by insurance?
How long will the tooth whitening procedure take?
Is teeth whitening permanent?

Here are answers to those questions and more, which will help you decide whether this procedure is right for you.

Is Teeth Whitening Bad For You?

Benefit: Teeth whitening is not dangerous. Bleaching leads to increased sensitivity because it opens up the internal channels of the tooth. This allows the bleach to penetrate the tooth and whiten. This also causes sensitivity. To prevent this it is best to use a bleach with potassium-nitrate in it, but this is not a long-term side effect.

Con: It is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers, which is probably why so many people wonder, is teeth whitening bad. This is more precautionary than anything else.

Is Teeth Whitening Covered By Insurance?

Con: It depends on what your insurance plan is, of course, but many do not cover teeth whitening. It is considered a nonessential cosmetic procedure. That is, insurance companies do not deem it medically necessary because it is not fixing a problem that is detrimental to your health. Since in-office whitening can be pricey, around $399, you will want to make sure you have the money to cover it.

How Long Does Teeth Whitening Take?

Benefit: You can generally finish a teeth-whitening session in under an hour. The dentist will send you home with overnight trays to use as a follow-up.

Con: Really bad staining may require you to return for at several more office sessions, which requires more time off of work or school.

Is Teeth Whitening Bad for Your Health?

Benefit: We hear patients asking all the time, “is tooth whitening safe.” There is no evidence to suggest it impacts your overall health. The procedure is limited to your mouth, and the chemicals are not harsh enough to cause harm to your body. Studies have found no long-term health implications.

Is Teeth Whitening Permanent?

Con: Many people going in to talk to their dentist wonder, “is teeth whitening permanent?” No, teeth whitening is not permanent. We cannot put an end to the daily wear-and-tear that breaks down or stains our enamel. You are hardly going to stop drinking colored beverages or stop aging. Teeth whitening will have to be repeated in the future for the effects to last. If you want lasting results, you will have to dedicate time and money to teeth whitening.

Will it Help Your Confidence?

Benefit: One great and often overlooked benefit to teeth whitening is the boost in confidence you receive when you show off your new smile. Many people with yellowing or graying teeth actually stop smiling because they feel self-conscious. When you have white teeth, you are proud to show them off and are more likely to smile and share your inner shine with others. That can help you on job interviews, in interactions with teachers or peers, and simply to feel better about yourself. It should lay to rest the question, “is teeth whitening bad for you?”

Myths About Teeth Whitening: Is Tooth Whitening Safe?

There are all sorts of misperceptions and misunderstandings about teeth whitening. Here are clarifications about questions we hear frequently at our Phoenix, AZ, dental office.

Is Teeth Whitening Dangerous?

No. The American Dental Association recommends that you get a checkup with your dentist before you use whitening strips on your own. As long as the strips are used in the manner they are intended, there is no actual danger to your mouth. There can be short-term consequences to whitening, such as tooth sensitivity and gum or tooth pain. Your dentist can help you treat these with new toothpaste, pain relievers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen, or a numbing gel.

Is Teeth Whitening Safe For Teeth With Fillings or Bonding?

We hear many people ask, “is tooth whitening safe for teeth with restorations?” Yes, it is. You will not damage any other restorations you have had done to your mouth. That means existing fillings, bondings, bridges, veneers, and crowns will be unharmed by any whitening you have done. However, keep in mind that whitening your teeth may make them different colors than these other restorations. You cannot whiten a filling or crown or other restoration; that will remain the same color it was before you whitened.

Does it Harm Enamel of Teeth?

No. There has been no evidence that the enamel of the tooth is harmed. It does not make the teeth any softer nor does it change the surface of the tooth.

Is Teeth Whitening Bad for Your Teeth in the Long Term?

OK, so we have established teeth whitening is not dangerous for tooth enamel. But is teeth whitening bad for your teeth over a long period of time? Not when done with proper oversight and caution. If you do anything in excess, from eating to exercising, it can be bad for you, and the same goes for teeth whitening. Do not apply over-the-counter strips every day for five years, or you could damage your teeth. Don’t get them rewhitened every two months at the dentist’s office. You are just asking for problems then because teeth are delicate. They can’t take repeated stripping.

If you are wondering is teeth whitening bad when you do it on occasion, the answer is no. It is safe for teeth.

Is Teeth Whitening Worth It?

Teeth whitening is definitely worth the investment if you have the money and you are willing to take the time to do it right. If you are looking for a long-term fix that you will never have to repeat, or you don’t have a lot of money for extras, teeth whitening may not be the right answer for you.

Instead of spending time wondering is tooth whitening safe, you should be investigating other ways to address your tooth yellowing by addressing the cause of the problem. Perhaps you need to start drinking through a straw to avoid further tooth stain. Or maybe you can try to kick your tobacco habit.

Can’t You Just Use Teeth-Whitening Toothpaste?

Whitening toothpaste does not whiten teeth. It does not contain any ingredients that will actually whiten your teeth. We do recommend patients use a whitening toothpaste after bleaching in order to best maintain their shade.

Should You Whiten Your Teeth?

Now we have answered all your questions about is teeth whitening bad for you, you are probably ready to make your decision. First, here’s a quick note about maintaining your whiter, cleaner teeth.

Once you have gotten your teeth whitened, they will not stay that way without serious upkeep.

5 Smart Ways to Keep Your Teeth White
Use whitening toothpaste
Get whitening touch-ups every six months
Employ straws when drinking dark-colored beverages to reduce staining
Cut out tobacco products to eliminate yellowing
Don’t grind your teeth, which can cause spotting

At AZ Family Dental, we have helped many patients to whiten their teeth. We can help you on your way to whiter teeth in a few short visits. Contact our office to get started on teeth whitening.

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