Addictive Pursuit of Pearly Whites?
Some users of teeth-whitening products become fixated on getting the perfect smile.
The Warning Signs of Overuse continued...
Doundoulakis, however, has seen people who have overdone the process.
"The ones I have seen are getting results but their teeth are beyond snow
white, they're like Clorox-white," he says. "They just want to keep
doing it. They're going to keep doing it until those teeth are almost
Doundoulakis says they also might wind up with a root canal problem. He
concedes that sometimes patients like these are unable to register that their
teeth are already quite white. "They like the process of whitening," he
Messina has also observed patients whose dedication to regular whitening
takes on a "more ritualistic" tone.
Can Teeth Be Damaged?
Richard M. Lichtenthal, DDS, says over-the-counter products are "not
quite as strong in their bleaching activity, but there are people who will not
follow manufacturer's instructions, and so the process can be abused."
Lichtenthal is in private practice in New York and is also chairman of a
section of adult dentistry at the Columbia University School of Dentistry. He
says overuse may cause sensitivity of the teeth, although "it will be very
unlikely that damage to the surface of the tooth will be caused before the
"When the teeth become sensitive, generally, people will stop using
it," Lichtenthal says.
Some of the damage may be financial. Over-the-counter products may not be a
bargain in the long run.
Because the bleaching material in over-the-counter products are weaker than
the product one may obtain in a dentist's office, it's reasonable to assume
that consumers may need more of it, and that this might contribute to overuse.
The results may not be what the consumer had hoped for either.
"There's no assurance people will have achieved the results they're
looking for," says Steven David, DMD, a dentist in private practice in New
David is also a clinical professor of cariology and operative dentistry at
New York University School of Dentistry. "It's possible to spend the same
amount of money without the monitoring of a trained professional," he says.
According to David, that's the difference between buying a product and buying a
service. "Dentists perform a service, and it's important for dentists to
monitor the service."