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Can Teeth Whitening Become an Addiction?

Seeking the perfect smile? Here's how to make sure you don't get carried away with teeth whitening.

Are You Overdoing It with Teeth Whitening? continued...

Robert Gerlach, DDS, MPH, principal scientist for worldwide clinical investigations at Procter & Gamble, maker of Crest Whitestrips, notes that teeth whitening products have a built-in safety mechanism against people over-treating themselves.

"When you've had the peroxide on too long, you can get a real profound, throbbing pain in your tooth. It goes away, but your teeth hurt," Gerlach tells WebMD.

Further, there's a low percentage of whitening agent in over-the-counter teeth whitening products, says Messina.

After you wear products such as Crest Whitestrips for the recommended half-hour time period, virtually all the peroxide is gone from the strip, says Gerlach.

"You can't add more, you can't doctor it," he says.

Gerlach, who has done more than 100 studies on Whitestrips, points out that there has been no evidence of any large-scale abuse or negative effects from people doing at-home teeth whitening.

Teeth Whitening Tips

If you're considering using a tooth whitening product containing bleaches, the American Dental Association recommends that you see your dentist first.

Experts say it's important to talk with a dentist about the reason for any tooth discoloration, whether you're a good candidate for bleaching (which depends in part on your dental health), and how quickly your teeth will change.

It's also important to have realistic expectations.

"Some people get these glow-in-the-dark teeth because their teeth will go that far. But some people's teeth won't go that far," Haywood says. "You have to expect that you won't necessarily turn out like Julia Roberts, because you don't necessarily have the teeth for it."

And how white is white enough? The general guideline is that your teeth are white when they're the color of the whites of your eyes.

"If they get a lot whiter than that, your teeth stand out like the teeth in a Cheshire cat," says Zase.

Because the peroxide in teeth whiteners adds a "sparkle" to teeth immediately after the treatment, Haywood recommends that people wait two weeks until after they've finished the teeth whitening process to see how effective it really was.

More Teeth Whitening Tips

Dentists also have these tips about teeth whitening:

  • Use desensitizing toothpaste before and after using teeth whitening products.
  • Get your teeth cleaned before starting teeth whitening.
  • Don't use teeth whitening products when pregnant. Since they haven't been tested on pregnant women, Zase says the danger level is uncertain.
  • 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.
  • A few groups, like people who used tetracycline as young children, may need more teeth whitening than normal, such as six months of continuous daily use. (Gerlach notes that studies show even these patients haven't experienced more adverse effects.)
  • Carefully follow the directions and recommendations on any teeth whitening products you use.
  • To help your newly white teeth stay that way longer, avoid stain-causing food and drinks. Also, follow good oral hygiene practices.
  • If you experience tooth sensitivity after whitening treatments, stop, and wait for the sensitivity to disappear. You can then resume the teeth whitening, but for less time or with a lower-strength product.
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Reviewed on June 23, 2008

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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