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
"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
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
"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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.