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

Your own pearly whites are the best way to tell whether you're overusing teeth whitening products, experts say. Dentists say the biggest signs of overuse are:

  • Excessive sensitivity of the teeth, especially to cold items.
  • Redness, irritation and bleeding in the gums.

Another sign: Your teeth may start to appear translucent or blotchy.

"Some people's teeth get more transparent if you continue whitening. ... You can see right through them and see the dark shadows of your mouth," Haywood says.

(Keep in mind that sensitivity alone doesn't necessarily mean you're overdoing it. About a third of users experience some sensitivity, which goes away in a day or so, Haywood says.)

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."

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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