Limitations of Teeth Whitening

Limitations of Teeth Whitening

Everyone would like a bright white smile, but tooth whitening is not always recommended.

Today there are various teeth whitening methods, both over-the-counter as well as professional whitening available through dentists. Dental professionals consider tooth whitening as a safe cosmetic dental procedure, particularly if done under the supervision of a dentist. Even the over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening products are generally considered safe and effective, when used as directed on healthy teeth.

However, there are some cases when a dentist may recommend that tooth bleaching should be avoided to protect the user from potential side effects of tooth whitening. In some other cases there are conditions that can cause tooth whitening to have undesirable aesthetic effects.

You should always visit your dentist for a complete dental examination before using any over the counter tooth whitening product. The dentist will check for any existing conditions and advise you whether or not your teeth are suitable for tooth bleaching.

It is also very important to follow the instructions on the product label very carefully. Overuse of the product is not healthy for your mouth and under use can result in very little effect.

When Teeth Whitening is not recommended?

Whitening is not recommended or will be less successful in the following circumstances:

  • Sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is the most common side effect of teeth whitening treatments. Almost fifty percent of those who undergo tooth bleaching will experience some degree of temporary tooth sensitivity. Persons who already have a sensitive teeth problem are at much higher risk of experiencing severe sensitivity during tooth bleaching. In some cases the problem is so acute that the whitening treatment has to be stopped.
  • Gum disease / sensitive gums. The second most common side effect of tooth bleaching is the mild irritation of the soft tissues of the mouth. In case of gum disease, the existing inflammation of the gums will worsen if they come in contact with a bleaching agent.
  • Receding gums / exposed roots. Persons that have parts of the root exposed due to receding gums should not start tooth bleaching before treating this condition. The bleaching agent will most likely cause sensitivity problems in the area of the exposed root of the tooth that is not protected by enamel. Besides that, the whitening procedure will have different whitening effect on exposed tooth roots from the rest of the tooth, because roots do not have an enamel layer like the crown area.
  • Tooth decay. Cavities have to be treated before starting any whitening procedure. O therwise the bleaching agent can penetrate through the decayed enamel into the inner tooth layers (dentine) causing severe tooth sensitivity.
  • Fillings, crowns and other restorations. Tooth-colored fillings and resin composite materials used in dental restorations (crowns, veneers, bonding, bridges) or false teeth do not whiten. All bleaching agents used to whiten teeth will only work on natural tooth structure. Therefore, bleaching of teeth that contain restorations will result in uneven whitening, making the teeth without restorations appear lighter than those with restorations. In these cases, dental bonding could be a more suitable alternative method than tooth bleaching. • All dental work would need to be replaced to match the newly whitened teeth.
  • Darkly stained teeth. Teeth with dark stains caused by tetracycline, fluorosis or trauma will not whiten by chemical bleaching. Generally, gray-colored teeth do not respond well to bleaching and other cosmetic procedures have to be used (veneers, bonding, or crowns). A similar problem may occur in case of very translucent teeth.
  • Allergies. People who are allergic to peroxide should not use teeth bleaching products, because the bleaching agent used in these products contains peroxide (either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide).
  • Age under 16. Tooth whitening is not recommended in children under the age of 16, because the teeth and especially the pulp area are still developing. The whitening process has an increased risk of irritating the pulp and causing tooth sensitivity.
  • Pregnancy. Tooth whitening is also not recommended in pregnant or breast-feeding women. There is not enough research about product safety in pregnant women. For this reason, although there are no known specific side effects, manufacturers recommend not to bleach while pregnant or nursing as a precautionary measure.

In all of these conditions, the results of tooth bleaching may prove to be undesirable, less than expected or even to worsen the patient’s aesthetic appearance.

If you want to improve your smile’s appearance you should first visit a cosmetic dentist for consultation. Cosmetic dentists have the expertise to analyze your cosmetic needs, and propose a complete plan of cosmetic dental procedures that will best fit your expectations and finances.

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