Does Teeth Whitening Damage Teeth?

Teeth bleaching, better known as teeth whitening has become very popular, but frequently, there are questions regarding the safety of these products on the teeth and gums.

The way these products work, is by oxidizing the stains that have been collecting on the surface of teeth, and within the enamel crystals of teeth. The active ingredient is peroxide based. Hydrogen peroxide, urea peroxide, or carbamide peroxide are the most popular, and are available in strengths between 3% to 35%.  Because, these products cause teeth sensitivity, and will soften the tooth enamel, manufacturers will often add ingredients to reduce the sensitivity, and tooth softening.  Sodium Fluoride, Calcium Gluconate, Strontium Chloride, and Silver Nitrate are some of the more common additives.

Two application techniques are commonly used: In-office bleaching, and take home bleaching. Each work equally well. In-office bleaching involves shining a powerful light on the bleach-coated teeth.  Because peroxide reacts to light, and a higher strength bleach is used,  quicker results will occur. However, this technique is usually less comfortable and more costly. The second technique is to have bleaching trays made, and the patient applies the bleach into the tray themselves. This is a more convenient technique. Any unused bleach can be stored in the refrigerator for touch-ups later.  Over the counter bleaches can also be used in the tray for significantly lower cost, however, it will take longer to reach the desired result when compared to the in-office bleaching technique.

Used as directed, Tooth enamel hardness and any tooth sensitivity should return to normal within a week. The use of desensitizing toothpastes and fluoride mouthwashes will speed the recovery of any sensitive teeth. There should be no lasting damage to the teeth or dental work.  If color matching is desired for upcoming dental work, It is recommended to whiten the teeth weeks before the dental procedure so that the color will be stable.

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