Some Americans are obsessed with a perfectly white smile, but too much whitening may actually be harmful.
Daniel Birnbaum is a performer. He cares about his appearance, and a big part of that is his smile.
"I wake up and start by putting on a white strip. Then I do a whitening rinse, I brush with whitening toothpaste," said Birnbaum.
He goes through this routine morning and night, but his teeth have already told him it's too much.
Birnbaum said, "The enamel started getting sensitive and I was getting hot and cold sensitivity on my teeth."
Those are signs of excessive bleaching. There are dozens of bleaching products available with great variation in chemical strength if the bleach is too strong or overused, it can be harmful. And you need to start with healthy teeth.
Ontario Dental Association President Dr. Lynn Tomkins said, "If you have a cavity, so you have an area where the tooth is open, or you have a crack in your tooth, then the bleach can travel directly into the pulp and repeated bleaching could potentially cause the nerve of the tooth to die."
Many people want their teeth to be unnaturally white, and that drives the overuse of bleaching products.
"From here over would be considered normal human tooth colors. Over here what we have are hyper-white teeth that people seem to want," said Dr. Tomkins.
Teeth can be professionally whitened safely every two years, and over-the-counter kits should be used only once every six months and in between, if you use whitening toothpaste, don't brush too hard or too often.
Dr. Edward Gelfand said, "In many cases it's very abrasive to the teeth and the teeth may actually become sensitive permanently. And then people come in and we have to treat the sensitivity."
That sensitivity can be treated, but it may take up to six weeks for it to improve. We don't know how big a problem this is, but more and more people have been buying the type of toothpaste that are specifically made for people who have a problem with sensitive teeth, so that increased sensitivity may come from overusing bleach.
So are the over-the-counter products just as good as the ones dentists use? They're not as strong as the preparation a dentist uses. And the dentist has control. So the timing, the strength, and the application are just what they should be.
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