Teeth Whitening: Problems and Solutions

Bleachorexia can lead to more than just a blinding smile. Obsessive bleaching can actually be harmful to teeth and gums causing pain, irritation, chalky and so thin as to be translucent at the edges when the product is overused.

UNITED KINGDOM, August 30, 2012 - Dental experts have coined a new term for the people so obsessed with pearl white teeth that they undergo bleaching far too frequently. Bleachorexia is the term used to describe the obsession for bleaching teeth to the extent that it starts causing harmful effects.

Some people get so carried away with the amazing results of tooth whitening that they opt for the treatment too frequently.  Frequent bleaching can lead to the deterioration of dental health. The more you visit the dentist solely for bleaching purpose, the more likely that you are turning into a bleachorexic.   

Dental bleaching involves the application of various chemicals to the surface of the teeth which help in removing stains. The stains on the teeth are often due to the consumption of tea, coffee, tobacco and various food items. Certain medications like tetracycline can cause stains or reduction in the brilliance of the tooth enamel. Bleaching whitens the teeth beyond their natural color.

There are various methods for bleaching the teeth. These involve:

  • Bleaching strips
  • Bleaching gel
  • Bleaching pen
  • Laser bleaching
  • Natural bleaching 

The dentist will first examine the condition of your teeth and will suggest the method which is appropriate for you. The choice of the method is also influenced by the budget of the patient. Good quality choices are available at higher price whereas inferior ones are available at lower prices. Opt for the good quality bleaching even though they are a little heavy on your pocket.

Artificial methods make use of artificial bleaching agents like peroxide, which helps to give the teeth a whitened look.  However, peroxide does not have the same effect on all kinds of teeth. It shows excellent results on yellow colored teeth, shows better results on brown teeth and it works the least with grey teeth.

There are a number of bleaching products:

  • Teeth whitening toothpastes- approved toothpaste can help lighten your teeth. They do not bleach the teeth. They are aimed at removing surface staining. Hence they are comparatively less effective than other bleaching methods and itt takes a lot of time for these toothpastes to show results. Opt for this method if you have a lot of patience.
  • At home bleaching- This is the most popular teeth-whitening method. The dentist can supply you with a bleaching kit which you can use at home. The kit consists of the bleaching agent in the form of gel and  a mouth guard to hold the gel in place. The mouthguard is often personalized in order to fit your mouth. You will be required to wear it twice a day or on overnight basis for a fortnight. You may also find various kits in the stores as well which are not dentist approved. 
  • In office bleaching- it is also referred to as chair-side bleaching. In this process, a protective agent or rubber shield is applied to the gums and a dental professional applies a bleaching agent. It may require the use of special lights to speed up the process. The method takes anywhere between thirty minutes to one hour. 

Downside of excessive bleaching

There are various perks of using bleaching agents on your teeth. However, there are a number of negative effects as well. These include:

  • Oral Irritation: The bleaching agents are chemicals. Sometimes people swallow the bleaching agents, making them feeling nauseous.  It also disturbs the palate and affects the throat of the person. Your gums are another victim of too much usage of bleaching agents.
  • Teeth Enamel Erosion: Frequent use of bleaching agents on the teeth results in the erosion of the outer layer of the teeth. This makes the teeth weak. Hence it is recommended to use the bleaching kit which is supplied by your dentist under the supervision of an expert.
  • Hypersensitivity: Sensitivity is a condition where the nerves inside the teeth are exposed to the environment outside. Thus people who face the problem of hypersensitivity experience pain when they eat/drink things that are too cold or warm. Frequent bleaching can cause hypersensitivity of the teeth. It is the most common after effect which of frequent bleaching. However, with the passage of time the sensitivity subsides.

Use only those methods and products which are approved as they are safe to use. Cut down on the consumption of items which can stain your teeth. Once you get your teeth bleached, stay away from foods which can stain your teeth again. 

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Dr. Priya Patel

I’m Dr. Priya Patel with over 10 years of experience in the dental industry and dental principal of Village Dental Practice in Stevenage, UK.  I qualified from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Dental Hospital in 2002 from London. I involve patients in their own treatment and enjoy seeing the improvement in a patient as their treatment progresses.

I also teach dentists at the Royal College of Surgeons in London who are completing postgraduate studies as well as overseas dentists who are studying for their equivalency exams.

You can follow Dr. Patel on Twitter at @dentistmum

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