How much would you pay for whiter teeth? The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports that Americans spent more than $1.4 billion on over-the-counter teeth whitening products last year. Prevention.com states that teeth bleaching is the most requested procedure for patients between ages 40-60, per a survey conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA). But as with all cosmetic services, one must weigh the long term effects.
While teeth whitening is considered safe, it is common for patients to experience certain side effects after treatment. These ailments include teeth sensitivity and irritated gums. However, The Cleveland Clinic notes that “tooth sensitivity often occurs during the early stages of the bleaching treatment.” The sensitivity is only temporary and usually concludes upon completion of treatment.
As these adverse effects are typically minimal and short-lasting, patients must also evaluate any possible long-term conditions that they might experience as a result of teeth whitening. One such corollary questions the connection between teeth whitening and possible damage to the tooth’s nerve. According to The Cleveland Clinic, there is no evidence to support such a theory. WebMD also cites one study which found that for as much as 7 years after use, no participants needed a root canal or similar procedure for any teeth that had been whitened.
While the tooth’s nerve might not be subjected to any long-term effects of bleaching, new research suggests that other parts of the tooth might be susceptible to damages. According to ScienceDaily.com, researchers discovered that hydrogen peroxide can cause damage to protein-rich dentin tissue lying below the tooth’s enamel. Hydrogen peroxide In one experiment, researchers found that hydrogen peroxide causes the collagen found in dentin to break down into smaller fragments. However, they were unable to ascertain whether or not the damaged dentin is capable of regenerating. Dr. Lee Gause, a dental professor of implant dentistry at New York University, recommends that patients seek professional advice from their dentist before bleaching. He also advises patients to have their teeth whitened by a dentist rather than simply doing it themselves at home. He states that if patients choose not to heed his warning and bleach at home instead, then “the only one to point the finger at is yourself.”
As with any cosmetic treatment, it is imperative to understand that the results of tooth whitening will vary from patient to patient based on several factors. These factors include the type of treatment method, patient dental history, and the type of discoloration present. It is always ideal to seek professional advice before undergoing any teeth whitening treatment.