Teens and teeth whitening

Teeth whitening is a $600 million industry and growing up to 20 percent each year. A large part of the market comes from image-conscious teens who are logging online or flocking to malls for do-it-yourself teeth whitening kits.

But teens who want a whiter smile should seek dentist supervision, says the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

The AGD advises teens to wait to use whitening procedures until at least the age of 14. By this time, the tooth’s pulp is fully formed, which means a teen will experience less sensitivity from teeth whitening.

At that point, teens should visit their dentist for advice on teeth whitening products. Effective whitening depends upon the use of a custom-made bleaching tray, which only a dentist can fit properly. Also, without supervision and expertise, these materials can aggravate sensitive teeth and gums, or damage existing dental work, such as fillings and crowns.

You can take several approaches to whiten your smile:

  • Bleaching (at-home or in-office).* Bleaching is a common and popular chemical process used to brighten discolored or stained teeth. Consult your dentist before using over-the-counter bleaching solutions, which alter the intrinsic color of your teeth.
  • Whitening toothpastes. All toothpastes help remove surface stains through the action of mild abrasives. “Whitening” toothpastes have special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these products do not alter the intrinsic color of teeth.

Take these preventive actions to keep teeth white and sparkling:

  • Avoid nicotine, soda, tea and coffee, which stain teeth.
  • If you do drink soda or coffee, use a straw to prevent discoloration of the upper front teeth or brush after consuming these beverages.
  • Clean teeth carefully, especially if you wear braces. Food particles can become trapped between the braces and teeth, causing discoloration as well as cavities.