Bleachorexia & The Quest For Whiter Teeth
January 23, 2018
January 23, 2018
Teeth whitening is a billion-dollar industry. In 2016 alone, Americans spent more than $1.4 billion on over-the-counter teeth whitening products. And with the never-ending deluge of ‘grams, snaps and tabloids reminding us that our Hollywood idols have impossibly white smiles, this trend isn’t going anywhere. Some dentists have even taken to giving the obsessive quest for whiter teeth its own name – Bleachorexia.
Even though whitening strips and bleach trays have only been around for 30 years, the quest for whiter teeth has been going on for millennia. In ancient Egypt, white teeth were a sign of wealth so they’d use twigs to apply a paste of wine vinegar and ground pumice stone to their teeth. Think that sounds gross? The Romans used urine to whiten theirs! In the Middle Ages, barbers acted as surgeons and dentists too, and they’d actually file teeth down before putting nitric acid on them!
Thankfully those days are behind us. Since the 1980s, dentists have been perfecting the art of whitening teeth with in-office whitening treatments and take-home whitening gels. But patients are often concerned with the cost of these treatments and will turn to inexpensive, over-the-counter alternatives which unfortunately—without the expert advice of a dentist or hygienist—can lead to some unintended dental disasters.
The problem with over-the-counter bleaching products is that they are not regulated by the FDA, and many people will leave trays on too long or use them too often. Using bleaching trays too often really does more harm than good because over-bleaching can remove the protective layer of your teeth called enamel. Ironically enough, teeth with less enamel are not only weaker and prone to tooth decay – they will also appear more yellow in color!
Bleaching fears are why many people turn to whitening toothpaste which—like all toothpastes—is abrasive. Toothpaste abrasiveness can be measured by its relative dentin abrasion (RDA) value, but these values are rarely printed on packaging. We always recommend talking to your dentist about which toothpaste is right for your teeth, but if you’re curious about the RDA of your favorite brand, there are many charts available online. The common belief is that toothpastes under 150 RDA are best for your teeth.
Remember that whitening products can make teeth more sensitive, as well as harm gum tissue, tooth nerves, and tooth pulp which can result in mild discomfort or severe pain. If you notice after home treatments that you have bleeding gums, extra sensitivity or discoloration, your best bet is to stop immediately and schedule a checkup with your dentist. Experts say the negative effects can be reversed, but sometimes caps and veneers will be needed to protect over-bleached teeth.
Teeth whitening, especially in-office whitening or at-home whitening gel, is very safe and effective in moderation. And our practices offer a variety of payment options to help you achieve the smile of your dreams. If you’re ready to whiten, we’ve got some tips that will help you do it right.
Gentle Dentist is a part of Mortenson Dental Partners.
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