Dear Dr. Ellie:
My dentist has recommend that I could use crest white strips to whiten my teeth before I have the crowns done for my implants. Actually he did not suggest that I need to do this. My teeth are 57 years old and I think I would like to do it. But I have been trying to get information about it’s safety. I just went to your Q&A section and you have cautions on this.
Since your A was written in 2006 have the products improved? My teeth are light, just not white.
I don’t want to compromise the health of my teeth that is why I am wanting to know the effects. Most sites want to sell their products.
Thank you for your question and for your confidence in my advice.
I would suggest I give you more information about bleaching so you can evaluate what to do and if you should use whitening products.
The enamel that covers your teeth has no color it is a glass shield to protect the inside part of your tooth. In order for a tooth to lighten in color, the bleaching product must permeate through this glass like coating to reach the inside (dentin) part of your tooth.
The peroxide radicals are then able to lighten this creamy area of your tooth.
Teeth reflect light from their surface. The stronger and smoother the surface of your teeth, the more like a diamond your teeth will be. Some people have naturally darker teeth but if the glass surface is strong the teeth will appear bright especially in reflected daylight.
If you bleach your teeth, the bleaching will first etch the outside surface to make it porous so the bleaching agent can travel to the inside of the tooth. This process takes away the strength of the enamel and weakens it. This strength can be returned again if you continue with the process I recommend for naturally strengthening teeth with mouth rinses and xylitol.
Just realize that if you bleach your teeth you will weaken them so you must work to harden them up again and this may take some time. The bleaching affects areas that have cells and nerves. Bleaching can make teeth very sensitive and in some cases provoke inflammation inside the tooth for up to four weeks. No one knows if this will have any long term damage.
The younger a tooth the greater the risk of cell damage. At 50 + your teeth are quite thick so there should be less risk of cell damage than if you were a teenager. I think a one time bleaching (as long as you understand the risks of sensitivity and damage) is acceptable at your age.
I do not agree with constant bleaching especially for young teeth. This damages the enamel and maybe damages the inner cells with possible general health consequences.
I hope this helps you make a difficult decision. Be careful not to touch the gums with the white strips it can cause permanent gum recession and leave you with an ugly void between your teeth!!!