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Teeth Whitening: Is It Safe on Tooth Enamel?

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June 11, 2023

We all want a white brighter smile. But this begs the question “does teeth whitening damage the enamel?” The answer is no. While there may sometimes be side effects, whitening treatment is safe on tooth enamel.

The process of tooth whitening is essentially the tooth will become dehydrated, meaning dried out. The active ingredient in the whitening product will go through the enamel and into the second layer of the tooth called the dentin. The product begins working to reverse staining or discoloration, essentially bleaching that second layer. After the treatment, the tooth then rehydrates naturally from our saliva. It’s important to remember when using whitening treatments to avoid stain-enhancing foods/drinks while the tooth is re-hydrating.

This process does not damage the tooth layers or integrity of the tooth, but can sometimes lead to temporary tooth sensitivity.

Temporary sensitivity is normal. Some people develop temporary sensitivity in the gums or teeth when using whitening products. That’s not a sign of long-term damage, but it can be uncomfortable. If it happens to you, consider taking a break from bleaching or switching to a milder product. Again, talk to your dentist for the right advice.

How to use whitening products safely:

  1. ADA seal of approval– The ADA seal of approval ensures that the product has been tested for safety and effectiveness.
  2. Follow instructions– Always follow a product’s instructions, as some products are to be used more frequently or for longer periods of time than others.
  3. Consult with your dentist– Consult with your dentist to determine that your teeth are healthy and ready to start a whitening treatment. It is important to avoid whitening if you have any active decay or dental diseases. There are also certain types of staining that respond well to whitening, and some that don’t. Yellow/Brown staining from external causes (coffee, tea, etc.) responds well to whitening treatments. Grey staining from internal causes (medications, developmental defects) does not respond as well to whitening treatments. Your dental provider can give you an idea of what to expect from the different types of whitening treatments.
  4. Listen to your teeth– If you begin to experience sensitivity, take a break from your treatments or whiten for shorter lengths of time. And/or combine with a “sensitive” toothpaste.

There are three general types of whitening products

  1. Administered by your dentist
  2. Dispensed by your dental for use at home
  3. Dispensed over the counter or made at home without the oversight of your dentist

You may choose a certain whitening method due to factors such as type of staining you have, dental history (fillings and crowns), treatment method, cost.

Although over-the-counter treatments are less expensive, they may require a longer treatment period, and be less effective than professional whitening treatments.

Does whitening toothpaste alone whiten teeth? No. But toothpaste with stain defense- such as a pumice texture (baking soda toothpaste, crest 3D white, etc) will do a better job of cleansing surface stains if used regularly.

Our office offers three different options for teeth whitening.

ZOOM! In-office whitening – This is a one-visit appointment in our office. The appointment involves having the ZOOM! whitening gel placed on the teeth, and then four 15 minute cycles of whitening under our specialized light system. After the four cycles, you will leave with a noticeably whiter smile! We also include custom-fit bleaching trays to use after treatment to maintain your new whiter smile at home.

Custom-fit bleaching trays – These are whitening trays that are custom-made for your teeth. The trays go on comfortably, and our professional-grade bleaching gel goes into the trays. Bleach gel refills are $15 making this a very cost-efficient option for long-term results.

Opalescence GO” trays – These are a one-size-fits-all whitening option. Each treatment includes an upper and lower tray that has a professional-grade whitening gel inside. These are one-time use only and are disposable after each use.

If you are interested in which whitening option is best for you, have questions about your current whitening regimen, or need to find out if your teeth are healthy to start a whitening regimen; call our office at 417-885-7040 or schedule an appointment online.

We would love to help you achieve a smile you love!

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