Does Teeth Whitening Hurt Your Enamel?

by Bridget Coila
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A pearly white smile can make you seem more approachable and increase your self-confidence.

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Questions about the safety and efficacy of teeth whitening might leave you wondering whether to invest in polishing up your smile, but in general, the procedure is considered safe for enamel.

The Effects of Teeth Whitening

Coffee, tea, smoking and simple aging can all affect the appearance of teeth. Some people may even have teeth that are naturally less white than others. Tooth whitening products — including at-home whitening kits and procedures done in a dentist's office — can all help reduce discoloration to bring back a sparkling smile.

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Types of Tooth Whitening

Over-the-counter tooth whitening products include strips and trays designed for use at home. These products lighten the color of the tooth surface and remove stains. The active ingredient in home teeth whitening products is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

Professional teeth whitening is done in a dentist's office using the same compounds in a stronger concentration. In some cases, the dentist may prepare a kit that involves a tray to place over the teeth at night so you can complete the process at home. Alternatively, you might opt for an office treatment. In-office teeth whitening sessions usually take less than a half hour, and a few sessions might be required for long-term results.

Does Whitening Your Teeth Hurt the Enamel?

Enamel is the outermost layer on the tooth surface, so this is where the action of whitening products usually has the strongest effect. Teeth whitening does not damage tooth enamel, and these products are generally considered safe and effective when used as directed.

At least one 2019 study by Experimental Biology has indicated the possibility of damage to proteins in the dentin, the layer underneath the enamel, when whitening strips are used. The study was conducted in a lab setting, so the impact on living teeth may differ, and the proteins in living dentin may naturally regenerate, indicating that damage may not be long-lasting.

Teeth whitening products have been used for years by millions of people who want a brighter smile, and no specific enamel or dentin issues have been linked to real-world use of these products.

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Does It Matter What Whitening Method You Use?

It doesn't matter whether you use at-home teeth whitening kits or book a professional whitening session with your dentist. The effects are essentially the same when it comes to tooth enamel.

Professional tooth whitening is often quicker, and the effects usually last longer than home kits because the bleaching agents in professional products are stronger. No tooth whitening treatment is permanent, though. You'll need to reapply home teeth whitening products or schedule another professional whitening session when the effects begin to wear off.

Other Considerations When Choosing Tooth Whitening

While products that whiten your teeth may not cause damage to the tooth surface, they can potentially cause gum sensitivity or irritation. Following product directions and avoiding whitening the teeth too often may help prevent discomfort. Individuals with sensitive gums or teeth may want to space out whitening treatments or use a milder solution. Products with fluoride or potassium nitrate might also help soothe gums and reduce tooth sensitivity.

Before using a teeth whitener, ensure that other tooth issues are already addressed. Schedule a dental appointment to remove plaque, check for cavities and get a thorough dental cleaning before applying a tooth whitener. Cracks or cavities could leave the inner parts of your tooth vulnerable to discomfort or pain during whitener use, and whitening works best when the surface is as clean and smooth as possible.

Teeth whitening can remove stains and discoloration, but it doesn't prevent future issues. Make your tooth whitening procedure last longer by avoiding foods and drinks known to stain teeth or brushing immediately after eating or drinking. Quitting smoking can also reduce future tooth discoloration.

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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