Common Misconceptions About Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures—and with good reason! This simple treatment fights troublesome coffee stains and can leave your teeth looking whiter and brighter than ever before.


However, this trend has also generated a lot of confusion. It seems that almost everyone has something to say about teeth whitening, and not all the rumors are true. Let's take a look at common misconceptions to sort the fact from the fiction.


Teeth Whitening Causes Nerve Damage

Many people experience temporary sensitivity in their teeth and gums after using a teeth whitening kit. Because of this sensitivity, many worry that the chemicals in the bleaching kit cause nerve damage.


However, sensitivity after bleaching is often the result of an ill-fitting mouthpiece, rather than the actual tooth-bleaching agent. In many cases, sensitivity disappears within a few days after treatment.


According to a 5-year follow-up study, individuals who received teeth whitening treatment did not need a subsequent root canal procedure on the whitened teeth.


Teeth Whitening Lasts Forever
Teeth whitening can give long-lasting results, but over time, your teeth will stain and return to their normal shade. Average teeth whitening lasts about three to six months, though you can extend your results by avoiding dark-coloured foods and beverages.


Foods that are most likely to stain your teeth over time include:


  • Tea
  • Red wine
  • Cranberry juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Cola
  • Berries (blackberries, cranberries, cherries, grapes, etc.)


You can also minimize staining by using a straw when drinking dark beverages and by swishing with water when you cannot brush your teeth.


Teeth Whitening Ruins Enamel
This misconception has some truth to it. Studies show some home bleaching systems do have a negative impact on enamel. When you use a bleaching kit for too long or for too often, you can stress the porous surface of your teeth. In some cases, teeth even turn translucent (rather than white) due to enamel loss.


However, this isn't to say that all teeth whitening treatments are bad. Experts at the Canadian Dental Association found that teeth whitening products with high acid concentrations and low pH can cause enamel erosion. But small amounts of calcium minimize this loss by up to 50%.


Essentially, you can whiten your teeth without damaging them. Just be sure to follow your dentist's instructions closely and only use products your dentist recommends.


Teeth Whitening Gives You an Instant Celebrity Smile
Celebrities are notorious for having white, glamorous smiles. Many celebrities even attribute their pearly whites to regular bleaching and teeth whitening treatments.


However, what works well for one individual (even a famous one) might not work well for you. Human teeth are not naturally a pure white; they are typically a shade of off-white, yellow, or even grey. Cleaning your teeth removes stains, but it does not change the colour of your teeth. Bleaching your teeth will lighten your teeth beyond their natural colour, but that doesn't guarantee an instantly gorgeous smile.


Additionally, whitening treatment results vary depending on the condition of your teeth when you start the treatment as well as their susceptibility to whitening. You may have to undergo multiple teeth-whitening treatments before you notice a difference in shade or colour.


Teeth Whitening Works Well on Everyone
Teeth whitening helps a variety of people brighten their teeth, but it's not ideal for everyone. The best candidates for teeth whitening products are those who have healthy teeth stained by coffee, tobacco, or aging.


Our Edmonton dentists recommend that the following individuals do not bleach their teeth:


  • Pregnant or lactating women
  • Patients with translucent teeth
  • Children less than 13 years old
  • Patients with sensitive teeth


Not sure if you should bleach? Hold a piece of white printer paper next to your teeth. If your teeth look yellowed, the stains are likely on the surface. This means bleaching could lighten your teeth by a few shades. On the other hand, if your teeth look slightly grey, then the discolouration is likely inside your teeth. Bleaching the surface likely won't have an effect.


Teeth Whitening Doesn't Work on Veneers
This is another myth that has a basis in truth. Many dentists match your veneers to your natural shade. Because many porcelain veneers are dense and smooth, they are extremely colour stable, so in many cases, you'll notice your natural teeth darkening but not your veneers.


However, if your veneers are slightly translucent and they only cover the front of your teeth, whitening the tooth beneath the veneer will, in turn, lighten the appearance of your veneer. A simple bleach tray and gel can do the trick, but the effect isn't always noticeable.


But more often than not, if you want to lighten your veneers, you'll probably need to replace them. If you're concerned about the colour of your veneers or the natural shade of your teeth, ask your Edmonton dentist at Westmount Dental for more information.

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