Ask An Expert: Whitening Toothpastes

They say you're never fully dressed without a smile. But you wouldn't go out in dirty clothes, so shouldn't your smile get the same treatment? With bigger advancements in teeth whitening being made every day, it's easier than ever to do it in the comfort of your own home. Still, there are definitely some things you should know about at-home whiteners before you use them. We reached out to Grand Junction, CO, dentist Julie M Gillis, DDS, for advice.

In response to our post, Three Ways to Get Whiter Teeth, Katieb, asks: I've heard extreme whitening toothpastes can damage tooth enamel? I love bright white teeth, but don't want to cause irreversible damage. Is there truth to this?

“All toothpastes actually have the potential to damage tooth enamel when used incorrectly,” says Dr. Gillis. Some examples of incorrect use are excessive scrubbing, incorrect angling of the toothbrush, and/or when used with a firm toothbrush. “The stains that build up on teeth on a daily basis are superficial and can be removed with almost any brand of toothpaste.” To be safe, always choose toothpastes that have the ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval on them.

“Extreme whitening toothpastes may contain excessive abrasives and pH altering chemicals that can erode the surface of teeth by being excessively acidic or basic, especially if used beyond the recommended time,” says Dr. Gillis. “These products may not have been tested on teeth in a controlled study to evaluate their effects. The damage can be irreversible."

Because over-bleached teeth can look translucent or turn a blue or gray hue, it's very important to have a dentist evaluate your teeth to determine your best options. Other side effects include irreversible etching of the tooth enamel and burning and/or ulceration of the gum tissue. “The teeth should be healthy when they are bleached as the bleaching material can get into areas of decay and damage the nerve of the teeth.”

When choosing teeth whiteners, Dr. Gillis suggests looking for products Ultradent and Discus Dental. Since teeth are more susceptible to stains after whitening, she recommends avoiding drinks that stain your teeth like wine and coffee. But if you can't, use a straw so that the liquids will bypass the teeth.

Hope these answers are helpful! Keep sending us those questions on Facebook and Twitter, and we'll keep getting you expert advice.

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