From on-the-go strips to in-office bleaching, teeth-whitening treatments have become easier and more convenient than ever before. But, overdoing them can put your teeth at risk for other issues, some of which can become permanent. The key is knowing how much is too much. Here, we got the expert scoop from New York cosmetic dentist Timothy Chase, DMD, who says “bleachorexia” is on the rise, and with proper education, it can easily be avoided.
“Teeth-whitening protocols greatly vary from person to person based on their starting tooth color and diet. However, there are two stages that apply to everyone: initial whitening and maintenance. For the initial therapy, it is important to follow the recommendation of your dentist or over-the-counter system for as long as it takes to reach your desired shade of whiteness. Once that shade is reached, you are in the maintenance stage of whitening, and that is where it becomes very individualized based on your desired whiteness, diet and homecare. Some people only need touch-ups once every few months, while others will need to do them every few weeks to maintain their smile. People who drink coffee, dark sodas or dark beverages in general may need to whiten more frequently than others. For in-office bleaching, I recommend a yearly treatment at most (with touch-ups at home in between).” At-home OTC treatments can be used daily, but for no more than two consecutive weeks.
So what are some signs that you’re over-whitening? Dr. Chase says there are three red flags: tooth sensitivity, especially to cold; inflamed or bleeding gums; and teeth that look blue or see-through along the edge.
The scary thing is that if these warning signs go untreated, it can lead to nerve damage in your teeth, thinning of your tooth enamel and burning of your gums. When damage gets too severe, your dentist may not have a way to reverse it.
To be on the safe side, Dr. Chase recommends having your teeth examined and cleaned by your dentist prior to whitening to make sure there are no cavities or gum issues, as clean teeth get a much better result. “Also, follow the directions on all teeth-whitening products perfectly. And, ask your doctor about which products he knows are safe and effective before purchasing anything on your own.”