Whitening teeth might be on your child’s wish list for Back-to-School. In fact, to your middle schooler or older, it might be the most important detail on their “to-do” list.
We have previously blogged on this topic. And whitening teeth did not prove to be a passing fad. In fact, whitening teeth is trending as a more popular fashion statement than ever before.
You might even hear from your 12-year-old and your 15 yr. old that it is an “expected” part of your social identity.
The Fashion Statement of Whiter, Brighter, Lighter Smile
It is safe to say those whitening teeth has become a national fashion statement in the United States, even among children? Would you believe the price of the pursuit of a whiter, brighter smile has catapulted the teeth whitening industry to 11,000,000,000 dollars per year?
That’s correct, we meant to line up nine zeros for dramatic effect. That means in the US alone, people are spending eleven billion dollars to have their teeth whitened.
What does the Brightest Smile Cost?
Here at Dentistry for Children, we were surprised to discover families spent only $1,400,000,000 worth of that total on take-home products.
But we all know the Big box stores sport an array of items. That list includes gels, trays, devices, whitening toothpaste, and rinses.
Meanwhile, statistical reports detail that fully 14 percent of the American population has been to the dentist at least one time for professional whitening treatments.
But the question remains, is whitening teeth a safe process?
Shopping Back-to-School for Whiter Teeth
In the twenty-first century, tossing whitening products into the grocery cart at the local store has become as essential as buying shampoo and hair conditioner. Yes, it’s very easy to buy whitening products at an average price of 34.00 per box.
But, just how safe are those over-the-counter teeth bleaching agents? Just as we discovered in 2017, there is still no quick and easy answer to this question.
Is Whitening Teeth Safe for your Adolescent?
First, let us check the updated AAPD (America Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) policy and guideline manual on this subject in reference to children.
- As concerned parents, the first red flag we might note would be the AAPD’s recognition of a lack of testing and research in this relatively new dental trend.
- By the way, the government considers over-the-counter teeth whitening products as cosmetics, not drugs. So, the FDA does not govern them. That is another red flag for parents.
So, What are the APPD Guidelines?
The guideline manual makes this statement. “It should be noted that most of the research on bleaching has been performed on adult patients, with only a small amount of published bleaching research using child or adolescent patients.”
At Dentistry for Children, we highly anticipate more research and studies on this issue in the coming years.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry encourages four main protocols for teeth whitening.
- Firstly, they state the use of bleaching should be judicious. That means parents need to take a conservative approach to this fashion trend.
- Secondly, they advise “patients to consult their dentists to determine appropriate methods for and the timing of dental whitening.”
- They want both “dental professionals and consumers to consider side effects when contemplating dental bleaching for child and adolescent patients.”
- Finally, they anticipate further research of dental whitening agents in children.
In our most recent updates, “The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry discourages full-arch cosmetic bleaching for patients in the mixed dentition and primary dentition.”
To clarify, mixed dentition means a mixture of baby teeth and permanent teeth. Primary dentition refers to an entire mouth full of baby teeth.
Ultimately, the AAPD places faith in your pediatric dentist’s judgment when faced with whether or not you should permit your child to have dental whitening.
What Side-Effects Occur With Whitening?
The AAPD Policy lists two slightly alarming side effects:
1. First of all, your child could experience Tooth sensitivity. In fact, 66% of users report this side effect.
2. Secondly, your child’s gums could exhibit Tissue Irritation. Actual studies prove that badly fitting mouth trays cause irritated gums. However, do you really trust the Big Box store to properly measure the hydrogen peroxide in such trays?
Studies show a manufacturer might list a 3.5-10 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide. But then, independent testers find they have used solutions as high as 15.00 percent. Ouch!
The AAPD states that these side effects are most often moderate and temporary. However, we wonder if we really want to put an irritating Big Box product into an unsupervised child’s hands?
And we worry, if we don’t permit a child to have the procedure, will he or she find a way to obtain it?
Whitening Teeth: A Media-Influenced Trend
As we have noted previously, “movies and television portray a dazzling white standard of dental beauty that is difficult to achieve when you are 13.” At that age, every detail of appearance seems crushingly important.
Thus, many children express dislike of the color of their nice new permanent teeth. They are unaware that permanent teeth are always less white than the baby teeth they lost.
Even normal colored teeth might appear off-white, grayish, or yellow-toned when compared to those bright pearls of baby teeth. It’s no longer a question of children wanting teeth whitening. Now the question is when they will start begging for it.
Dr. James Nickman, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, expresses this thought. “It is a fairly common question usually starting in the middle-school years and is likely driven by the interest in aesthetics.” Beautiful teeth!
Even the APPD expresses concern for children who are forming their self-image. This especially applies to those who have discolored teeth. Will they be victimized or bullied in the classroom?
Thus, it is not only the children who want the teeth whitening advantage. Parents also are sometimes concerned about the color of their child’s teeth.
Dr. Nickman added, “The main concern from parents is the appearance of the new permanent teeth compared to the baby teeth. The new permanent teeth usually are more yellow in appearance…” He added, that they “usually are concerned about the color of the permanent teeth and would like the ‘white’ teeth seen in magazines, online or on TV.”
An Urban Legend in Dental Care
We’ve shared this story previously, but it is worth noting again. There is an urban legend about a 13-year-old boy. He loved his tooth-whitening appearance. In fact, he loved it so much he far overdid his self-treatments.
Finally, his teeth became so sensitive he could not eat. Of course, his parents took him to his dentist who, to his horror, discovered the child had removed most of the enamel from his front teeth.
Safe Use of Whitening Products: Private or Professional
Clearly a well-meaning, unsupervised child could abuse or misuse a tooth whitening product. However, we must admit that there have been no reported cases of significant damage when children use the products as directed.
Take-Aways from the Teeth Whitening Experience: What Will You Decide?
So, the final recommendation of the AAPD is two-fold. However, they both involve at least an initial trip to your dentist.
1. You can give your child dental whitening at home, but you should see a dentist first concerning the health of the child’s teeth.
After a thorough examination and cleaning, Dr. Troy King at Dentistry for children will educate you and your child on the cautious use of the proper whitening products. And he will specifically recommend products for your child.
2. Alternatively, you can choose to invest in Dr. King’s professional whitening for that special smile. At Dentistry for Children, Dr. Troy King will perform the initial teeth whitening treatment.
Then he will educate your child in the use of a special whitening device you will take home.
In an upcoming blog, we will reveal a few more details about our teeth whitening treatments. Then you will be totally prepared to decide between options 1 and 2 above when your child asks the question about whitening his or her teeth.
No doubt we can send your child back to school, shining with a brighter smile. (However, be sure your child knows that even professionally whitening their teeth won’t make them a rockstar or get better grades.)
As you get ready for the arrival of Back-to-School days, remember: Teeth whitening is optional. But dental check-ups should not be. And now is a great time to get those teeth cleaned and checked.