The Risks of Unsupervised Whitening

According to a survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, “when respondents were asked, ‘What would you like to improve most about your smile?’ The most common response was: Whiter & brighter teeth.” Most people would like to enjoy a lighter smile, so it comes as no surprise that teeth whitening products make up at $11 billion industry. You probably see whitening toothpastes, gels, trays, and more at every turn, from your grocery store to mall kiosks. However, not all whitening treatments are created equal. Teeth whitening is an elective, aesthetic procedure, but it should still be taken seriously, especially since it can impact your overall oral health. Read on to learn more about the risks of unsupervised whitening and how Dr. Armstrong and our team can help you more safely enhance your smile.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Your teeth can become discolored or stained for any number of reasons, including aging, consuming dark-colored foods and beverages, or taking certain medications. The active ingredient in most teeth whitening treatments is a bleaching agent, typically hydrogen peroxide. This substance penetrates your enamel to dissolve colored particles and restore the natural, light luster of your smile.

You can purchase unsupervised at-home teeth whitening treatments online, at spas, and even in convenience stores. These relatively inexpensive products use a fairly mild bleaching agent in the form of a gel, paste, or strip. In most cases, you’ll need to apply the teeth whitening treatment for several hours a day each day until you reach your desired results.

Potential Side Effects of Unsupervised Treatment

Whenever you modify your smile, it’s best to work with a trained and experienced dentist, like Dr. Armstrong, who can help you understand your unique needs. The dangers of unsupervised teeth whitening include:

  • Unsatisfactory results. Without purchasing a dentist-approved whitening treatment, you can’t be sure that your product will be effective. This could mean that you waste time and money without enjoying a brighter smile.
  •  Tooth sensitivity. The bleaching agent can irritate your dental nerves, causing discomfort and sensitivity that may be temporary or permanent. While this can occur with professional treatment, it is much more likely when you are left to your own devices, since you may not apply the treatment exactly as recommended.
  •  Periodontal inflammation or stinging. If the whitening solution comes in contact with your gum tissues, it may cause them to tingle, burn, or swell for a short or longer period. This side effect is much more likely with unsupervised treatment because it is less precise. For example, if you place a whitening strip over your teeth, it probably will not exactly fit the distinctive curves of your teeth, thereby exposing your gums to bleach.
  • Improper diagnosis. A 2009 report by the American Dentistry Association Council on Scientific Affairs explains: “concerns have remained about the long-term safety of unsupervised bleaching procedures, due to abuse and possible undiagnosed or underlying oral health problems.” If your tooth is discolored due to eroding enamel, caries, or an infected pulp, applying bleach to it may only exacerbate the problem. This is why it is best to have a diagnostic exam and discuss your cosmetic concerns with your dentist before embarking on teeth whitening.

Whitening with the Professionals

Dr. Armstrong and our team members can help you whiten your teeth while maintaining your oral health. In addition to chairside professional whitening, performed directly by Dr. Armstrong, we offer convenient take-home treatments to help you enhance your smilewithout the risks of unsupervised teeth whitening. If you’d like a treatment kit, Dr. Armstrong will make an impression of your teeth to create a custom-made plastic tray. Once this oral appliance has been manufactured, he will provide an appropriate strength of whitening solution for you to fill the tray with at home. You will then wear the tray for several hours per day according to his instructions until you have the dazzling smile you’d like. We make ourselves available to our patients throughout this process, so if you ever have any questions or experience unusual symptoms, simply contact us for advice.

Enjoy Safe, Successful Whitening

While teeth whitening treatments seem to be everywhere these days, your smile and your health will be best served by working with an accredited, qualified professional. Contact Craig Armstrong, D.D.S. to learn more about teeth whitening or schedule an appointment.

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How Swimming Could Affect Your Smile

As summer approaches, you might be anxious to get out your bathing suit and head to the pool. Swimming is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy fun in the sun with your family and friends. Unfortunately, however, the chlorine used to keep pools clean can actually damage your teeth, according to multiple scientific studies. In addition to causing uncomfortable toothache and sensitivity, exposing your teeth to chlorine can raise your risk for decay and create unsightly stains. Dealing with uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms or having to interrupt your summertime festivities for a filling is far from ideal. Dr. Armstrong and our team are dedicated to helping our patients enjoy a wonderful quality of life with healthy, beautiful smiles during all seasons and activities. To help you enjoy swimming and preserve your gorgeous grin, read on to learn more about how chlorine can affect your teeth and what you can do about it.

How Chlorine Affects Your Teeth

Chlorine is a toxic chemical, typically found in gaseous form, that many people and community organizations add to their swimming pools. In small doses, it can kill harmful microorganisms and purify water, as British physician John Snow discovered in 1854 during the cholera epidemic in London. It helps keep both public and private pools across America crystal clear and safe from disease.

However, chlorine can also change the composition of pool water in detrimental ways. LiveStrong explains: “Once introduced into the swimming pool water, chlorine gas changes into chloric acid, which sanitizes the pool but forms hydrochloric acid, which can contribute to sensitive teeth.” In other words, the acids in chlorine can wear down your teeth, reducing the amount of enamel protecting your nerves. If your teeth have ever hurt after a swimming session, this could be the reason why. LiveStrong writes: “In April 1986, the ‘American Journal of Epidemiology’ reported that 39 percent of members in a Virginian swimming club suffered from dental erosion.” Even just a few weeks of regular chlorine exposure can damage your enamel. As well as making your dental nerves more sensitive to heat, cold, or pressure, erosion also allows decay-causing bacteria to penetrate your teeth more easily, making you susceptible to caries.

 Prolonged exposure to chlorine can also create a condition known as “swimmer’s calculus,” brown stains that also develop as a result of improper acidity.KnowYourTeeth describes: “Pool water contains chemical additives like antimicrobials, which give the water a higher pH than saliva, causing salivary proteins to break down quickly and form organic deposits on swimmer’s teeth….hard, brown tartar deposits that appear predominantly on the front teeth.” No one wants to have a discolored post-swim smile!

Maintaining Your Swimming Smile

You don’t have to let the perils of chlorine keep you from making a splash this summer, as long as you take proper care of your teeth. Dr. Armstrong and our team provide the following recommendations to swimmers:

  • Come in for cleanings and examinations at least twice per year. Professional swimmers may need to attend appointments three or four times annually, and you may want to add an extra visit in the summer if you tend to swim frequently. During these check-ups, Dr. Armstrong can assess your teeth for erosion, remove swimmer’s calculus, and make further recommendations about safeguarding your oral health.
  • Check your private or community pool’s pH on a regular basis to ensure it is not too high. If you can find a saltwater pool with minimal chlorine used to sanitize it, this may also be a good option.
  • Limit opening your mouth underwater or while in the pool so that less chlorine can reach your teeth.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Proper nutrition can help fortify your enamel so it is less likely to erode, no matter the circumstances.
  • Maintain excellent oral hygiene. Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash can help you keep your smile bright and healthy.

Preserve Your Smile and Enjoy the Pool

Using the above information and suggestions, you can maintain your smile and your summertime pool habits. To learn more about your oral hygiene or schedule an appointment, contact Craig Armstrong, D.D.S. today.

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