Many of us dream of having the perfect smile. But, at what age is teeth whitening safe to begin? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for that because everyone’s oral development happens at different rates; however, late teenage years is a safe prediction.
Baby (primary) teeth are structured differently than adult (permanent) teeth. They are smaller, whiter, fewer in number and have a thinner enamel layer which protects the dentin and pulp layers of the teeth. The enamel component is a large factor to why whitening too young, or too frequently when it’s age-appropriate, is reason for concern because it can break the enamel down leaving the inner structure susceptible to damage. When you whiten your teeth, it takes a chemical of some variety to make your teeth whiter. Most whitening chemicals used wear at the enamel surface, to a degree. When this layer wears, sensitivity and weakness can occur over time. Though your primary teeth will be lost and replaced with permanent teeth, keeping them in their best health is important.
It is typical for children to have lost all their primary teeth by their early teen years, around 12 to 13. Of course, some will complete this process at a younger age, while others will be older. After their permanent teeth are in, it takes roughly two years for the tooth to develop and the enamel layer, the tooth surface, to harden. It isn’t until after this has occurred, roughly 16 years old or so, that it is safe to whiten teeth. Safe, however, comes with its warnings. It is safe to the tooth if whitening is done properly, but, if not properly performed, this process could result in oral damage.
There are several factors to be concerned with when whitening your teeth, at any age, so that you don’t cause lasting damage to your oral health or general health. The outer layer of the tooth (the enamel) is strong but can suffer damage when not taken care of properly. It is best to consult with your dentist for whitening options that will suit your age and needs, but here are some things to keep in mind.
Tooth sensitivity is a common side-effect from using teeth whitening products. Depending on the person, sensitivity may wane after a few days or may take longer. The peroxide that’s part of the whitening agent demineralizes the surface of the tooth while it actively breaks apart the bonds holding the staining particles to the tooth. With this demineralization the inner layers of the tooth become exposed. When the nerves are exposed, sensitivity to hot or cold may occur until the tooth surface is able to seal itself, concealing the nerves, and that’s only if it does. Using an anti-sensitivity toothpaste can also help.
Speaking of sensitivity and tooth enamel, over-time and over-use of teeth whitening products can begin to erode the tooth surface. Once your enamel wears away, the tooth is more susceptible to tooth decay. And, sadly, once decay begins, there’s no way to undo the damage. If you start whitening your teeth at a young age, your teeth may be more prone to overuse over-time.
Improper use of teeth whitening products can not only irritate your teeth, but your gums, tongue, cheeks, and throat. If you’re whitening your teeth with an ill-fitting tray or don’t have proper barriers in place, the whitening agents may irritate these other areas of your mouth. Make sure to follow the directions of any teeth whitening products you engage with.
Even with careful and proper use, sometimes teeth whitening isn’t recommended for permanent teeth. It has been covered not to whiten primary (baby) teeth because of the irreversible damage that can be done to them, but sometimes even permanent teeth should be left as they are.
If you are someone who suffers from chronic tooth sensitivity, tooth decay, periodontal disease, or damaged enamel, teeth whitening should be avoided. Unless, of course, you’re able to work with your dentist to overcome these dental issues and they clear you for teeth whitening.
If you’ve ever had a tooth bonded, filled, replaced with a veneer, or crowns, whitening will not change these. These dental restorations are made to match the shade of your teeth at the time of repair. If you desire whiter teeth, have whitening done prior. If you whiten your teeth post restoration, your natural teeth may whiten, but the restored teeth will not. Talk this through with your dentist before you have any major work completed to ensure satisfaction with your dental work without needing to replace restorations to a whiter shade.
No matter your age you most likely want to have a healthy, bright smile, and that’s understandable as it exudes more confidence. The best way to make that smile bright is proper oral care but sometimes we all need a little help. If you’re old enough that your permanent teeth have had proper time to come in and develop, and you’ve reached a point when you desire a brighter smile, chat with your dentist about teeth whitening options. Oftentimes a supplemental teeth whitening product like our power whitening gel can get the job done without interfering with your current routine. You want to be careful to whiten your teeth properly so not to make any error that could harm your teeth or mouth. Be wise and safe about it, and you’ll have a glowing smile!