The Most Common Teeth Whitening Myths

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Valerie DeBenedette, Senior Medical Editor

Valerie DeBenedette is a science writer who specializes in keeping people informed about medicine and their health. She has more than 20 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites and has written about most areas of medicine. For many years, she was a contributing writer to Cosmetic Dermatology and to Drug Topics, the leading pharmacy trade magazine. She also was a contributing editor to The Physician and Sportsmedicine for many years. She has written about most fields of medicine, including dermatology, sportsmedicine, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, and women's health; as well as public health policy and the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, she is the author of Caffeine, a book for young people. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.


November 07 2007

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Despite the advances of modern dentistry, there still are many myths regarding teeth whitening. These misconceptions originated when teeth whitening techniques were just developing and some results were catastrophic, giving rise to myths and legends such as "teeth whitening causes cancer" or " once whitened there won't be a need to do any kind of maintenance," among others.

The truth is far from that. Teeth whitening procedures (also called teeth bleaching) have been common since the late 1980s, and the results are very beneficial to those who have it done. Many of the myths about the side effects of teeth whitening have also been busted. The most common, and real, side effect is increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.

Widespread teeth whitening myths that have been debunked include:

Myth: The main danger of teeth whitening is the chemicals used.

Fact: Teeth whitening is currently the safest and most moderate dental cosmetic procedure. The main agent used in teeth whitening procedures is carbamide peroxide, a chemical agent that has been proven safe for humans. It is used in different concentrations in both professional and over-the-counter whitening procedures. Clinical data collected by the American Dental Association show that carbamide peroxide is safe and effective as a whitening agent.

Myth: My teeth are going to be as white as I want them to be.

Fact: Each person's teeth are a particular shade and what teeth bleaching products do is make the teeth between 2 to 5 shades lighter. So technically your teeth probably won't be as white as the snow, but they will likely whiten to the lightest shade possible, and your smile will sparkle.

Myth: My teeth whitening system will bleach all of my mouth.

Fact: Only teeth whiten. Crowns, bonding, fillings, bridges, and veneers will stay the same. People who have had major dental restorations performed need to be careful when using any teeth whitening systems. For these cases, professional teeth whitening is recommended, so that the dentist can find the best way to match the new shade of the teeth with the restorations already in place. That is why professionals suggest whitening before any dental restoration treatment is done.

Myth: Once whitened, my teeth will stay like that for good.

Fact: For most people, teeth bleaching is a long-lasting procedure that requires little maintenance. Touch-ups are usually done every 6 months, and the use of whitening dental care products is recommended. No matter what system was used, it's suggested to avoid or lessen exposure to staining agents such as coffee, smoking, and red wines, among others, to make the results last longer.

Myth: Laser tooth whitening is the only professional teeth whitening system that really works.

Fact: Laser is only one of the great options that dentists offer for teeth bleaching. Tray whitening is as affective as laser tooth whitening; the primary difference is the technique used to perform the bleaching and steps to follow to maintain the new, sparkling smile.