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Teeth Whitening Safe

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Is teeth whitening safe?

Every year, millions of people whiten their teeth with different products ranging from over-the-counter whitening strips to professional products only provided by the dentist. The safety of the main ingredients of teeth whitening gel has been studied and will be further examined here.

According to the American Dental Association, teeth whitening is considered safe when used correctly.  The main ingredient in teeth whitening gel is hydrogen peroxide. Many gels contain carbamide peroxide which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide when used. The hydrogen peroxide oxidates the teeth which removes stains. According to the ADA, this oxidation has 2 side effects which are "temporary tooth sensitivity and occasional irritation of the oral tissues." They state that "on rare occasions, irreversible tooth damage has been reported."

Tooth sensitivity usually occurs during the first few days of treatment. The best way to avoid or reduce sensitivity is to start by using the whitening gel for short periods of time. For example, if the directions say to wear trays for 30 minutes, 2 times per day, you may want to start with 5-10 minutes, 2 times per day, and build up a little everyday until you reach the full 30 minutes. Also, the higher the percentage of gel used (ex. 30% carbamide peroxide), the more likely you are to have sensitivity problems. So if you have very sensitive teeth, whiten with a low percentage of gel (ex. 10% carbamide peroxide) for short periods, over a long period of time.
Irritation or "burning" of the gums (oral tissues) can occur if the whitening gel sits on the gums for a certain period of time. Although it is impossible to completely avoid any contact with the gums when whitening, the best way to avoid or reduce the irritation is to use good fitting whitening trays. Professional whitening trays, the ones from your dentist, are custom made to cover only the teeth. The trays are cut just below the gum line to give the best fit possible. Boil'n'bite trays can be purchased over-the-counter and although they are considered "safe", they do allow more gel to "sit" on the gums, thus creating more irritation. Whitening gels with higher concentrations of peroxide should only be used with professional whitening trays. Avoid over-whitening. Long term use of whitening products can can permanent gum damage.

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