Saturday, October 23, 2010

How safe is it to bleach your teeth? - from Mary, camping outfitter

Interesting question! These days it seems every time you go to the dentist, they ask you if you would like to purchase whitening supplies or services.  I used dentist-grade whitening strips in preparation for my wedding, and after a couple weeks I had to give them up because they made my teeth really hurt and made them extremely cold/hot sensitive.  The whitening only seemed to last for a little while, too.  All in all, the whitening process was very unpleasant.  I have a personal friend who worked as a laser ablation specialist at Iowa State University and he helped with the initial analysis of a very popular brand of whitening strips (laser ablation is the process of blasting things with lasers, and measuring the materials and molecules that come off in great detail, it can identify the exact chemical make-up of things).  My laser ablation friend once told me that these white strips had disturbingly high levels of heavy  metals in them.  I will avoid mentioning the brand, as I don't want to get sued, although I imagine most of these brands are made in much the same way.  My friend, who tested these white strips before they came to market, was alarmed at the levels of heavy metals.  Perhaps the production process has changed since then, and perhaps not.  Also, the regulatory agencies approved all kinds of whitening strips for consumer use, so the basic safety requirements were met.  However, I still remain uneasy after my experience with whitening strips and the concerns of my scientist friend.  Whitening strips and other products are probably fine if you want to get your teeth white for a big event, like a wedding.  However, the whiteness doesn't seem to last long and I don't recommend using them repeatedly for years and years.  I also do not recommend them for children, as they are especially sensitive to heavy metals during their rapid development.  If you want beautiful teeth, regular brushing, flossing, and dentist visits will keep your teeth healthy and looking pretty good.  You could also get veneers, which are like permanent fake fingernails for your teeth, but they are somewhat pricey (but last a long time).  Avoiding coffee, tea, and soda pop will also help your teeth stay white (although coffee has benefits, see my previous post).  And remember, the dentist and manufacturers want you to buy these things, and they make money off  the sale.  The Science Lady recommends teeth whitening only when you have a very good, very short-term reason. 

No comments:

Post a Comment