In the past three years, I’ve had six overcrowded teeth removed, two necessary crowns, and a set of old-fashioned “train-track” braces that were in place for two years.
As delighted as I was when the whole ordeal ended, my last (and elective) thing to do was professional teeth whitening; getting molds made of my teeth and adding the bleach when I was ready. They turned out very well, getting rid of any signs of the staining braces can make. I used half of the bleach given and a year later, did it again. My teeth look good; natural, straight and white, but not Hollywood. Not that kind of veneered "perfection" with a blindingly white smile. I didn’t want to go there.
But some of us are. Called “bleachorexia” – a compulsion to whiten teeth, people are doing all sorts of damage to their teeth and gums by over-bleaching. According to a report on Good Morning America, dentists are seeing more patients with bleach-damaged teeth, including tooth erosion (loss of enamel), and extreme sensitivity. The peroxide used in these formulas can also cause the gums to recede.
Because we see such a heightened level of rather unnatural teeth in the media, and fail to realize that many “celebrity teeth” are actually not even real (they’re veneers), our perception of healthy teeth has been skewered, particularly in the past thirty years.
Teeth that are whitened to the extreme are often perceived as healthier and cleaner, simply because of the bleach. But these teeth can be, not only damaged as any others, but may be worse off due to the side effects previously mentioned.
According to the GMA report today, doctors are advising their patients to only use over-the-counter products every 6 months at the most, and limit professional whitening to about every other year. It’s also advisable not to be too influenced by what we see or are told in the media. What you see is not always what you get.
Over-the-counter teeth whitening is a billion dollar business in America (and includes whitening toothpaste and even mouth wash) so expect the glamorous commercials to continue.