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Be Smart About Tooth Whitening

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Everyone wants a whiter, brighter smile. These days, there are many ways people seek to achieve this goal, from a whitening procedure in the dental office to strips sold over-the-counter to whitening toothpaste. Recently, tooth whitening kiosks have been popping up in places such as local malls. This trend raises the question, is it safe?

The Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) encourages the public to consult with and have a thorough examination performed by a licensed and registered dentist prior to having any tooth whitening procedure.

PDA reminds the public that tooth whitening procedures, outside of those readily available for over-the-counter purchase by the consumer for self-use, should be performed only by a licensed dentist within a registered dental office or branch thereof. The Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry also is developing a policy statement that will help provide more guidance by clearly defining tooth whitening as the practice of dentistry. This approach will ensure that the patient's specific dental needs are being properly addressed by an individual who is trained and licensed to diagnose and identify possible complications that could occur due to inadequately performed procedures.

Since not all tooth discoloration is the same, patients should first be examined by a licensed dentist to see what type of bleaching is best. After an examination and cleaning to remove simple stains, your dentist may recommend one of the following treatment options:

  • Over-the-counter whitening products, such as whitening strips. These typically yield a very subtle lightening of the teeth. The American Dental Association only approves dentist-dispensed home-use whitening products, to ensure appropriate application and follow-up.
  • Prescription bleaching kits, dispensed by a licensed dentist, contain peroxide(s) that will bleach the tooth enamel. Prescription bleaching kits contain higher levels of carbamide or hydrogen peroxide than their non-prescription counterparts. Peroxide whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed in a tray similar to a mouthguard. By obtaining the bleaching solution from your dentist, he or she can make a custom-fitted tray specifically designed to fit your teeth. Poorly fitting trays can cause gingival irritation and tissue burning.
  • Zoom whitening (power whitening) is a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel coupled with a high intensity light used to whiten the teeth. This in-office procedure takes approximately one hour. Costing around $600, the results typically last about three years.
  • Whitening toothpaste. While these will not change the natural color of teeth, some contain a special chemical or polishing agent to help more effectively remove stains from the tooth's surface.

Keep in mind that bonded teeth, tooth-colored fillings, crowns and veneers cannot be whitened. Discolored teeth that have a brown, yellow or grayish hue may not yield a full whitening effect.

"Since patients should be cautious when seeking tooth whitening procedures, the first stop should be with their licensed family dentist," said Dr. Joseph Ross, a PDA member and general dentist from New Castle. "Their dentist can inform them of the appropriate options available. Tooth whitening kiosks in malls and shopping centers may not be operated by licensed dentists. Although tooth whitening is cosmetic in nature, there are biological effects. Only a trained licensed dentist can properly diagnose and treat tooth discolorations."

For more information on other oral health topics, visit PDA's Web site at

SOURCE Pennsylvania Dental Association
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