Normally, whitening your teeth is a delicate and harmless dental procedure. Almost 90% of patients ask for tooth whitening services from members of the American Association of Orthodontists. However, as with most things, too much is detrimental to health. In this case, U.S. dentists have noticed a recent trend in patients obsessively over-bleaching teeth to get the whitest smile possible. Some are using home bleaching kits several times weekly, while others request in-office whitening in sessions far too close together. Some people go so far as to rub chlorine bleach on their chompers, risking not only their enamel but also complications associated with digesting the cleaner. This obsessive behavior and the horrendous results have been dubbed Bleachorexia.
Bleachorexia’s Nasty Effects on Enamel
Your enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth. It protects the soft inner layers of your teeth, preserving the roots and nerves from damage and decay. Unfortunately, the harsh chemicals in bleaching kits, if improperly used, literally eat away the enamel. This causes oversensitivity from vulnerable dentin tubules and chemically burned gingivitis and oral tissue. Your gums can also recede from the destruction of the mucous layer over them. Destroying the enamel also speeds up the creation of tartar, and allows bacteria to sink plaque deep into damaged teeth to further decay them. Not taking the recommended time between whitening treatments can quickly lead to enough damage to warrant dental fillings, crown placement or teeth implants.
The Negative Cycle of Bleachorexia
In addition to destroying your oral cavity and teeth, bleachorexia actually can have a reverse effect from what the bleacher expects. The deeper layers of the teeth are not actually white, but a yellowish tint. So the enamel is eroded away with bleaching treatments, that yellowish under layer becomes more prevalent. Depending on which kits you use, the additives in the strips or gel can also turn your enamel other colors such as brown, orange, or even blue. This darker appearance makes anyone determined to get whiter teeth continue to bleach in the hopes of making them brighter, but are actually making it worse.
How To Know If You’re Over Whitening
The American Dental Association stresses the importance of consulting a dentist before undergoing any dental treatments to determine the best course of action where whitening is concerned.
During an interview, an ADA representative told ABC News: “The ADA recommends that if you choose to use a bleaching product, you should only do so after consultation with a dentist. This is especially important for patients with many fillings, crowns, and extremely dark stains. A thorough oral examination, performed by a licensed dentist, is essential to determine if bleaching is an appropriate course of treatment. The dentist and patient together can determine the most appropriate treatment. The dentist may then advise the patient and supervise the use of bleaching agents within the context of a comprehensive, appropriately sequenced treatment plan … Patients should be cautioned that not enough information is available to support unsupervised long-term and/or repeated use of bleaching products,” the ADA told ABC News.”
You may be experiencing bleachorexia if:
- You constantly check your smile in the mirror and constantly critique your teeth with thoughts like “My teeth are so yellow” or “I just can’t seem to keep my teeth white.”
- You’re using home-whitening kits closer than recommended on the label, often two weeks between treatments.
- Your dentist shows concern about your frequent requests for whitening treatments and/or tooth decay since you’ve been using whitening kits.
Causes of Tooth Stains and Other Ways to Combat Them
Teeth get stained from many things. Foods and drinks we consume regularly such as coffee, wine, tea, or other foods with intense pigments or acidic levels in them can badly stain our teeth. Tobacco products also have these pigments, so smoking or chewing it can darken enamel. Reducing or eliminating these products can greatly aid in keeping teeth white and clean. Additionally, certain traumas or medications can have adverse effects on teeth discoloration. Be sure to discuss these concerns with a doctor or dentist if you’re looking for ways to keep your pearly whites, well, white.
Regular oral maintenance, flossing and brushing your teeth, is the very best way to keep your teeth clean (as opposed to excessive bleaching). Breaking down stains and removing food particles regularly can keep your enamel shiny and bright, as well as reduce the possibility of tooth decay and its associated discoloring and destruction of the teeth.
If you ever have any concerns or would like to discuss whitening options for your oral cavity and its current condition, please schedule a consultation and have a dentist get your mind on the right track as far as whitening is concerned.