“A smile is your best makeup, and it’s your most priceless accessory,” according to Dr. Jackie Schafer, D.D.S. who owns a practice centered on cosmetic dentistry in Broomfield, Colorado. That being said, many people consider white teeth to be more attractive than teeth that are yellowed or stained. However, sometimes, the products used to whiten teeth can do more harm than good. Children’s teeth — just like adult’s teeth — can be whitened, but there are some things you need to know before investing in whitening products.
1. Your Child Needs to Meet Certain Criteria
If you or your child is considering whitening his teeth, it’s important that these criteria are met:
- All your child’s baby teeth have been lost
- All your child’s adult teeth are fully grown in
- No orthodontic treatment is taking place. If your dentist makes custom whitening trays for your child, orthodontic treatment can result in the teeth shifting over time, which can cause the trays to no longer fit correctly.
2. Whitening Toothpaste is Not Going to Deliver the Desired Effect
Although your child can use whitening toothpaste, this method is not really effective to change the color of the teeth. This type of toothpaste can help remove surface stains due to the mild abrasives it contains, but there won’t be a dramatic whitening effect. Be aware that this type of toothpaste can also create microscopic holes in your child’s tooth enamel due to the abrasive effect it has, which can result in his teeth becoming sensitive to heat and cold.
3. Over-the-Counter Whitening Strips or Trays Are Not a Good Choice
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises parents to consult with their child’s dentist before attempting to whiten their child’s teeth. This is because over-the-counter products aren’t the best choice. Here’s why:
- At-home whitening products could contain a strong concentration of hydrogen peroxide, which could have an adverse effect on children.
- The AAPD is not able to state that dental whitening strips are safe for use on children’s teeth.
- Whitening strips are not designed for children’s use. This type of product contains specific instructions, including how long the product should be left in place. Children may leave the product in place longer than necessary or could even swallow a strip.
- Bleaching agents left on the teeth for long periods of time can result in tooth sensitivity, which could be more severe for children.
4. Dentist’s Whitening Treatments Trump Over-the-Counter Solutions
Your child’s pediatric dentist can fit a customized tray to your child’s teeth that will work far better than over-the-counter products. Also, the dentist can make sure your child’s gum tissues are better protected than they would be if you try to whiten the teeth with harsh over-the-counter solutions.
5. The Longer You Wait to Whiten a Child’s Teeth, the Better
Children should wait until their tooth enamel is fully calcified before attempting to whiten their teeth. Full calcification of enamel can take up to two years after an adult tooth grows in. Whitening treatments prior to this time can destroy tooth enamel and damage gum tissues, which can wreak havoc on your child’s dental health.
6. Consult With Your Child’s Dentist Before Using Any Whitening Products
If the color of your child’s teeth is bothering either you, your child or both of you, consult with his dentist. Your child’s dentist can evaluate his teeth and determine whether or not whitening treatments would be appropriate. If not, the dentist can make alternative recommendations, such as natural whitening solutions that won’t be harmful to your child’s gums or teeth.
How to Avoid Staining Teeth
Keep in mind that anything that can stain a white cloth can stain your teeth. That means you should avoid items such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, coffee, tea, grape juice, wine, hot fudge and cranberry juice. If you don’t want to ditch your favorite foods and beverages, you should drink water after every bite or drink, which can wash away the pigments in these foods and drinks that can stain teeth. You can also try drinking stain-causing beverages through a straw to minimize their contact with your tooth enamel. Chewing gum with xylitol after eating or drinking stain-causing foods or drinks can stimulate the production of saliva, which is your mouth’s natural cleanser.
Remember, healthy teeth are much more important than having perfectly white teeth. So focus on your child’s good brushing and flossing habits and regular dental visits if your dentist advises against whitening your child’s teeth at this time.