Teeth whitening is a booming, billion-dollar industry and whitening kiosks are popping up in malls across the country.
But would you trust someone who’s not a licensed dentist to perform this procedure in your mouth?
If you visit a dentist, he or she must first examine you to determine whether teeth whitening is appropriate for you given your current dental health. The Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board has said, “It is essential that a dentist examine and diagnose a patient before proceeding with teeth whitening or delegating that procedure to anyone within a dental office.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice, however, doesn’t consider teeth whitening as practicing dentistry. This makes it legal for non-dentists who have no education or skill in all the other important aspects of oral health to do teeth whitening outside a dental office and without a dentist’s diagnosis.
Dentists are doctors of dental surgery (DDS) or doctors of dental medicine (DMD). They have received extensive education and clinical training with high academic standards that prepares them to safely and effectively perform various procedures, including teeth whitening.
Patients who pursue whitening services outside of the dental office should be aware of the risks involved without supervision of a doctor of dental surgery.
The WDA recommends patients first consult with a dentist to see if teeth whitening is right for them and, if so, to have the treatment done by a dentist or under the supervision of one.
Whitening strips and toothpastes
There are several ways to go about whitening your teeth. There’s professional whitening by a dentist or at-home products like whitening strips and toothpastes.
Which is the best choice?
Your dentist who can tell you if whitening procedures would be effective for you. Whitening strips might not correct all types of discoloration.
Over-the-counter whitening strips bleach the tooth enamel and some products are similar to what’s used in a dental office. Both contain carbamide peroxide which is a bleaching material. Oxygen in the bleaching material chemically penetrates tooth enamel and goes into the dentin, the inner tissue of the tooth, to remove the color pigment.
While more effective than whitening toothpastes, the side effects can be bothersome. Teeth can become sensitive and some people experience gum irritation. Talk to your dentist if you experience side effects from teeth whitening.
All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. However, whitening toothpastes are typically more abrasive than dentists would prefer, as they scour teeth to remove surface stains. The concentration of bleach is minimal and won’t give the same effect as professional whitening. In many cases, a person is better off using regular toothpaste.
Be a wise consumer
Be sure to look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance when selecting a teeth whitener or any dental product. This means you can rest assured the product has met the ADA’s rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness.
The best thing you can do is talk to your dentist who will help you determine if you are a good candidate for teeth whitening and, if so, how to best proceed.