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Teeth Whitening for Teenagers

Dr. Weller explains why teeth whitening for teens should be done under the supervision of a dentist. It may cause sensitivity and could have a long term effect on the tooth if done too often.

Teeth Whitening for Teenagers

Dina Blair: In tonight's medical watch, a bright smile with some pretty dark consequences: When to put back the bleach?

Grace Stockdale: I think that we're old enough to make the decisions that we want, and if we want a nice, white smile, we should be able to get it.

Dina Blair: After all, the celebs all have dazzling smiles. And even Grace Stockdale's mom had her teeth bleached.

Patty Stewart: I had had mine done recently and was really pleased with the results.

Dina Blair: But some parents may not be pleased with the potential problems of adolescent use. So called, big teeth, have bigger nerves in kids. As a child grows, the nerves shrink about 50% from ages 12 to 17, but until that time, it may create a larger problem for cosmetic products.

Dr. Jeff Weller: The slight trauma caused by the bleaching solution or the heat of the light that bleaches the teeth can cause a lot of sensitivity on the nerve or even possibly some nerve damage.

Dina Blair: The more the products are used, the greater the chance for damage.

Dr. Jeff Weller: Eventually, the tooth structure is gonna be traumatized enough where it can become somewhat brittle.

Dina Blair: And the risk is enhanced with over-the-counter products that don't just touch the teeth, they could get into the gums.

Dr. Jeff Weller: So, if somebody is using, let's say, whitening trays and they have an excessive amount of soft tissue because they're 12 or 13 or 14 years old, that soft tissue could be damaged or burned from the bleaching solution.

Dina Blair: A few questions can help parents help their kids make a decision about whitening. First, is there any tooth sensitivity? Has the child had recent orthodontic work? If the answer is yes, say no to bleaching. Otherwise, have the process monitored by a good dentist and smile.

Grace Stockdale: I think it's really pretty, like, when I see girls with pretty smiles and white teeth, and I think it's nice when I see guys with white teeth.

Dina Blair: Dr. Weller says no one younger than 13 years old should have teeth bleaching. That's because at age 13, the teeth and the surrounding tissue really are not developed yet. And there's too much chance for damage.