Teeth Whitening Age Limits: Too Young or Too Old

Teeth Whitening Age Limits: Too Young or Too Old
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Table of Contents

  1. Process of Teeth Whitening
  2. What Is Too Young
  3. What Is Too Old
  4. References

Everyone wants a white, bright smile. But tooth whitening comes with a few risks, and it's not right for some ages.

If you're younger than 18, you can't have some forms of tooth whitening. And if you still have your baby teeth, you might need to skip any type of whitening product altogether.

No upper age limit applies to tooth whitening products. But it's common for older people to have dental work, including crowns and bridges, that makes whitening a challenge.

How Does Tooth Whitening Work?

Your teeth feel firm, hard, and impenetrable. But in reality, they're somewhat porous. Dark foods and drinks can penetrate outer layers and darken teeth. And as enamel wears down with constant biting, your teeth change color yet again.

Some tooth whitening products work like scrub brushes. Apply them to your teeth, and they dig into surface holes and gaps to remove pesky stains.

Others work like chemical cleaners. They change the appearance of your teeth from the inside out, removing deeper stains a surface cleaner can't touch.

Any tooth whitening product comes with risks, including:

  • Sensitivity. Scrub your teeth or apply harsh chemicals, and you're likely to feel discomfort for the next several days.
  • Poor performance. Few cleansers can remove every stain on every tooth. The gleaming, Hollywood-style smile you envisioned may not be possible.
  • Addictiveness. Some people pursue the perfect smile relentlessly, and they use products over and over again. Doing so can wear down enamel even further, which can make your teeth look more yellow.

If you use products under the watchful eye of a dental health professional, they're generally considered safe and effective. But anyone, at any age, should be aware of the risks involved.

How Young Is Too Young?

Some children fret over their appearance as much as adults too. Plenty of kids look into the mirror and don't like what they see. If they hope to use tooth whitening products to produce a gleaming smile, they may need to wait.

A child's mouth changes dramatically due to:

  • Growth. The jaw lengthens and sometimes thickens.
  • Tooth loss. Roots of baby teeth begin to disintegrate, and in time, these teeth fall out altogether.
  • Tooth growth. Larger, stronger adult teeth fill in the gaps left behind by baby teeth.

In general, parents should wait until a child has moved through most of these steps before recommending any kind of teeth whitening. All baby teeth should be replaced by adult versions before the family gets started.

An at-home kit with a low amount of bleach is appropriate for young children, experts say. But parents should read the product instructions carefully and watch for age limits. And they should supervise the process and stop it if the child experiences discomfort or irritation.

Dentists offer stronger products to eliminate deeper stains. But some solutions, including those that contain more than 0.1 percent of hydrogen peroxide, aren't approved for people younger than 18 years old.

Younger people also often have sensitive teeth, researchers say. Tooth whitening products can enhance that trait, and young people may find the discomfort traumatic.

Families with concerns should ask the dentist:

  • What products are safe to use right now?
  • Would diet changes help to reduce the risk of stains?
  • When can we come back for a stronger treatment?
If you still have baby teeth, you're probably too young for any kind of tooth whitening, however no upper age limit exists, but if your teeth have aged badly, your procedures may not be successful.

How Old Is Too Old?

Few tooth whitening products come with upper age limits. If you're older than 18, and your mouth is in good health, you can use almost any solution to help you find a brighter, whiter smile.

But many older people have dental health issues that can stand in the way of tooth whitening, including:

  • Trauma. Injuries that impact the tooth's root can lead to discoloration. These issues can't be solved with conventional tooth whitening.
  • Dental work. Caps, crowns, and fillings don't respond to conventional products, experts say. Teeth with restorations are also more likely to cause pain after bleaching, experts say.
  • Medication use. Some types of prescription drugs can alter tooth color. The changes can't be reversed with tooth whitening products.

If you're unhappy with your smile, a gentle product made for at-home use could be a solution. Try it, and stop if you experience any discomfort or sensitivity.

If you're still not happy with the results, don't head back to the store to pick up another product. Make an appointment to talk with your doctor about your options. You may need to wait a few months before trying another product, or you may need a professional-grade product.

References

Does Teeth Whitening Work? And Is It Safe? (December 2015). Popular Science.

Consider Your Child's Age Before Trying Tooth Whitening Products. (January 2017). American Academy of Pediatrics.

What Is the Legal Age Limit for Tooth Whitening? Oral Health Foundation.

Tooth Whitening in Children and Adolescents: A Literature Review. (March 2005). Pediatric Dentistry.

Whitening: 5 Things to Know About Getting a Brighter Smile. American Dental Association.

Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know. (June 2015). Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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