Disclosure :: This post is sponsored authored by local mom & business owner, Dr. Melanie Fowler.
Teeth Whitening for Teens
Every single day, I get asked if teeth whitening is safe for children. As an orthodontic specialist, I focus on healthy bites, esthetic alignment, and functional joints, but this is one of the most common questions on the minds of the moms in my office. Why? Because after the ubiquitous question “when will my braces be finished?” my teenage patients want to know how to get their newly aligned teeth white and sparkling. The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might think.
Here are a few important things to consider when your child asks to whiten their teeth:
- Types of treatments: Whitening treatments are divided into two main categories: at-home therapies and in-office. At-home therapies include over-the-counter products like toothpaste and white strips. They also include professional strength products offered by your dentist or orthodontist that you use at home, like custom trays or light-activated therapies, like Glo. In-office procedures use professional strength bleach and are closely monitored by the doctor.
- Risks: The foremost risk with whitening procedures is the development of tooth sensitivity. This can be short-term or long-term. It’s best for a dental professional to evaluate your child to determine their specific risk. Risk factors for sensitivity include recession, wear of the teeth, and general tolerance to temperature changes. Other risks of whitening include changes to the gum tissue color or sloughing of the tissue.
- Age of your child: Children under the age of 13 should not whiten their teeth. There are intrinsic risks to whitening, and the benefits do not outweigh the risk for kids this age. Children ages 13-14 can use over-the-counter whitening strips and whitening toothpaste. Children ages 15-18 are old enough to do more intensive whitening treatments like custom trays and at-home systems like Glo. Although in-office whitening procedures are easy, quick, and can produce amazing results, I do not recommend them for those under the age of 18.
- Gum tissue issues: During orthodontic treatment, it is not uncommon for the gum tissue to become puffy. This is usually a result of poor oral hygiene and/or mouth breathing. Once the braces come off, puffy tissue tends to resolve relatively quickly. It is important to note that whitening treatments should be postponed until the gum tissue is back to normal. Puffy or overgrown tissue can block whitening to parts of the enamel, resulting in a poor whitening result.
- White stains: Decalcification of the enamel can occur when plaque, which mostly consists of bacteria and their acidic byproducts, sits on the enamel for extended periods of time. (Think: my child hasn’t brushed their teeth in 24 hours.) These white stains are permanent damage to the enamel, may lead to decay, and are not reversible. If your child has developed these stains, it is best not to whiten their teeth with any products until a dental professional has evaluated them. White stains may require more aggressive treatments, like fillings, bondings, or veneers.
Whitening treatments can be a valuable addition to the esthetic result of orthodontics. I like to think of it as the icing on the cake and I provide lots of options in my office to my patients. The majority of treatments are safe and easy, and can be used by teenagers! Check with your orthodontist or dentist for the best treatment option for your child!
Learn More About Fowler Orthodontics:
Dr. Melanie Fowler
Dr. Melanie Fowler is a board-certified orthodontist with offices in Lafayette and New Iberia. She has owned her own practice for more than fifteen years, and is also a Clinical Associate Professor at the LSU School of Dentistry Department of Orthodontics in New Orleans. She has a passion for teaching and is the course director for the Orthodontic Journal Club and manages Orofacial Anomaly clinic patients with the residents. She is active in the American Association of Orthodontists, is a past President of the Louisiana Association of Orthodontists, and past Director on the Board of the Southwestern Society of Orthodontists. Melanie also served as the 2020-2021 President of Junior League of Lafayette. She is also a graduate of Leadership Lafayette XXIV and is a past recipient of a Top 20 under 40 award.