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Is Tooth-Whitening Recommended for Children and Teens?
Building a child’s self-confidence is the key to developing a healthy individual with little to no personality issues. More often than not, a parent might be willing to go the extra mile to help their child achieve this. The child may not have the best-colored teeth and the parent may be tempted to attempt a tooth whitening procedure. But is tooth whitening recommended for children and teenagers?
As adults, whenever you perceive a discoloration issue with your teeth, you may fix this as simply as by using whitening strips and you are as good as new. Tooth whitening for children, however, is a little bit more complicated. The Academy of General Dentistry, a widely known dental association, dictates that no child under the age of 14 should undergo a tooth whitening procedure. This is because, at 14, the tooth pulp is nearly completely formed and thus will reduce the potential for sensitivity in case the child goes through with the procedure. Additionally, 14 is the age whereby children usually have lost all their baby teeth. This means that there won’t be a risk of the child having differently colored teeth.
As much as the Academy of General Dentistry recommends 14 as the least age at which a child can receive whitening treatment, it is worth noting that most orthodontists will not perform the procedure to any person under the age of 16. While there are some that might perform the operation based on the specific circumstance, it is recommended that you get as much information as possible about the likely side effects before you take your child for the treatment.
Tooth whitening for children is a practice that you can afford to skip by nipping it in the bud. Taking good care of the teeth as soon as the child starts developing them should be a start. It is also recommended that you use whitening toothpaste from an early age because apart from being gentle on the child’s teeth, it will keep the stains away. Make sure that your child does not develop a sweet tooth from their early years. This will go a long way because sugary foods are often the leading cause of dental problems among children and adults alike.
Another good practice is to ensure that the child regularly visits an orthodontist. The American Orthodontic Association suggests that a child should have had an orthodontic evaluation by the time they reach the age of seven. This is because this is the age at which the permanent teeth usually start to grow and therefore this is when orthodontic issues such as misalignment and crookedness may start to appear. To go a step further, some orthodontists even recommend for you to take your child as young as two years old so as to check how the teeth are coming; straight or crooked. They will then assist the child so that orthodontic care will not be needed in the future.
Tooth whitening for teens is a different kettle of fish altogether. This is the age at which they are hyper-aware of themselves and are struggling to ‘fit in’. Small issues may affect their confidence and it might take a long time to cure these issues if not addressed early. This is evidenced by the amount of cash spent by teens spray tans, tanning beds, plastic surgery, hair extensions, diet foods, gym memberships and supplements, and most importantly, teeth whitening. Dentists and orthodontists are reporting plenty of cases of ‘chronic and addictive’ teeth whitening among this age-group. In short, you need to be right in the center of when these kinds of decisions are made.
In recent times, the British Dental Association issued a statement warning people, especially teenagers, to avoid using home bleaching kits for tooth whitening. The American Dental association similarly stated that all users should seek professional advice from their dental professionals before using any professional or over the counter whitening kit. All these warnings and it’s easy to see why.
• Hydrogen Peroxide
Most of these kits work by applying a coat of hydrogen peroxide for a period of time. For adults, this may not be a problem since you use it once in a while anyway. For teens, however, they are more likely to use it every now and again. This will greatly increase the chances of tooth erosion. Additionally, too much use of hydrogen peroxide may cause burns to their lips, cheeks, tongue, and gum tissue. In extreme cases, teens have ingested the solution accidentally. Additional complications may include uneven bleaching and increased tooth sensitivity.
• Lack of conclusive evidence
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) discourages tooth whitening for teens and children because there is not enough research done to support the procedure’s safety to them. Therefore, until enough clear data is gathered and analyzed, it cannot be given a clean bill of health to be practiced in these age groups.
Teens, however, can benefit from alternative treatments through orthodontics. Orthodontic treatments normally start at this age because their bone and jaw structure are sufficiently developed. Issues such as crowding, gaps bite and alignment can be easily detected and treated. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal, teeth that are well aligned have the following benefits.
- Are tougher thus less susceptible to wear and trauma
- Much easier to clean thus preventing decays and cavities
- Reduce the chance of contracting gum disease which can lead to bone and tooth loss
- Ensure correct chewing and digestion
- Will last a lifetime
Orthodontic procedures will ensure that your teen has healthy and beautiful teeth which will go a long way to boost their self-confidence. Additionally, these procedures lay a foundation for proper dental hygiene practices. Also, this is the age where orthodontic treatment responds best and at the shortest time. When your teenager visits an orthodontist, it is highly unlikely that they will ever need a tooth whitening procedure later on. Is tooth whitening recommended for children and teens? No, unless the medical expert deems it fit. Orthodontic treatment, however, is highly recommended to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist and get your teeth checked.
Is Tooth-Whitening Recommended for Children and Teens?
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Dr. Michael McDermott earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in both Chemistry and Biology from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. He followed his undergraduate degrees with a doctorate in dental surgery at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with highest distinction.
Dr. Mike then furthered his dental education by earning a masters and certificate in Orthodontics at the University of St. Louis in Missouri.