“Is teeth whitening safe for children?” is a dental question that pediatric dentists are hearing more often at Kids Dental since so many at-home teeth whitening products have become readily available.
Because permanent teeth are naturally not as white as primary (baby) teeth, it may be tempting to allow your child to use whitening treatments, especially if your child is self-conscious about his or her smile.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) Statement on Tooth Whitening
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has stated that the research involving teeth whitening in children is insufficient to answer, therefore cannot recommend teeth whitening treatments as safe for kids and teens under age 15. Pediatric Safety, an organization specializing in children’s health and safety, recommends waiting until the age of 18 before considering teeth whitening. Potential Danger of Teeth Whitening in Children Most teeth whitening products, such as whitening strips, gels, and pens, utilize a hydrogen peroxide solution to bleach the teeth. The concentration of hydrogen peroxide in many of these whitening treatments is up to 13%, and as the concentration level raises, the higher the chance of adverse effects on young teeth. Primary teeth have thinner enamel and dentin and larger pulp (the living connective tissue inside the teeth) than permanent teeth do.
Teeth whitening products on children’s teeth can result in:
- Increased teeth sensitivity
- Dentin demineralization
- Variations in tooth color
There is also significant concern that teeth whitening products can easily be misused by children or teens.
Strong chemicals used in teeth whitening agents can:
- Damage gum tissue
- Injure tooth pulp or nerves
- Interfere with composite or plastic fillings (whitening treatments do not work on crowns, fillings, or veneers)
- Cause enamel pitting and/or disintegration
No teeth whitening product should be used before tooth pulp is fully formed and all the permanent teeth have completely erupted, which typically occurs by age 12 or 13. Enamel calcification then takes approximately 2 more years. Any whitening treatment administered before this time has the potential to damage the teeth if not closely supervised by a dental professional. Overuse is another consideration, as adolescents and teens may try to hasten or intensify the whitening process by leaving products on longer than recommended or using them too frequently. Studies suggest that overuse of whitening products can result in over oxidation, which may break down tooth structure. Additionally, whitening children’s teeth may mask other reasons that the teeth have become discolored and delay needed treatment.
Teeth discoloration in children may be caused by:
- Injury to a tooth
- Iron supplements or vitamins
- Decay/early childhood caries (ECC)
- Medications, such as antibiotics
In extreme or isolated cases of discolored teeth in children, a pediatric dentist should be consulted. Your dentist can safely treat one or two affected teeth if necessary and minimize the impact on surrounding teeth and/or gums.
Alternatives to Teeth Whitening Treatments in Children
Since neither high concentration of hydrogen peroxide or green light treatments have not been studied thoroughly enough for children’s use, stain prevention is the safest way to keep your child’s teeth white.
Tips to prevent staining or treat minimal existing stains include:
- Avoid foods and drinks that unnecessarily stain teeth: Colas, fruit sodas, and candy laden with dyes can quickly stain teeth if consumed frequently. Creating a bubbly drink with sparkling water and fruit can serve as an alternative to sugary sodas. Coffee is also becoming a major contributor to stained teeth in adolescents and teens.
- Use whitening toothpaste: Simply brushing teeth thoroughly at least twice per day will help prevent staining. If you still feel it is necessary, brushing with a mild whitening toothpaste is much gentler than bleaching the teeth. Be sure to check with your dentist to ensure that the whitening product is safe and appropriate for your child’s teeth.
- Visit your pediatric dentist regularly: Kids Dental recommends a thorough teeth cleaning every 6 months, however, if your child needs a professional cleaning prior to that (especially after braces removal), do not hesitate to schedule an appointment.
At Kids Dental, your child’s health and safety are a top priority. If you have questions about your child’s teeth, or if you’re wondering, “Is teeth whitening safe for children?” please schedule a consultation with one of our pediatric dentists by completing an Online Appointment Request or calling either office.