Many, if not most, adults grew up drinking water from the tap and feeling just fine about it. The water we drank contained fluoride.
Today, many of our youth do not have fluoridated water. People are afraid that fluoride will accumulate in the body and cause diseases. That sounds pretty awful.
And yet, our teeth are missing the advantages that fluoride brings. Kids are definitely missing it.
Fluoride is a big reason that the teeth have a healthy layer of enamel. That healthy enamel defends the inside of the tooth against tooth decay. It is crucial to our oral health.
That is the reason why all of the leading brands of toothpaste contain fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that is essential for building and maintaining strong enamel. Our enamel needs minerals to create a strong shield of defense against acid and bacteria.
Just as genetics affects the type of hair, we’re born with and our bone structure, it also affects our tooth enamel. Yep. One more thing for you to blame on your mother.
Some people are born with thicker enamel, while others are born with thinner enamel. You can’t change how you were born. Lady Gaga was right; you were “Born This Way.”
Thinner enamel means that the dentin shows through to the outside of the tooth. Dentin is dark yellow or even brown in color. It’s not pretty, folks.
Thin enamel combined with a deep yellow shade of dentin equals a completely yellow smile. This is the reason why so many kiddos have yellow teeth.
It is also the reason why adolescents start asking when they can whiten their teeth—especially girls. Teen girls notice when their teeth appear yellow, but their friends, the girls on TV, and the young actresses on their favorite shows all appear to have white teeth.
Teens want the confidence they perceive in others who have a whiter smile. And who doesn’t?
Keep in mind; most kids are still growing and changing physically. Jumping into teeth whitening is not smart. Go see the dentist and find out what the best options are for a teenager.
WHAT ARE THE TEETH WHITENING OPTIONS FOR TEENS?
Teenagers are no strangers to coffee, a glass of sweet tea, or a can of soda. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve seen a group of teen girls sipping on Starbies. Teenagers love a good latte with whipped cream.
For mildly stained teeth, using an average drug store whitening toothpaste is a decent choice. Those toothpaste often contain 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. That is a low-level whitening agent.
Toothpaste such as Colgate Optic White contains as much as 2% hydrogen peroxide. This toothpaste has been shown to deal with more stubborn surface stains when used according to the manufacturer’s directions.
There are other bleaching agents to use besides hydrogen peroxide. Carbamide peroxide, baking soda, and a combination of hydrated silica and aluminum oxide are also ingredients used to remove stains and leave teeth whiter.
Keep in mind that whitening toothpaste will generally take a few months to see the best results.
You can easily find whitening strips at the grocery store, big-box store, or drug store. They can be used anywhere from ten to twenty-one days for about thirty minutes per day. The active ingredient in most strips is either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.
The strips come in little packets containing a strip for the bottom teeth and one for the top teeth. The strips are like stickers for your teeth. You remove them from their plastic sheet, apply them to your clean teeth, press on tightly, and basically suck them on for good measure.
Now comes the fun part. Keep them in your mouth for about thirty minutes without gagging on all of the extra saliva you’re going to start producing. Be sure to have a place you can spit a lot. You’ll need it.
Having teeth bleached by a professional will give your teenager longer-lasting results than standard over-the-counter whitening options. You will need to check with your dentist to see if this is a viable option.
If this option works, the teeth can be made whiter in as little as an hour sitting in the dentist’s chair. Yep. It can be that quick.
Your dentist may even use a medical-grade laser that causes the whitening gel to become activated for intensified results.
AT-HOME WHITENING GELS AND TRAYS
Whitening gels remove deeper stains than whitening toothpaste. The trays are custom-fitted to your particular set of teeth, much the same way you would fit an athletic mouthguard.
You fill the tray with the bleaching solution and bite down. Mmm … delicious. Kidding. Don’t eat it. I repeat, do not eat the gel. Just carefully keep that stuff in your mouth without swallowing.
WHAT AGE CAN TEENS SAFELY WHITEN THEIR TEETH?
The jury is still out on this. If you just look it up on the interwebs, it will tell you to wait until all of the adult teeth have come in before whitening teeth.
However, speaking with a dental professional may give you a different opinion. Many professionals feel more comfortable moving forward with teeth whitening at the age of fifteen.
Whatever the age, every teen needs to be at the responsibility level to handle the whitening solution that has been chosen.
As always, check with your dentist to find out what is specifically recommended for each individual case.
IS IT SAFE TO WHITEN TEETH AS A TEEN?
Like many other things in life, pay attention to what you’re doing, and you should be okay. Your teen’s mouth must be healthy first before moving forward with any teeth whitening.
If the enamel is thin or tooth decay present, those issues must be addressed before moving forward. You do not want to cause further damage to the mouth at such a young age.
HOW SHOULD TEENS GET STARTED ON THEIR WHITENING JOURNEY?
Well, when it comes to whitening, we’d suggest starting off with the lowest level of whitening. In other words, try whitening toothpaste before jumping to trays.
This will also tell you if your teen can be responsible for their oral hygiene before moving on to a method that requires more attention, such as whitening strips or the trays.
Your dentist will probably tell you to go about whitening in their office. But if your teen is responsible and has healthy teeth, there is no reason to avoid the at-home treatments mentioned above.
A NOTE OF CAUTION
It is extremely important to check with your dentist to see if your teen is a good candidate for teeth whitening. During the teen years, the nerves are still growing and developing.
Whitening can cause the nerve root to shrink. That has a negative impact on tooth sensitivity. Adult permanent teeth have nerves that are completely developed. This minimizes tooth sensitivity.
Using a whitening solution too early in life can cause nerve damage. It’s repairable, yes, but why risk it?
And the same rule applies to teens as it does to adults. Watch your gums. Gums are soft tissue that can be very irritated by the bleaching solution.
So, when using strips, gels, and trays, do not leave it on your teeth longer than the suggested length of time. It will end up leaking out onto your gums and removing unnecessary minerals from your teeth, causing irritation and sensitivity.
Teenagers can absolutely whiten their teeth … when the time is right. They need to have a healthy mouth and a mouth full of fully-formed adult teeth before moving forward with any teeth whitening solutions.