When it comes to children’s health, sometimes it’s best to do less and take the gentler approach. The same philosophy goes for whitening teeth. Do-it-yourself and professional whitening agents can cause tooth sensitivity, so we recommend waiting until the little ones aren’t so little before taking this cosmetic step.
The Academy of General Dentistry recommends holding off on whitening until children reach at least 14 years of age, when their tooth pulp is fully formed. This reduces the level of sensitivity. To be on the safe side, though, it’s preferable to wait until your child is 17 to 18 before giving them the green light on whitening strips.
Parents and teens sometimes worry when permanent teeth seem yellower than their baby teeth were. However, this is perfectly normal! In addition to being smaller, baby teeth are also whiter and brighter. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your teen’s permanent teeth are stained or unhealthy. Also, teens that get their braces removed may sometimes complain of whiter areas where the braces used to be. This is a common issue, as those areas, unlike the rest of the tooth, gained long-term protection from food stains.
To prevent or treat existing stains, we recommend the following:
- Brush with whitening toothpaste. Toothpastes are gentler than bleaches and do not alter the intrinsic color of the tooth. You can find several brands with mild abrasives or polishing agents that help to whiten teeth as they clean. Even without whitening protection, brushing regularly twice per day scrubs food away and helps prevent teeth from staining.
- Avoid soda! Not only is soda full of sugar and devoid of nutrients, it also tends to stain the teeth with regular consumption. Instead, choose hydrating beverages like water, or create your own “soda” with sparkling water mixed with fruit.
- See your dentist. You need not wait six months to request a thorough and professional tooth cleaning if your child needs one. In some cases, such as after having braces removed, your teen may even be cleared for a stain-removing procedure. Unlike an over-the-counter solution, however, your dentist will screen and monitor your child to ensure the process is personalized, safe, and effective.