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QUESTION: hi doctor Larry, my wife and myself are in our fifty's, we have been thinking about getting our teeth whitened. we have heard many pros and cons on this and we really do not want to hurt the enamel on our teeth that we have heard that some of the whitening procedures can cause. we have heard whitening the teeth can cause the enamel to become porous...is there a safe way to get the results that we want in your opinion..we just do not want to hurt our teeth. neither of us smoke or drink coffee or pop but they are not white anymore. both my wife and i use the same dentist and he wants us to do this and we are very skeptical. your knowledgeable advice would be very appreciated..thank you very much tom.

ANSWER: Hi Tom,

Bleaching is a good dental service if one really wants it.  But your dentist should advise you that once you bleach the teeth it is common to need to repeat the process to maintain the color that you reach.  This will be likely every one to three years.

Even though it is a good service for those that need or want it, I take issue with a dentist trying to "sell" the procedure to a patient.  If it is not medically necessary it should be a personal decision.  I agree with your skepticism.  If you decide to go ahead with the bleaching, I suggest you shop around because prices vary and quality is likely consistent with this simple procedure, no matter where it is done.

Larry Burnett DDS
lburnett2@comcast.net

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: hi again doctor, do you feel that there is any bad side effects by doing this to your teeth with the enamel, causing it to become porous ??? thanks again for your time...tom

Answer
The research on this is equivocal and it is hard to come up with a yes or no answer.  It appears there is some small amount of increased porosity that is overcome by the natural addition and resorption of the enamel over time.  No research has proven irreversible damage to the enamel.  Most of the research done however has been financed by entities that have financial interest in the bleaching technique.  This further complicates interpretation of the research.

The fact that it is necessary to repeat bleaching procedures in order to keep new staining at bay, suggests that something like additional porosity caused by the bleaching procedure is causing bleached teeth to stain sooner.

So this best answer I can give you reflects my personal point of view.  There is some risk that a slight increase in porosity will make your teeth more likely to stain sooner.  However the reward of having whiter teeth will sway many people to bleach their teeth despite that potential problem.

I have no way of knowing how important whiter teeth are to you or your wife.  You might want to try having the one of you who is most eager for whiter teeth go for it while the other delays and observes the results.  Bottom line is that other than needing repeat bleaching, there will be no permanent damage done to your teeth.
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If you like, I would e mail  you several abstracts of the research that has been done on this subject.  Also I would be curious to know what your final decision is.

Larry Burnett DDS
Lburnett2@comcast.net

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Larry Burnett DDS

Expertise

Preventative Dentistry. Conservative Periodontal Therapy

Experience

National lecturer on conservative treatment of periodontal diseases and elimination of tooth decay. Former adjunct professor of oral microbiology at a Leading school of dental hygiene. Former investigator for State Board of Dentistry. Retired from private dental practice.

Organizations
ADA

Publications
RDH Magazine. Numerous articles

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Medical College of VA School of Dentistry. 20 years teaching hygienists at NOVA

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