07/19/2012 12:11 EDT | Updated 09/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Should You Whiten Your Teen's Teeth?


As a mom, you may have noticed your teen struggling with self esteem. While it could be acne, weight gain or hormones, there's one other aspect you may be overlooking. How's your teen's smile? Are they proudly displaying their pearly whites or do they cover their mouth when they laugh? I spoke to Jennifer Vishnevsky, a contributor to and she gave me some great guidelines to help you decide if tooth whitening is the right choice for your teen.

Discoloured Teeth

Discoloured or yellow teeth could be a result of injury, infection or using too much fluoride. If whitening is something you are considering for your teeth, here's what you need to know.

White Strips

Drugstore products, like whitening strips, contain a lower concentration of the same bleaching agents dentists use. Store-bought whitening kits feature trays, whitening strips or paint-on gel. The higher the peroxide percentage on the film, the less time you need to place the strips on the teeth.

Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpastes have a special chemical or polishing agent that provides additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, toothpaste does not alter the actual colour of the tooth.

Whitening At The Dentist

In-office teeth whitening procedures performed by a cosmetic dentist provides results in one visit. A whitening gel is placed on the teeth before they are exposed to a laser. This method is one of the fastest procedures for whitening. Chair-side bleaching may require more than one office visit, each one taking from 30 minutes to an hour. The process can whiten teeth by as many as 10 shades. In-office bleaching generally runs between $300 and $2,000, depending on the system used.

Custom Fit Bleaching Trays Provided By Your Dentist

Custom fit tray bleaching is a very common procedure because it's easier and costs less than laser bleaching. Your dentist makes a custom fitted plastic tray and sends you home with bleaching gel. Typically, results are seen within two weeks. Some products are used twice a day for two weeks, while others should be worn overnight for one to two weeks. Custom fit trays can also run between $300 and $2,000.

Risks For Teens

Tooth whitening can lead to sensitivity and irritation along the gum line. Some dentists recommend that anyone younger than 16 years old wait to bleach their teeth until later in adolescence because teens would experience more sensitivity. The Academy of General Dentistry advises teens to wait until the age of 14 to use whitening procedures. By this time, the tooth's pulp is fully formed, which means a teenager will experience less sensitivity.

If your teenager still has a mix of teeth, whitening may not have a great result. Whitening all of the teeth may result in teeth being different shades of white. Colours can also change when the permanent teeth replace the primary teeth. It's difficult to colour correct the varying shades of white as teeth come in.