Does whitening harm your teeth? It depends...

A few patients have asked recently if tooth whitening weakens the enamel of teeth. So, it seemed appropriate to post a little info for you. Whitening gel, strips, professional in-office bleach, etc. are all based on peroxide bleaching of the intrinsic stains of your teeth. Although you may experience sensitivity during bleaching, these products do not weaken, alter, or harm your enamel.  I have also been asked whether whitening makes teeth stain easier.  This is also not the case.  Bleached teeth are susceptible to stain like any other teeth.  They are just whiter so stain may show up more readily than on a yellow tooth.  Now, whitening toothpastes are a little different.  These do not actually “bleach” your stained teeth.  Whitening toothpastes simply have more abrasives added to them that grind the stains off of the surface of your teeth, like using a brillo pad on your pots and pans.  These abrasives actually can wear the enamel of your teeth, especially if you brush hard or vigorously.  In general these are safe products and do a good job of keeping your teeth clean.  But use them carefully, especially if you have receding gums that leave the root surfaces of your teeth exposed. These surfaces are not as strong, since they have no enamel covering them, and will be very susceptible to abrasion from whitening toothpaste.  In a nutshell, go ahead and whiten if you want (gel or toothpaste), just go easy when brushing with whitening toothpaste!