Want Britney's smile? Academy of General Dentistry urges teens to see dentist

Sept. 20, 2001
Proper whitening depends upon the use of a custom-made bleaching tray, which only a dentist can properly fit.

Although teeth whitening may be one of the safest, non-invasive and cost-efficient ways for teens to immediately boost their appearance, parents should learn about the best whitening options for their adolescent, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education.

Teeth whitening is a $600 million industry that is growing 15 to 20 percent a year, which is partly fueled by image-conscious teens heading to the mall to pick up instant do-it-yourself teeth whitening kits, many of which are heavily marketed and the sale of which are not dentist supervised.

"We want to tell teens to visit their dentist instead of the mall for a healthy, white smile" says Manuel Cordero, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, who has seen an increase in his teen patients' whitening requests.

Proper whitening depends upon the use of a custom-made bleaching tray, which only a dentist can properly fit. Some Internet companies sell the materials that allow consumers to make their own whitening tray. But only dentists can assure the proper use of these materials.

Without supervision and expertise, these materials can cause gagging or damage to existing dental work. As with any dental procedure, whitening should always be done under the supervision of a dentist.

Dr. Cordero offers teens and their parents additional tips on tooth whitening:

-- Teens should wait for whitening procedures until at least the age of 14. At this time, the tooth's pulp is fully formed, which means the teen will experience less sensitivity.

-- Drink soda and coffee through a straw to prevent discoloration of the upper, front teeth.

-- Wearing braces? Brush and clean teeth meticulously because food can discolor as well as create cavities.

-- With the proper dental evaluation some bleaching can be performed prior to a definitive cosmetic treatment.

Academy Issues Warning Regarding Teeth Whitening Products

During its recent annual meeting, delegates of the Academy o General Dentistry passed a resolution that supported dentist-supervised teeth whitening. This means that the Academy recommends that any outlets that oversee fabrication of bleaching trays by dental laboratories requires a proper prescription by a dentist licensed in the state or province where the individual is being treated.