Teeth Whitening for Kids – Is it Safe? Let’s Find Out

Dr Sukanya Goswami
Sukanya has done BDS. She is a dentist, a blogger, an extrovert, and a travel enthusiast. She is also a spiritual believer. When she is not working, you can find her reading books.

Children are often sensitive about the way they look and the appearance of their smile. Discolored teeth can cause embarrassment and social anxiety in kids. It is essential to understand and take care of the dental needs of a child. A bright and white smile can instantly boost the self-esteem of the child. Moreover, it can be a stepping stone toward good oral hygiene.

Usually, every individual has a different tooth color. The color of milk teeth is generally whiter than that of permanent teeth. This is because milk teeth have thicker enamel, which gives a natural off-white appearance.

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Tooth discoloration can be caused by a wide range of reasons in children, such as eating habits, tooth decay, trauma, and medication. To cover these dental defects, teeth whitening can help a long way. Teeth whitening is a safe procedure that helps to remove the surface stains and provide a white and bright smile in kids.

Typically, the teeth whitening products for kids are made from unique formulations that are suitable for their teeth. Moreover, they do not interfere with the growth pattern of the tooth. Today’s article will highlight the process of the teeth whitening in kids. Furthermore, we will look at the causes of tooth staining and the safety of teeth whitening in kids.

What causes tooth staining in kids?

Several factors can cause tooth staining in kids. tooth staining can be typically divided into two types –

External tooth staining

External tooth staining, as the name suggests, occurs on the superficial surface of the tooth enamel. The following mainly causes it –

  • Poor oral hygiene caused by inadequate tooth brushing (1)
  • Excessive plaque accumulation giving a yellow stain on the tooth surface
  • Pigments from the food or drinks
  • Medications such as vitamin and iron supplements
  • Decalcification of enamel leading to lighter spots
  • Discoloration of the tooth caused by trauma or infection

Internal tooth staining

Internal tooth staining is caused by elements that permanently damage the inner tissues of the tooth. Some of the internal tooth staining factors are listed below –

  • Infection of the pulp
  • Tooth decay
  • Excessive fluoride exposure during infancy
  • Medications such as tetracycline taken by the pregnant mother (2)
  • A congenital disorder that causes improper development of the enamel and dentin

Is teeth whitening safe for kids?

Teeth whitening is a safe procedure for kids. However, it still carries some risk to the oral health of the child. For example, the high concentration of hydrogen peroxide used in whitening strips or gels can cause tooth sensitivity.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry warns parents to use over-the-counter teeth whitening products since they don’t have a clinical proof for safety in children. These products require more extensive study and research to be certified for safe use among kids. (3)

It is essential to take care of and supervise the teeth whitening procedure when done at home. Care must be taken to avoid prolonged exposure of the teeth with whitening gel. Moreover, the kids tend to swallow the strips, which can cause health hazards accidentally.

What age is appropriate for teeth whitening among kids?

Typically, to be eligible for teeth whitening, children must fulfill the following criteria –

  • All the permanent teeth should fully erupt in the mouth
  • The enamel of the permanent teeth should be fully calcified (4)
  • Orthodontic treatments if any should be completed

Therefore, children up to the age of 14 or older are ideal for teeth whitening procedure. It is good always to consult your dentist to determine the need for teeth whitening for your kid.

What is the use of teeth whitening in kids?

Usually, the whitening products are made from hydrogen peroxide. It is an active ingredient used for coating the tooth surface of the kids. Coating the teeth with hydrogen peroxide makes the stains colorless. Moreover, it makes the teeth lustrous and light in color.

Typically, teeth whitening for kids is performed using low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. Professional teeth whitening procedures are much better than home kits as the dentist can supervise each step and carefully complete the procedure without damaging the surrounding tissue. (5)

What products are suitable for teeth whitening in kids?

Usually, in-office procedures for teeth whitening in kids are performed using a whitening gel or whitening strips. In both cases, the formulation is placed on each tooth surface for a few minutes. The excess solution is wiped off. Once the process is completed, the dentist rinses the bleaching gel from the tooth surface.

Whitening toothpaste is also an excellent way to whiten your kid’s teeth. However, it must be done under the supervision of the parents. Home teeth whitening strips can also be used under supervision. Take care that the kid does not swallow the piece accidentally. (6)

Ideally, the teeth whitening products for kids should not contain more than 0.1% of hydrogen peroxide.

What are the risks associated with teeth whitening in kids?

Typically, for any teeth whitening procedure some risks should be taken into consideration –

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  • Gingival irritation caused by the acidic nature of the bleaching agent
  • Tooth sensitivity caused by enamel erosion
  • Bleaching of the gums

Take away message

Teeth whitening is a process of lightening the tooth color and removing the surface stains from the tooth surface. Discoloration of teeth can occur in children in two ways – extrinsic and intrinsic stains.  Extrinsic stains are typically caused by food pigments, poor oral hygiene, plaque, and pigmented drinks. Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, are caused by tooth decay, medications, and congenital disorders.

Teeth whitening is a relatively safe procedure among kids. However, it is performed only for kids above the age of 14 years. Usually, the teeth whitening products contain less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide. However, care should be taken to avoid risks such as gum irritation, tooth sensitivity, and gum bleaching. It is best to consult the dentist to determine the need for teeth whitening for your kid. Moreover, if you choose to whiten your kid’s teeth at home, do it under your supervision.

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