Whitening for Kids – Dangers and Pitfalls to Avoid
Do you have any concerns about any discolouring you can see on your child’s teeth?
Do you perhaps think that their teeth are darker than they should be? If so, you may be wondering – is it becoming common for the younger generation to have their teeth whitened these days?
The short answer is no – although we all want that perfect sparkly white smile, there is a high chance that your child may simply grow into it.
At-home whitening products and even professional whitening procedures can do more damage than good to your child’s teeth whilst they are still maturing.
Today, I discuss the causes behind any possible staining on your child’s teeth, and at what age you can start looking into getting your child’s teeth whitened, both at home and in the dental clinic.
At what Age should I Start looking into getting my Child’s Teeth Whitened?
You and your Dentist should not discuss whitening your child’s teeth until after they turn 16.
At this age, they have begun to mature, along with their teeth.
The enamel on their teeth has hardened, meaning it can withstand being exposed to many different types of chemicals, and it will not get damaged from the whitening procedure.
What are the Common Causes of Staining on my Child’s Teeth?
There are two different types of staining – intrinsic staining (that is, staining that comes internally, or from inside of the body) and extrinsic staining (that is, staining that is caused by external factors, or that comes from sources outside of the body).
Most children do not lead a lifestyle that will cause them to have any type of extrinsic staining – such as drinking coffee, tea, red wine, or smoking cigarettes.
The most common cause of staining you will notice on your child will be a form of intrinsic staining called fluorosis.
It is usually quite a brown stain and will appear before they are 8 years of age.
Fluorosis develops because they have too much fluoride in their body – this can either be from their toothpaste (especially if they are using too much toothpaste and swallowing it instead of spitting), their drinking water, or even from you (their mother) having taken too much fluoride during the pregnancy phase.
Fluorosis can fade over time, but you cannot remove staining from fluorosis (or any other form of intrinsic staining) from bleaching aids!
Am I the only one Worried about my Child and their Stained Teeth?
No, you are not the only one worried if your child has dark teeth. A lot of parents have the same concern, but you should definitely discuss your worries with your Dentist.
By doing so, you may realise that what you think is staining is only a bit of fluorosis that will fade with time, and those teeth will become a nice colour – no whitening is needed and there is no need for you to be worried.
So what has caused so many parents to be worried about something that is really not an issue, you may wonder?
It is simply a trend towards bleaching in today’s society that has made a lot of parents overthink their child’s situation – you see a lot of young adults’ today with super-white teeth or that perfect “Hollywood smile”, and you can easily make a misassumption that your child has dark teeth in comparison.
My Child has Big Stains on their Teeth – What can be done about this?
A professional clean may be all it takes if your child does happen to have any big stains on their teeth – this does a very good job of cleaning and removing any stains.
If more work is needed, your Dentist does have other options they can use to fade the dark colouring on teeth, that will not hurt or damage your child’s teeth.
There are certain chemicals, such as an acid, that can fade their teeth and does not have to be swallowed or ingested.
This softens the outside of the enamel so your Dentist can simply rub the stains away, without weakening their enamel.
Are there any At-Home Whitening Products that you Recommend for my Child?
That’s a big, tough NO.
No whitening under the age of 16 at all is recommended for your child, as the enamel on their teeth simply is not strong enough to handle the chemicals in whitening products.
Also, it simply is just not necessary.
If your child has an issue with their teeth, most of the time this is a psychological issue.
For example, if they are upset or embarrassed by their smile, this may have caused damage to their self-esteem – then it may be a wise idea to work on their psychology, instead of trying to solve an intrinsic staining problem that will just fade with time.
My Child is over the Age of 16 – Are there any Whitening Products you Recommend?
Yes – now that your child is over the age of 16 they have fallen into an age group where it is appropriate for them to start using some whitening products if at all necessary.
This is because their teeth have started to mature, and the enamel on their teeth has hardened, so it can withstand being exposed to the chemicals in whitening products.
Your Dentist has an at home-bleaching kit in their clinic they can give to you and your young adult, which contains about 6% hydrogen peroxide.
Your Dentist will still recommend this kit over giving your child a professional whitening procedure performed in the clinic – this has a very strong bleaching agent that contains up to 25% hydrogen peroxide.
It is advised that professional whitening treatment is not performed on your child until they reach the age of 20 to 21, so no damage is done to their soft tissue (i.e. tongue, lips or gums), due to the strength of the bleaching agent.
Are there any Natural Remedies?
A lot of people suggest you use a lemon to brush your child’s teeth – however, you will find that your Dentist will not agree with this.
Lemon will soften and wear away their enamel, wearing down the strength of your child’s teeth.
There is not a lot a Dentist can recommend other than – kids, brush your teeth, as usual, have a professional clean every 6 months, and stay away from whitening products until you fall into the correct age groups!
Tooth whitening has become a huge trend in today’s society, with at-home bleaching kits as well as professional whitening hugely increasing in popularity in recent years – it seems as though everybody is aiming for that perfect sparkly white smile.
When you see a lot of young adults out there with a super-white “Hollywood smile”, it’s easy for you as a parent to believe that your child has dark teeth in comparison.
But you need to remember that your child does not live a lifestyle that is going to cause them extrinsic (external) staining – it’s highly unlikely that they are going to be drinking coffee, tea, red wine, or smoking cigarettes!
Instead, what you will most likely be seeing is a form of intrinsic (internal) staining called fluorosis, and this cannot be removed with the help of bleaching aids, but rather will fade over time – all you need to do is just wait it out.
The age groups in which you and your child can start looking into whitening procedures are as follows;
- Under 16 – If your child is under 16, no whitening products at all are to be used – the enamel on their teeth is not strong enough to handle the chemicals.
- 16 to 20/21 – Your child’s teeth have now started to mature, and the enamel on their teeth has hardened, so it can withstand being exposed to the chemicals in whitening products. See your Dentist about an at-home bleaching kit they have in their clinic.
- 21 and over – Your child is now an adult and their teeth can now be exposed to the strong bleaching agent in professional whitening procedures.
However, please remember the old saying “prevention is better than cure”.
The best way to avoid any issues with discolouration of your child’s teeth is to avoid it in the first place – have them stick to a good dental care regime and take them to your Dentist every 6 months for a professional clean.
Keep it up and you should see them grow into a bright, white, shiny, healthy, beautiful smile, right before your very own eyes!
See our article “How to Take Care of Children’s Teeth – The Definitive Guide” for more information on your child’s dental work, including how to introduce them to a healthy oral care regime.
What’s your thoughts on whitening kids teeth?
By Dr Veronica Roller
Created at July 24, 2019, Updated at March 06, 2020