Bleachorexia: Excessive Teeth Whitening
Excessive, unsupervised teeth whitening, dubbed “Bleachorexia,” may lead to receding gums and oversensivity, according to a news segment on Good Morning America. This TV program cited Dr. Laurence Rifkin who treated five-time World Boxing Council champion Mia St. John for “bleachorexia.” St. John “constantly” bleached her teeth to the point her dentist warned her that her teeth might turn to “mush.” A good thing can become a bad thing, if overdone, said Dr. Rifkin. For that reason some dentists have coined a new term, “Bleachorexia,” to describe excessive, or obsessive preoccupation with teeth whitening.
Also interviewed on this show was Dr. Jen Ashton who quoted the position of the American Dental Association (ADA) with regard to teeth whitening. Dr. Ashton stated that teeth whitening should only be done after consultation and examination with your dentist. Especially if you already have crowns, fillings or veneers on your teeth, you should be treated under the supervision of your dentist. The ADA warned that there is not enough evidence to support long-term, unsupervised and/or repeated use of bleaching products.
When consulting with your dentist, it would be important to have the front teeth examined to determine whether there are fillings, crowns or veneers and their relative condition. Should “leaky fillings” be replaced first to prevent bleaching agents from leaking through to the nerve? Would dark fillings be bleached as white as the teeth? Would these darker fillings be even more obvious when the teeth become whiter? Crowns and fillings do not whiten. Would there be a contrast problem? Are the gums in good shape? If not, can inflamed gums be irritated and can they become painful if exposed to bleaching agents? These are the many questions to ask your dentist before you allow bleaching agents to be applied to your teeth.
The following is the ADA statement on teeth whitening:
"The ADA recommends that if you choose to use a bleaching product, you should only do so after consultation with a dentist. This is especially important for patients with many fillings, crowns, and extremely dark stains. A thorough oral examination, performed by a licensed dentist, is essential to determine if bleaching is an appropriate course of treatment. The dentist and patient together can determine the most appropriate treatment. The dentist may then advise the patient and supervise the use of bleaching agents within the context of a comprehensive, appropriately sequenced treatment plan ... Patients should be cautioned that not enough information is available to support unsupervised long-term and/or repeated use of bleaching products.”
Nothing can be gained by bypassing your dentist and hygienist when you consider improving your teeth and your dental health by means not recommended by the ADA.