Can Children and Teens Get Their Teeth Whitened?

In this post, our Calgary dentists explain a few reasons why they advise against teeth whitening for children and young teens.

Our Calgary dentists don’t recommend teeth whitening for children and teens because this cosmetic treatment is not appropriate for young people. There are two main reasons for this:

1. Their teeth are probably not actually discoloured.

Parents sometimes notice that their children’s erupting adult teeth look a bit yellow, especially when compared to the baby teeth that remain in the mouth. As a result, they ask whether it would make sense to have their children’s teeth whitened.

However, it’s completely normal for adult teeth to look more yellow than baby teeth. This happens because adult teeth contain significantly more dentin (the layer of the teeth directly beneath the enamel). Dentin is yellow in colour and can make the adult teeth appear unusually yellow when they’re next to baby teeth in the mouth.

This perceived discolouration typically sorts itself out once all the baby teeth have fallen out. For this reason, whitening is usually completely unnecessary for children and young teens.

2. We don’t know if whitening is safe for developing teeth.

Most dentists will not whiten children’s teeth because the fact is, we simply don’t know if it’s safe to do so. There is little data available to tell us what the effects of whitening agents would be on teeth that are still developing, and so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Causes of tooth discolouration in kids

There are many possible causes of teeth discolouration in children:

  • Poor dental hygiene habits
  • Pigmentation due to food and beverage stains
  • Intake of medications that contain iron (vitamin supplements)
  • Decalcification of enamel due to the removal of braces
  • Nerve damage or tooth trauma
  • Excessive fluoride due to use of infant formula combined with fluoridated water
  • Tooth decay
  • Mother is taking tetracycline while pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Medical conditions that hinder teeth development during infancy

How to help them prevent staining

Since teeth whitening procedures are not an option, your child or teen can still help prevent staining and discolouration with the use of whitening toothpaste. You can also prevent staining by having them avoid regularly consuming sugary foods or dark coloured drinks, such as cola, that could promote staining. 

Additionally, you should be sure your child follows a diligent at-home hygiene care routine and visits the dentist regularly for routine hygiene cleanings and dental exams. 

If you have questions about teeth whitening or about your children’s oral development, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with our Calgary dentists.

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