Nothing is certain except death and taxes – and corporate media’s tendency to present most any excessive behavior as an “addiction” or “illness.”
A recent ABC News feature does both: “Bleachorexia: How the Quest for Pearly Whites Can Destroy Teeth.”
“Bleachorexia” is the term the writer says dentists use to describe people who go overboard with tooth whitening. This was news to us. The only dentist we’ve heard use it is the one featured in the article, who’s credited with having coined the term several years ago – one that sounds more like an informal analogy, not a clinical condition as some might infer.
But the behavior it describes is no surprise. For some people, more never seems to be enough, which can lead to some very real problems. While it’s easy to think that the worst that can come from overbleaching is “chicklet teeth,” that’s just the beginning.
“The media has done a good job of making whitening sound innocuous, but it’s not,” says Dr. Ira Handschuh, a White Plains, N.Y., dentist. Carbamide peroxide, the whitening agent in most bleaches, can irritate the gums, causing them to recede, making the teeth brittle, chalky and so thin as to be translucent at the edges when the product is overused.
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“For some people, their teeth are never white enough, so they’ll do anything to brighten,” says [Dr. Jennifer] Jablow, who coined the term “bleachorexic” back in 2005. Ironically, beyond making teeth weak and prone to decay, overbleaching can actually strip away the protective enamel allowing the underbody of the teeth, which is naturally more yellow in color, to show through.
Now, tooth enamel is amazing stuff,
…but not so amazing that it can grow back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And when it’s gone, your teeth become really sensitive. Cold or hot foods or liquids especially can cause intense pain. A bonding agent can be used to cover the exposed dentin – the delicate tissue that’s normally protected by the enamel – but complete aesthetic repair will set you back thousands of dollars.
If you choose to whiten your teeth, it’s best to have it done by a dental professional – precisely because of those pitfalls and to ensure a good cosmetic result. Over at The Holistic Dentist, Dr. Erwin provides a good discussion of the aesthetic factors in quality smile brightening, as well as the oral health concerns.
Prefer to get a whiter smile without the bleach? Here are a few tips for doing so.