A parent's guide to finding out if teeth bleaching treatments are suitable for your children

What is teeth whitening? 

Teeth whitening treatments make yellowing, stained or dull-looking teeth look shiny and white again. There are various ways to achieve this, from taking tablets or using an at-home bleaching kit to cosmetic dentist procedures for more significant results. 

A qualified dentist Tennyson Point may recommend the treatment if your child has gum problems caused by plaque build-up around the gums, tooth decay, stains on the surface of the tooth enamel, which you can see or have been picked up in x-rays. The professional cleaning that comes with brushing teeth every day should take away most external staining, but sometimes that isn't enough. 

What If My Child is Too Young for Teeth Whitening? 

Some younger children can be too young to do whitening treatments. If they are still in baby teeth (milk or primary teeth), then the treatment isn't suitable because it could damage the roots and stop them from falling out naturally. Any tooth that hasn't yet broken through the gum should only ever have a non-bleaching professional clean done on it by a dentist or dental hygienist (dental carer). This means your child's teeth will remain healthy, and any further staining won't be able to get trapped between gums and enamel, which would cause permanent discolouration. After this age, bleaching treatments may work, but you need to make sure your child is old enough to follow the instructions correctly, and you're sure it's safe for them. 

How Old Should My Child Be for Teeth Whitening? 

Teeth whitening treatments may be done on children aged 12 or older, although many dental practices will not suggest it until 14. The primary consideration should be whether they can handle the treatment themselves without causing damage to their teeth or gums. This is because some of the methods used in these treatments could cause problems if not correctly followed, and children who can't understand the need to see a dentist instead.  

What Can I Expect From Kids' Teeth Whitening Treatments? 

Most children won't usually need any significant explanation about how teeth whitening treatments work, but if you're worried about whether they'll be willing to follow the instructions and how effective it will be, then read this information first. 

Teeth whitening can take as little as half an hour for a simple clean or up to one and a half hours for more extensive treatment. Therefore, it is essential to go back after three months for another check-up and opinion from your dentist. If your child wants to do the treatment themselves, they needn't make any special trips: you must visit your dentist twice every year. 

The Teeth Whitening Process 

If you decide teeth whitening is right for your child, there are various ways to carry out the process depending on their age and skills. 

1) Teeth whitening strips 

Strip-style bleaching kits are probably the method most suitable for younger children as they can't damage themselves or their teeth by following the instructions properly. These treatments work by sticking a thin strip to your child's tooth, then leaving it there for a specific period (usually about half an hour) and afterwards removing it and rinsing their mouths out. Of course, if they're worried that this will hurt, you can always try one of these on yourself first so your child can see how well they work without any discomfort. 

2) Toothpaste 

Many cosmetic dentist practices also sell 'whitening toothpaste' such as Colgate® Optic White™, which has been specially developed to help remove discolouration. These usually follow a similar process of leaving the toothpaste on your child's teeth for a short time after brushing, then spitting it out and rinsing their mouths before they eat or drink anything else. This method isn't suitable if you have braces fitted. 

3) Mouldable trays

If you want a faster treatment than strips or toothpaste, there are specialist dentists who can fit plastic trays over your child's teeth which will retain bleaching gel overnight while they sleep. Once applied, this gel stays in place until your dentist removes the tray at the next appointment. Teeth whitening gels should always be used with care because swallowing too much of the chemical solution can lead to health problems. 

As long as your child is big enough to follow the instructions properly (at least 12 years old), teeth whitening could be a good choice if they're suffering from significant staining caused by drinking tea/coffee/ cola or cola playing sport. However, there are some things you must check first, so you know what's involved and whether your child will be likely to cooperate.