I’m wondering if it makes sense to take my nine-year-old to a pediatric dentist for an evaluation. She’s always been worried about the color of her teeth, but over the past several months, the kids at school have been really unkind to her. The other day a boy in her class told her that wearing a mask was an improvement and she came back home in tears.
We normally all see the same dentist, so I phoned them to ask about doing some teeth whitening. They told me they never do whitening for anyone under age 18 and that no dentist will do it for kids under 16. That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I’ve had it done and it’s safe. I had no trouble at all.
I’m worried about doing at-home whitening without some kind of dentist supervision, but that’s honestly what we’re going to wind up doing if I can’t find someone who will help. I can’t let her keep going to school and be subjected to this every day. Do pediatric dentists ever do whitening or do we have other options?
Kids can be so cruel. Sorry to hear your daughter is dealing with this. Let’s explore some possible solutions.
Chances Are, Your Daughter’s Teeth Are Normal
A survey of 2,495 children revealed nearly one-third are dissatisfied with the color of their teeth. Less than 20% of parents felt the same and just 9% of dentists felt the kids had an unsatisfactory tooth color. In other words, kids are much harder on themselves and often see an issue when the color of their teeth is perfectly normal and expected for their age group.
The challenge may also be that the structure of primary teeth and permanent teeth are different. Whereas baby teeth have a larger pulp area, adult teeth have more enamel and dentin. The dentin, therefore, shows through on adult teeth a bit more, which can make them seem yellow by comparison.
Your daughter’s likely at a stage where multiple primary and permanent teeth are visible when she smiles, so certainly, some teeth may appear darker or yellower than others. That’s true across the board, even of the kids making unkind remarks. None of this will necessarily help when a child is being bullied, but it may offer your daughter some reassurance.
The Problem with Whitening is Usually Sensitivity
Somewhere between one-third to one-half of people who whiten their teeth experience some degree of sensitivity. Adults generally understand the nature of their sensitivity, can manage it, and know it will pass. Kids don’t always have the same benefit and it can be more traumatic.
Adding to this, kids using at-home whiteners are more prone to abusing them. Understandably, if a child is catching flack at school, whether the kids are correct in their accusations or not, a large proportion of children will whiten more often than they should, keep the whitening gel or strips on longer than they should, or use more than they should, increasing the likelihood that they’ll develop sensitivity and other issues.
That said, a very small portion can develop more severe issues like permanent enamel disintegration and pitting. This is usually only seen when whitening products are misused.
Some Pediatric Dentists Might Offer Whitening
There are reports of kids as young as four whitening their teeth, but it’s generally not done in children under six. Your daughter is within a reasonable age for consideration, though each dentist will have his or her own philosophies on the age in which whitening is appropriate. That in mind, you may wish to speak with a pediatric dentist or someone who specializes in cosmetic dentistry. You’re on the right track with working with a professional on this, but you may have to talk to a few before you find someone who will either do it or explain why whitening is contraindicated for your daughter based on her unique needs rather than age. Best of luck to both of you.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Raymond Bolt, an Auburn, AL family dentist offering cosmetic and pediatric dental care.