The Truth About Fluoride and Teeth Whitening (Dentist’s Perspective)
Matt Hannan, DDS
Updated: October 14, 2023
As a dentist, I often get asked if fluoride can whiten teeth. Unfortunately, the short answer is no; fluoride cannot directly whiten teeth.
However, it does have many benefits for oral health and can contribute to a brighter smile. In this article, I’ll explain fluoride and its role in maintaining a healthy and white smile from a dentist’s perspective.Recommended Reading: Dental fluoride | The Ultimate Guide
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in our environment; however, we consume it in small amounts through drinking water and certain foods. In addition, fluoride is also added to toothpaste and mouthwash to help prevent tooth decay.
The most significant benefit of fluoride is that it can strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attacks. However, too much of anything is not good. Excess fluoride can cause white spots on teeth, called fluorosis.
In addition, some people may be allergic to fluoride. Therefore, as advised by your dentist, it’s important to use fluoride in the right amount to prevent tooth decay and maintain a healthy and white smile.Recommended Reading: Fluoride Varnish vs. Fluoride Treatment (What’s the difference?)
Also, it’s important to note that too much fluoride can lead to poisoning, also called toxicity. In addition to toothpaste, fluoride is applied to mouthwash to help prevent tooth decay. When fluoride bathes your teeth in a liquid or semisolid form, it can repair weakened tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attacks from plaque, bacteria and sugars in the mouth.
The American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends a preventive topical use of fluoride supplements because of their cariostatic effect.
Does fluoride whiten teeth?
Fluoride cannot directly whiten teeth. However, it can help prevent tooth discoloration caused by plaque buildup, cavities, and tooth decay. A healthy mouth with strong enamel is less likely to develop discoloration in the first place, leading to a brighter smile.
Benefits of fluoride
- Reduces tooth decay and cavities
- Strengthens tooth enamel
- Prevent teeth from acid attacks
- Prevent tooth discoloration
- Heal tooth sensitivity
- Prevent tooth sensitivity
Risks of fluoride
- Excess fluoride can lead to fluorosis
- Potential white spots on teeth
- Possible allergy to fluoride, including itching or rash
Teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic dentistry procedure that can help to improve the appearance of discolored or stained teeth. As a dentist, I often recommend teeth whitening to patients who want to enhance their smile. Here are some key points to consider when it comes to teeth whitening from a dental perspective:
- Teeth whitening can be done in-office or at home using over-the-counter products. In-office treatments are typically more effective and can be completed in one visit, while at-home treatments may take several weeks to produce visible results. I recommend SNOW at-home teeth whitening kit.
- The most common type of teeth whitening is done using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as the active ingredient. These bleaching agents break down the pigments that cause discoloration in the tooth enamel.
- Teeth whitening is safe when done under the supervision of a dentist. However, it can cause tooth sensitivity and gum irritation in some patients. Use fluoride toothpaste two weeks before treatment to decrease tooth sensitivity.
- Teeth whitening is not permanent, and the results can vary depending on the individual. It’s essential to maintain good oral hygiene and avoid foods and drinks that can stain the teeth to prolong the whitening treatment’s effects.
- Teeth whitening may not suit everyone, particularly those with sensitive teeth, gum disease or cavities. A consultation with a dentist is necessary to determine if teeth whitening is an appropriate option for you.
- Teeth whitening can help to improve the appearance of discolored or stained teeth, but it is not a substitute for good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.
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Fluoride and tooth sensitivity
Did you know that fluoride is excellent at preventing tooth sensitivity fluoride can help prevent tooth sensitivity when whitening teeth or for those that suffer from daily sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity is a common side effect of teeth whitening treatments, as the bleaching agents can cause the tiny tubules in the teeth to open up, leading to increased sensitivity to temperature changes and sweet, sour or acidic foods.
Fluoride works to “clog” tiny tubules preventing a trigging response to the nerve.
A recent American Dental Association Journal study found that fluoride toothpaste effectively reduced tooth sensitivity after bleaching treatments. In addition, the study found that fluoride gel applied to teeth before whitening treatments reduced tooth sensitivity.
Importantly, fluoride should be used with other oral care measures and should not be used as a sole solution for preventing tooth sensitivity. Instead, it’s best to consult with a dentist to determine the best treatment for preventing tooth sensitivity when whitening teeth.Recommended Reading: Best Sensitive Gums Mouthwash Review 2023
- Fluoride gel applied before and after bleaching treatment reduced tooth sensitivity by 50%.
- Fluoride gel applied after bleaching treatment reduced tooth sensitivity by 34%.
- Fluoride gel applied alone, without bleaching treatment, had no significant effect on reducing tooth sensitivity.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
My Experience & Expertise
Fluoride does not directly whiten teeth. However, strengthening tooth enamel and preventing tooth discoloration can contribute to a brighter smile. As a dentist, I recommend using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash as part of a daily oral care routine. But it’s essential to be mindful of the fluoride intake. Therefore, it’s always best to consult your dentist regarding the appropriate use of fluoride for your specific needs.
Knowledge is power when cultivating healthy dental habits. The more informed you are, the better positioned you’ll be to prevent avoidable and potentially costly dental procedures for you and your family. Watch for future blog posts, where we’ll continue sharing important information, product reviews and practical advice!
- Kanduti D. FLUORIDE: A REVIEW OF USE AND EFFECTS ON HEALTH. Mater Sociomed. 2016.
- Meyer J. Consequences of community water fluoridation cessation for Medicaid-eligible children and adolescents in Juneau, Alaska. BMC Oral Health. 2018.
- Creeth J. Three randomized studies of dentine hypersensitivity reduction after short-term SnF2 toothpaste use. J Clin Periodontol. 2019.