Can Someone Ever Be Too Old to Whiten Their Teeth?

Teeth whitening comes with some age restrictions. This isn't exactly a legal requirement—whitening kits aren't similar to alcohol or tobacco, and so there's no minimum purchase age. Dentists are hesitant to endorse teeth whitening for younger patients, as it's necessary to wait until a person's dental enamel (the outer layer of your teeth) has properly developed. This is usually during the teenage years, which is why whitening isn't recommended for young children. But is there a maximum age for whitening your teeth?

No Maximum Age

Strictly speaking, there's no maximum age for teeth whitening. But, over the years, there have been some changes to your teeth which means some caution is required. In fact, if you're a senior citizen, these changes may be what made you think about whitening your teeth in the first place. 

Years of Wear and Tear

Your dental enamel covers your dentin. This dentin forms the majority of a tooth's structure and has a yellow hue. The enamel around it is partially translucent, and it's by bleaching this enamel that teeth are whitened. As you age, your enamel thins. This is natural and is largely caused by years of wear and tear. Thinning enamel makes the yellowish underlying dentin more visible.

Mildly Corrosive 

Your enamel can still be bleached, meaning your teeth will be whitened. But you need to be careful, so don't just purchase any old over-the-counter tooth whitening kit. The hydrogen peroxide in the whitening gel can have a mildly corrosive effect. On healthy, relatively thick dental enamel, this light corrosion (which helps to remove surface stains from your teeth) isn't a problem. For older teeth with thinning enamel, whitening must be a specialised process.

A Safe Approach

You're far better off having your whitening performed by your dentist. This allows for a safe approach, with your dentist applying a mild bleaching agent that won't endanger your enamel. The results are immediate, thanks to a curing light to set the whitening agent. Your dentist can repeat these steps as needed until the desired shade of white has been reached without harming your enamel. This is far more precise than using an at-home kit, which can either damage your teeth or lead to unsatisfying results. 

Older people need to protect their thinning dental enamel, but this doesn't mean you can't whiten your teeth. It just means that extra care will be needed so that you can improve the appearance of your smile while still preserving it.

To learn more about teeth whitening, contact a local dentist.