I’m a bit confused. At my last trip to the dentist, he told me I had two cavities. One on a front tooth, which really surprised me, and another on a molar. That one wasn’t that surprising. I’ve had a small addition to sticky candy recently. Because of the cavity on my front tooth, my dentist told me if I was going to whiten my teeth I should do it soon, before I had the fillings placed. He said once they’re placed, there’s no way to change their color. I scheduled the whitening appointment. But, when I went home and looked up what to expect, I read that you’re never supposed to get your teeth whitened if you have cavities. Why would my dentist suggest it then? Am I doing something dangerous?
This is one of those weird catch-22 type situations in dentistry. The quandary is over tooth sensitivity. The gel used in professional teeth whitening is extraordinarily efficacious. It can cause teeth sensitivity in some patients. Then, if you consider that when there’s decay it puts the chemicals that much closer to the nerves, there could potentially be additional sensitivity. That’s the reason the website you read discouraged teeth whitening when you have cavities.
But, your dentist is correct also. You can’t adjust the color once the fillings are placed. If you decided to have the fillings placed first, it leaves you two options:
1. You can have the fillings placed, whiten your teeth, then have your fillings replaced to match the correct color. The problem with this solution is obvious. You’re essentially paying twice for fillings. No one likes spending money they don’t need to.
2. Another option is to make a guess at the level of whitening you’ll attain with your teeth and have the fillings made that color. This has another obvious problem. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be successful in matching the color of your teeth. You’ll end up with the filling looking like either a lighter or darker spot on your teeth.
My guess is, your dentist wouldn’t recommend you have your teeth whitened ahead of time if he thought your cavities were deep enough to cause a problem. I’m going on the assumption that your cavities are small and he doesn’t think the sensitivity will be an issue for you.
If you’re concerned, you can build up the enamel in your teeth ahead of time with fluoride treatments. Just talk to your dentist about your concerns and he should be able to provide you with fluoride. If not, there are fluoride rinses you can get over-the-counter.
This blog is brought to you by Dr. Mike Mavrostomos.