When Should I Let My Child Whiten Their Teeth?

As your child loses his primary teeth and permanent teeth begin to erupt, you’ll probably notice that the secondary set isn’t as white as your child’s primary teeth. There’s nothing to worry about – it’s completely natural. Primary teeth are much whiter in appearance. However, this change often leads parents to ask about whether they should allow their child to whiten their teeth. As teens grow older and more self-conscious about their smile, they may be questioning their parent about whitening treatments as well. Here’s a closer look at when it’s okay to allow teeth whitening and a few alternatives to tooth whitening that can keep your child’s teeth looking bright and beautiful in the meantime.  

Dental Professionals Suggest Holding Off

While there’s not one specific age for when a child can whiten their teeth, dental professionals generally recommend that you have your child wait until somewhere between the ages of 14 to 18 years old. The reason for waiting is that dentists feel that the tooth pulp in permanent teeth should be fully formed before you try whitening to prevent tooth sensitivity and other complications. For most teens, the pulp is fully developed around age 15. Using a whitening treatment too early can damage gum tissue and break down tooth enamel in young adults.
You’ll probably even want to have your child hold off on using over-the-counter whitening options as well. Most OTC whitening products using hydrogen peroxide, and while it’s generally safe for adults, it hasn’t been proven safe for young adults. Teens are more likely to apply these products incorrectly and leave them on for too long, which increases the chance of adverse effects, such as burning gum tissue, tooth sensitivity, or even accidentally swallowing the bleaching product.

Alternatives to Tooth Whitening

Some kids and teens end up wanting to whiten their teeth after they have braces, while others simply want to feel better about their smile. Wearing braces often leaves behind some areas that are whiter than the rest of the teeth, which is normal. Until your dentist feels that it’s okay for your child to undergo whitening procedures, the following are a few great alternatives to tooth whitening that can help keep your child’s smile looking bright.

  • Skip Foods and Drinks that Stain Teeth – If your child wants a whiter smile, teach your child to skip foods and drinks that can stain teeth. Many teens love sodas and sports drinks, and both of those options have the ability to stain teeth and cause cavities. Sugar loaded sweets, tea, and coffee can also make teeth look stained and discolored.
  • Try a Whitening Toothpaste – While allowing your child to try OTC whitening strips and trays may not be the best choice, whitening toothpastes can be safer. They’re a lot gentler on teeth and can gently whiten teeth just a bit. Although a whitening toothpaste won’t provide dramatic whitening results, it’s an option your child can try until they’re old enough for in-office whitening treatments.  
  • Get Your Child in for Routine Checkups and Cleanings – One of the most important things you can do to make sure your child’s smile looks brighter is to make sure they are seen for routine checkups and dental cleanings. Your child should be seen every six months, and a dentist can evaluate your child’s oral health and provide them with some care tips for a healthier, whiter smile. A professional clean will leave your child’s teeth looking fresh and beautiful, too.

Talk to your dentist about the best age to begin whitening treatments for your child. When your child is ready to have tooth whitening treatment, make sure you go into the dentist for professional bleaching instead of turning to over-the-counter options. Having the bleaching done by a dentist helps prevent many of the side effects that can come with whitening, such as tooth sensitivity and burns to soft tissue, and ensures that your child gets the best results.