The teeth whitening industry is experiencing significant growth with many people seeking out products to whiten their teeth. The latest trend is seeing parents using online and off the shelf sourced products to whiten their kids' teeth.
Teeth whitening is also called teeth bleaching because the active ingredient in most products is hydrogen peroxide. Teeth whitening is controversial and laws and rules differ across countries regarding the permitted concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.
In Australia, only a dental practitioner can provide products that release more than six percent of hydrogen peroxide. In New Zealand non dentists can apply up to 12 percent to white teeth. In the UK, it is illegal for anyone other than a dentist to use concentrations higher than 0.1 percent.
According to Dr Toni Surace, surgical dentist and founder of The Great Smile Dentist, Australia's largest network of independently owned dentists, the growing trend of parents whitening their kids' teeth is extremely concerning.
"There is so much pressure on everyone because of social media and our image based society to have perfect everything including teeth," Dr Toni Surace said today.
"When it comes to dental health, the most important thing is teeth and gum health. This must be first and foremost and parents need to understand the impact of whitening on young teeth.
"A child's adult teeth can often be more yellow than their baby teeth. This is natural and completely normal. As their teeth grow, the enamel on their permanent teeth develop and calcify.
"If a tooth whitening product is used before their adult teeth come in or before their adult teeth are fully formed, they risk breaking down their tooth enamel and damaging their gum tissue.
"Never apply tooth whitening products to your child's teeth without first consulting with your dentist."
The AAPD's (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) official position is that because of a lack of research, whitening strips are not safe for kids and teens under the age of 15. But that doesn't mean your child has to live with dull-coloured teeth. Instead good hygiene and the right products can help polish those teeth until they gleam - no bleach necessary.
"Every child should go for their first dental check up before the age of one and then every six months after this," Dr Surace added.
"If discolouration is an issue, this should be discussed with your dentist and off the shelf products or online products should never be used on a child without discussing this with your dentist.
"Not only can the products damage teeth and gums, they may contain substances that could affect the child's health."
Lab-based research suggests that in-chair whitening by dentists increases the strength of enamel, making it more resistant to erosion from acid.
In contrast, home whitening was shown to increase the loss of mineral content within enamel, which over time may lead to weakness.
The overwhelming message is only use teeth whitening products and services provided through a reputable dentist and never use products on children without consultation with a dentist.