Bleachorexia: America’s Obsession with Teeth Whitening
By Stephanie Guler - Senior Content & Social Media Developer | August 19th, 2011
A beautiful smile is a coveted thing in American culture.
According a survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 99.7 percent of adults think a smile is an important social asset, and 96 percent believe an attractive smile makes a person more appealing to potential sexual partners.
When asked, “What would you like to improve more about your smile?” the most popular answer was: whiter, brighter teeth.
It’s no coincidence why so many people desire a bright white smile. In a nation fixated on beauty, youth and celebrity, Americans’ appearance standards are quite high.
Experts say that stained, yellow teeth are synonymous with age and when compared to other anti-aging techniques such as plastic surgery, teeth whitening is a quick and easy solution to turning back the clock and enhancing your physical appearance.
Take a look at the media for the best example of this.
Television personalities, actors and musicians are all photographed with impossibly straight, bright white smiles, and unfortunately for the regular folks out there, these individuals set the standard of what’s considered beautiful.
But in the past decade, Americans have taken their obsession with white teeth to another, sometimes dangerous, level.
This fixation on having perfect teeth has gone so far, in fact, that dentists have coined a term for this condition: bleachorexia.
Many of these patients don’t realize the extent of the damage they’re doing to their teeth, because they appear so healthy and perfect on the outside. However, over bleaching can cause eroded teeth enamel and extremely sensitive teeth and gums, which can lead to a heap of other dental care issues.
“The media has done a good job of making whitening sound innocuous, but it’s not,” Dr. Ira Handschuh said to ABC News. The White Plains, New York dentist explained that the chemical that whitens teeth, carbamide peroxide, can make the teeth very brittle and thin, causing a translucent appearance around the edges.
These traits are very clear to most dentists, who can spot a bleachorexic almost immediately.
Dentist Dr. Jennifer Jablow has seen a number of patients that suffer the consequences of a teeth whitening addiction. She explained, “For some people, their teeth are never white enough, so they’ll do anything to brighten.”
Dr. Irwin Smigel, founder and president of the American Society for Dental Aesthetics told ABC News, “It’s not everybody, but we see if often enough that it bothers me. Enamel doesn’t grow back. Sometimes we have to put crowns or veneers on when the teeth have become too damaged.”
While teeth whitening can be a relatively inexpensive procedure, (especially with the introduction of at-home bleaching kits, mouthwashes and toothpastes), dental crowns and dental veneers don’t come cheap; but many people are forced to undergo these procedures in order to save their teeth.
Despite the very serious outcome of too much teeth bleaching, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports that Americans spend more than a billion dollars a year on over-the-counter teeth whitening products.
With these products, it may seem easy to get the bright smile of a Hollywood celeb, dentists advise patients to proceed with self-control in mind.
Dr. Jablow said, “Bleaching is very effective in moderation, and it’s safe in moderation. Its when you’re bleaching all the time, beyond what is recommended—that’s when you run into problems.”
Problems that experts say include the appearance of clear, bluish-looking teeth, which is a far cry from a bleachorexic’s original intentions of a super bright, white, youthful smile.
To learn more about your options for teeth whitening procedures, contact a dentist in your area.
This article was written by the medical research team at WhereismyDoctor.com
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