Enamel Erosion and Tooth Whitening

Posted on: 24 July 2020

The term "tooth whitening" can be just a tiny bit misleading. It sounds as though you're changing the colour of the entire tooth, whereas you're actually just whitening its enamel coating. This is the only portion of your tooth that will be responsive to the active ingredients in the whitening process, and the remainder of the tooth will be unaltered by the whitening. This is perfectly fine since whitening is generally just for aesthetic purposes, and as long as your enamel is intact, you should be an ideal candidate for tooth whitening. But what about when your enamel isn't in the best shape to begin with? How can someone affected by enamel erosion whiten their teeth?


If the enamel on your teeth has eroded, the underlying dentin will be exposed. This might be one of the reasons why you're considering whitening your teeth since dentin is yellow in appearance and can contribute to the overall discolouration of your smile should it be exposed. The trouble is that dentin will not respond to whitening treatment in the same manner as your enamel. 


Exposed dentin isn't the best for your smile. Enamel acts as a protective coating, and when it has eroded, the overall tooth is more vulnerable to decay. Enamel erosion should be addressed regardless of any whitening plans. But can you even whiten your teeth when your enamel isn't as abundant as it should be?


Your choices become somewhat more limited when you have eroded enamel, but it's still possible to whiten your teeth. You will require restoration work to patch the missing enamel, and this essentially creates a synthetic replacement, whether it's via dental bonding or a veneer attached to the outward facing side of the tooth. This restoration work will not respond to whitening treatment either, so what should you do?


Any restorations to correct enamel erosion should be applied in the shade you wish your teeth to be. Enamel erosion doesn't affect each tooth to the same degree, and it might be that many of your teeth have a perfectly robust coating, whereas others are sorely lacking. A dentist can whiten teeth individually so that your intact teeth are brought to your desired shade of white, which will match your restoration work, resulting in all your teeth being the same colour. The onus is on you to maintain this colour, however. This becomes even more relevant when you need to whiten in conjunction with restoration work.

Enamel erosion can mean that a standard over-the-counter whitening treatment isn't going to be your best bet, but it doesn't mean you can't whiten your teeth.

To learn more about tooth whitening, contact a dentist.