Common Conditions

Can I Whiten My Teeth If I Chew Tobacco?

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I have always heard that I can't whiten my teeth since I chew tobacco and since whitening opens the pores in the teeth, I could ultimately make the color worse. Is this true?

by Dr. Burhenne

Can I whiten my teeth if I chew tobacco?
Q:

I have always heard that I can't whiten my teeth since I use smokeless tobacco and since whitening opens the pores in the teeth, I could ultimately make the color worse. Is that true? Then my thought was to whiten before bed then the pores would have a chance to close overnight. Would that be a sound approach or do the pores stay open longer than that? Thanks -Brian Morris

A: Brian, you can still whiten your teeth even though you use tobacco. It was once believed by dentists that you could not drink coffee, smoke cigarettes (chew tobacco) or drink red wine while whitening your teeth. Ten years ago, we stopped saying this because it simply wasn’t true. True, the teeth are a bit more “open” after whitening because the pellicle (the skin of the tooth) has been dissolved by the whitening gel. However, practically speaking, we have not seen an increase in staining because of this factor.

If you’re still worried about it, I recommend that you use a 10% carbamide peroxide solution loaded into a custom-made tray for about one hour a day (perhaps after brushing your teeth after dinner). It may take a little bit longer than if you were to sleep with the trays in at night, but will produce less sensitivity and will allow you to chew tobacco.

Be aware that products like coffee, red wine, and nicotine products will stain your teeth. They cause what is called an “extrinsic” color change. Using whitening trays produce an “intrinsic” color change.

The only way to remove the extrinsic staining is to get a teeth cleaning and have the stains removed by your hygienist.

So, for your tobacco habit, see your hygienist every six months (if not more) to clean your teeth and remove the stains.

As for changing the color of your teeth, follow through with a custom tray-based whitening system provided by your dentist.

Of course, the more important concern here is the habit of chewing tobacco, which can lead to oral cancer and premature death.

The nicotine in chewing tobacco can make you a more destructive grinder, leading to premature wear and tear on the teeth.

If you continue to chew tobacco, make sure that you get a twice-yearly oral cancer screening from your dentist.

To put it bluntly, if you keep chewing tobacco, there won’t be any teeth left worth whitening.

Mark Burhenne DDS

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