It seems that the popularity of teeth whitening and bleaching continues to grow. And with that, so does the number of toothpastes, gels and procedures available to the public that claim to whiten their dark, yellow or stained teeth. Some products may work fine. However, some products can leave a person in a worse situation than before they started using them. Unwanted side effects may include accelerated gum disease, or having teeth of mismatched colors. Don’t fall victim to using the product that is merely the most convenient to obtain. Asking your dentist about what is the best whitener for you may save you money, time and heartache.
WHAT CAUSES TEETH TO DARKEN?
Several factors may cause our teeth to discolor through the years. The red wines, coffee, tea and cola we drink expose our teeth to staining liquids. Although they only affect the surface at first, through the years this stain becomes a part of the tooth. Smokers also have an additional attack on their teeth from tobacco.
Even if we stay away from dark beverages and smoking, there are other reasons why teeth darken. For one, the tooth may simply yellow with age. Other people may have discolored teeth from the start, caused by medications taken by them or their expectant mother years ago. Finally, if the tooth is injured either by impact or decay reaching the pulp, it may cause a grayish or brownish appearance that originates in the middle of the tooth.
PROS AND CONS OF OVER-THE-COUNTER TEETH WHITENERS
Is teeth bleaching the solution for all these situations? The television infomercials, products in the drugstore and advertisements sure make it seem that way. They promise whiter teeth in days or sooner, no matter what. But what should you really believe? On the one hand, people want a product that is inexpensive and easy to access. But on the other hand, people also want a product that works and won’t harm them.
Quite a few dental whitening products in the drugstore only affect the surface of the tooth. These pastes work on the outside layer of the tooth with a mild abrasive, to remove a minimal amount of stain built up by coffee drinking and smoking. Some people complain about tooth sensitivity after using toothpaste like this for a period of time. Frankly, a professional cleaning by a dental hygienist would be more effective, and it also addresses optimizing dental health by removing calculus and tartar.
Other dental whitening products may be harmful to the gums and other soft tissue of the mouth. “One-size-fits-all” bleaching trays may not fit well, and therefore force large amounts of bleaching gel against gums for hours. In some people this may cause mild irritation; in others with certain dental conditions such as gum disease, this may accelerate the disease process. Through a comprehensive oral exam and evaluation of x-rays, your dentist can tell you if it is safe for you to bleach.
TEETH WHITENING WITH A DENTIST-APPROVED BLEACHING SYSTEM
So let’s say you do commit yourself to a dentist-approved bleaching system and are all set to go. There are two ways for dentists to assist you with bleaching. As the name suggests, “in-office” bleaching takes place in the dental office. A gentle bleaching gel is placed on your teeth, and a light source is applied. Depending on the lightening you want to attain, this procedure may achieve your desired lighter shade in one appointment. Sometimes one appointment is not enough, and a follow-up appointment may be needed.
“Home bleaching” takes place outside the dental office, either while you sleep or at your leisure. A custom-fitted, clear plastic tray is made in the dental office. Again, a gentle bleaching gel is placed in the tray, and the tray is fitted snugly over your upper or lower teeth. Optimal results are usually achieved in about 10 days of use. Both these types of procedures allow flexibility and control over the whiteness you achieve.
NOT EVERYONE IS A CANDIDATE FOR TEETH BLEACHING
But wait! There’s still a major question left: Will teeth bleaching address your specific dental needs? The answer is: It depends.
Although dentist-prescribed bleaching is a safe and simple way to whiten teeth, unfortunately not everyone is an eligible candidate for this procedure. Basically, the bleaching gels are able to address the outer layer of the tooth. However, if the stains are very dark and deep in the teeth, bleaching is not the answer.
The ideal dental situation for bleaching is someone with no fillings or restorations in the front of the mouth, straight teeth, and yellowing or darkening of the teeth mainly due to years of drinking red wine, cola, coffee and tea. Staining due to medications such as tetracycline or injuries is not likely to be benefited by bleaching on a long-term basis, as the stain is too deep within the tooth. In addition, because of extreme sensitivity and/or other conditions of the gums, certain patients are unable to bleach their teeth.
ASK YOUR DENTIST ABOUT OTHER AVAILABLE OPTIONS TO ACHIEVE A BRIGHT SMILE
However, don’t be disappointed if you are not a good candidate for bleaching. There are many other ways to cosmetically give you the bright smile you’ve always wanted. Ask your cosmetic dentist what your options are.
It’s important to remember that every person’s dental situation is unique. The infomercials, other advertisements, and numerous dental products at the drugstore attempt to offer one cure for countless cosmetic dental problems. By talking with your dental professional and not taking the easy shortcut, you will be assured of safe teeth whitening and won’t spend unnecessary money on products that won’t work for you.