Teeth Whitening – What You Should Know
Everybody wants a white smile and, these days, it seems easier to get it. There is a range of tooth-whitening options available to you, but before you buy, there are important oral health considerations you need to be aware of.
First, let’s look at the two main categories of tooth whiteners: surface whiteners and bleaches.
Surface whiteners – usually toothpastes or chewing gums – contain special abrasives that help remove surface stains, but do not change the colour of the tooth.
Bleaches, on the other hand, are typically peroxide-based products, which are actually capable of altering the colour of the tooth itself. Bleaching can be done in a dentist’s office in one of two ways: a special type of bleach is put on your stained teeth and heat or light may be used to activate the bleaching action; or your dentist may make a custom mouth guard that is filled with a special type of bleach. You would wear the mouth guard as directed by your dentist.
Store-bought, at-home bleaching systems are sold in gel form (placed in a mouth guard that you wear for a specified period of time) or as whitening strips (small pieces of polyethylene, a flexible plastic that molds to the top surfaces of your teeth).
Be sure to talk with your dentist before you whiten your teeth. Your dentist will take into account your unique oral health conditions and will be able to determine what, if any, tooth whitener is the right one for you.
It’s also important to make sure your teeth are healthy before whitening – you should have no cavities, exposed root surfaces or cracks/chips. Bleaching products can migrate into the pulp and nerve of the tooth and cause problems if you have a pre-existing issue.
Your dentist can also advise you on the appropriate frequency of whitening your teeth and of potential side effects to bleaching, such as increased tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. (Excessive bleaching can lead to permanent damage to the teeth and gums.) Other considerations you should keep in mind include the following:
• Teeth are not meant to be completely white – the natural colour of teeth falls within a range of light gray to yellow.
• The perception of the colour of your teeth is affected by skin tone and make-up; people with darker skin or who use dark make-up will look like they have brighter teeth.
• While there are many whitening options on the market, there is no single method of lightening teeth that gets a permanent result.
• Not everyone’s teeth will whiten to the same degree. It depends on a number of factors, such as the number of teeth involved, the severity of the discolouration, the natural colour of your teeth and your diet. (Drinks such as red wine, coffee and tea may lead to surface stains on teeth.)
• More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of teeth whitening.
The best smile you can sport is a healthy one. So smile and the world will smile with you – no matter how white your teeth are.