If you're self-conscious about your not-so-white teeth, you're not alone. Whether genetics, coffee, tobacco, poor dental hygiene, or the normal aging process has caused the enamel on your teeth to become stained and discolored, off-white teeth may be causing you to hide your smile. They don't have to any more.
Today, two basic types of teeth whitening are available: bleaching and toothpastes. These procedures will not make teeth healthier, but they can boost your self-esteem by temporarily giving you a whiter and brighter smile. How do bleaching and whitening toothpastes work? Read on to find out and determine whether whiter teeth are worth the risks.
A variety of whitening toothpastes are available. These toothpastes contain a mildly abrasive ingredient that works to clean stains off the tooth surface and polish the teeth. These toothpastes don't contain bleach and only help to remove surface stains, making the tooth color about one shade lighter. You probably won't notice a big change if you only use toothpaste, but if using these toothpastes gets you brushing more frequently, that is reward enough.
Over-the-counter whitening products or those done by your dentist contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These ingredients whiten teeth by removing surface stains as well as those below the surface. Following treatment, your teeth may become three to eight shades whiter than they are currently. Products that use bleach include whitening strips and gels, rinses, tray-based whiteners, or in-office bleaching. While whitening procedures performed by your dentist may be more expensive, they are the quickest way to a dramatic difference.
Regardless of what method you choose for whitening your teeth, the effects are temporary. Take good care of your teeth and the whitening may last a year or longer. However, your pearly whites can fade back into those other shades within a month if you smoke or eat foods or drink beverages that stain teeth.
Also, whitening results vary from person to person depending on the type and of stain, the condition of the teeth, the kind and strength of whitening procedure used, and how long it was used. The greatest results are seen in those who have healthy teeth, who don't have fillings, and who have yellowish teeth compared to gray- or brown-colored ones.
Have kids who want whitening? Be careful. Children younger than 16 years of age shouldn't attempt to whiten their teeth, as it could cause the teeth to become sensitive and damage the teeth nerves. Pregnant or nursing women should also avoid teeth whiteners, as should individuals with sensitive teeth or gums, gum disease, worn enamel, allergy to peroxide, or cavities. Those who have tooth-colored fillings or other dental restorations should be aware that if they whiten their teeth, the material used for the fillings or restorations will not whiten, but stay the color they are.
If you expect your teeth to become a brilliant white, you may very well be disappointed with the results. A reasonable degree of whiteness you can aim for is a white similar to the white of your eyes.
The two most common complaints following teeth whitening are bleach-induced tooth sensitivity caused and irritation of the gums or other mouth tissues usually caused by an ill-fitting mouthpiece. These conditions are temporary and will go away within a few days of stopping treatment. When these problems arise in your mouth, try using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, and if you use a whitening tray, find one that can be customized to fit the shape of your teeth.