Have you stared in the mirror lately wishing that you could somehow make your teeth appear whiter? Teeth whitening has increased dramatically over recent years, and having whiter teeth has become the number-one aesthetic concern for most people, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Fortunately, the teeth whitening products available today are simple, non-invasive treatments that effectively change the color of your tooth enamel. It has become virtually hassle-free for anyone looking to whiten their teeth with the variety of products out in today's market. The primary factors that dictate what patients want in teeth whitening are ease of application, effectiveness and affordability.
Causes of Extrinsic Tooth Discoloration
A number of common habits may seem insignificant, but can have a major effect on the color of your teeth over time. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, these include the following:
- Drinking red wine
- Drinking coffee or tea
- Drinking dark colored sodas
- Eating red sauces
- Eating dark-colored fruits (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
Numerous options are available today to help remove surface stains and whiten your teeth. Some are over-the-counter (OTC) products (toothpastes, mouthrinses) that can be the least expensive and the easiest to use. The costs of OTC teeth whitening methods can range from $5-$50. Another option is an in-office dental procedure performed by dental professionals, which can cost an average of $650 according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. Then there are customized take-home trays that average around $400, making a brighter smile attainable to anyone.
Whitening Toothpastes and Rinses
Toothpastes can contain mild abrasives (gentle polishing agents) to facilitate the removal of stains on the outer surfaces of the teeth while brushing. A mouthrinse can contain hydrogen peroxide as a bleaching agent, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), to help whiten your teeth while you freshen your breath at the same time. These products can be used daily, especially after meals that cause staining to occur. Initial results can be seen in as little as a few days.
Special whitening toothbrushes are also available to polish teeth without abrasion using special condensed bristles. An example of this type of whitening toothbrush is the Colgate® Optic White™Powered Toothbrush.
Chewing Gum and Whitening Strips
Typical at-home products include gum and dental strips. Certain types of chewing gum can be used daily and especially after meals. Whitening sugarless chewing gum helps to remove food residue after eating. Chewing gum stimulates saliva which can help to moisturize the mouth. The chewing gum whiteners actually coat the teeth to prevent staining so it can be used frequently. Whitening strips, on the other hand, are small plastic strips with a peroxide-gel side that you apply to the outer surface of your teeth, which can also help to facilitate a whitening effect. The strips can be used up to 30 minutes a day for maximum results and can be repeated for a consecutive number of days as per the manufacturer's suggestion.
Tray-Based Teeth Whiteners
This product is mostly sold in OTC kits that involve the use of a mouthguard-like tray with a gel-based whitening solution with peroxide-based bleaching agents. Your dentist can provide you with a custom take-home whitening kit to improve the whiteness of your teeth. Impressions are initially taken of the teeth and then your tray is made to fit your mouth. Because it's meant for at-home treatment, these trays have a lower concentration of peroxide than what is available from an in-office procedure. These trays can be used once-a-day, with each session lasting from an average of 30-60 minutes, for up to two weeks.
In-Office Dental Whitening Treatment
An in-office dental whitening treatment consists of a single visit that can achieve results in less than an hour. First, a protective coating is placed on the gum tissue and lips. Next, the whitening gel is applied to the teeth. Then, an ultraviolet lamp is shined onto the teeth to activate the ingredient in the gel. This process usually features a higher concentration of bleaching gel, and this type of treatment can yield results that are visible immediately.
Keeping a healthy smile is of utmost importance, and maintaining good oral hygiene will keep your smile looking brighter longer. It's important to remember that teeth whitening products are not permanent solutions, and touchups are mandatory to maintain results when your teeth continue accumulating stains. It is imperative to follow proper oral health care prior to any teeth whitening procedures as well, and you should always keep your twice-a-year professional dental hygiene appointments.
A whiter smile can be attained by just about anyone. Although store-bought products cost less than other methods, they also offer a less dramatic result than professional whitening treatment. Always speak with your dentist prior to any teeth whitening treatment to ensure the safest way to achieve a whiter smile with the best possible results. At home, using floss daily and brushing your teeth twice a day is ideal for the short-term removal of food debris and plaque for proper dental health. There's more than one way to enhance the beauty of your smile!
About the author: Diana Tosuni-O'Neill is a licensed registered dental hygienist in New York and New Jersey with over 25 years of clinical experience in dental hygiene practice. She was employed for over 15 years with the team dentist for the sports teams the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Nets and the New Jersey Devils. Diana is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and a Group Fitness Instructor. Her passion for the dental and fitness fields spans over two decades. She is also a freelance writer specializing in oral health care. She enjoys traveling, gardening, decorating and her fitness workouts. Diana presently resides outside Manhattan with her two children.