Monday, June 4, 2012

The ABCs of tooth whitening

Hollywood movie and rock stars always have the whitest teeth around. Their teeth are usually so white that they shimmer. When it was first introduced, teeth whitening was very expensive and available to those with a lot of money to spend. Those of us who could not afford a professional whitening treatment opted for at home whitening kits instead.

As long as you choose the correct whitening method for your individual situation, tooth whitening works. Just about all patients see a moderate to substantial improvement in the color of their teeth. Tooth whitening is not a permanent solution however. With maintenance and touch up sessions, you can keep your smile white and bright for an extended period of time.

What Causes Tooth Stains?

Everyone is susceptible to tooth stains. Some stains are avoidable and others are not. What this means for the average person is that sometimes changes in lifestyle can greatly improve the appearance of your teeth. Before considering a tooth whitening option, the cause of your stains should be examined.

Age – The older your teeth are, the more susceptible your teeth are to stains. First, teeth naturally darken because of every day wear and tear. In addition, stains from everyday occurrences, such as drinking coffee, tend to accumulate. What this means is that children and teenagers will see the least dramatic results from a tooth whitening treatment. During the twenties, the teeth begin to have a yellow tint to them. As the years pass, the teeth become dull, and discolored despite frequent brushings and the elimination of coffee and smoking.

Natural tooth color- We are all born with a unique tooth color. Some people are fortunate enough to be born with the whitest of white teeth, with others falling within a spectrum of yellow and gray.

Translucency and thinness – While all teeth are translucent to some degree, there is a spectrum of translucency. The more translucent your teeth are, the less pigment they have. Those who lack pigment in their teeth will not have a substantial response to whitening treatments. Those with naturally thick and opaque teeth, by design, are brighter and more responsive to bleaching treatments.

The food you eat – It is no secret that the food you eat affects your teeth. Food and drinks with deep color tend to leave stains behind on your teeth. For example, red wine, colas, tea, coffee, and carrots will stain the teeth. Eating highly acidic foods such as citrus fruits will wear down the enamel over time, making teeth more susceptible to stains.

Smoking – This one is a no brainer. Use tobacco products and your teeth will be yellow. Enough said.

Prescription drugs/ Chemicals – It is a little known fact that too much fluoride causes a condition called fluorosis that discolors teeth. Many antibiotics will also adversely affect the color of the teeth as well. Children who are chronically ill and are treated with high amounts of certain antibiotics and medications will experience a noticeable change in their tooth color.

Bleaching or whitening?
There is a difference between teeth whitening and bleaching the teeth. The FDA restricts using the term bleaching to instances when the teeth are being whitened beyond their natural color. Bleaching applies to most products that contain bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or carbamide peroxide.

Tooth whitening is used when the teeth are restored to their natural color by removing stains and debris from the tooth’s surface. This would technically classify brushing your teeth as whitening. It logically follows then that any product that works like toothpaste is a whitener.

Many times the terms whitening and bleaching are used interchangeably, even when describing products that contain bleach. This is probably because bleaching carries a negative connotation, which causes the consumer to believe that the bleaching process is harsh on the teeth. This is not true however. The color of the teeth begins to change most dramatically with bleaching treatments, but the treatments themselves are safe for teeth.

People start out life with shiny bright smiles. The tooth enamel is designed to act as a protective layer against bacteria, decay, and stains. Over time, the enamel is worn down and it becomes less protective and more transparent. It is this transparency that allows the tooth’s yellow core material (dentin) to be visible. Once the enamel is compromised, microscopic cracks allow debris to accumulate, and stains on the teeth are the result. This is why teeth become dull as the years progress. Tooth whitening removes the stains.

Which is better, at home or professional whitening?

The professional treatments are done with a special whitening solution and an ultraviolet light. The cost ranges from between $400-$800, depending on where you have the procedure performed. Recently, mall kiosks have been popping up that offer teeth whitening for $199, with no appointment necessary. We have certainly come a long way!

The at home kits range from the ones you purchase at the local grocery store for $25 to $99 that you can purchase on the internet or from your dentist. Home whitening kits consist of trays with whitening solution that you wear over your teeth each night. The grocery store kits are even more convenient as the whitening agent is on a strip that sticks to your teeth. With those, you can whiten your teeth on the way to work, and then easily discard the strip in a trashcan.

What could be easier?

While the at home and in office procedures are both very effective, they are not for everyone. For example, if you have severely discolored teeth due to years of smoking and coffee stains, then the in office laser-whitening treatment will produce the best results for you. If you have everyday stains on your teeth, the at home kits will work for you.

Unsure which treatment is right for you? Your dentist can tell you which treatment will produce the best results for your teeth. The best time to assess your tooth color is right after a cleaning at your dentist’s office.

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1 comment:

  1. I had been to India to get my implants and some whitening work done and I m glad i came here as I have received some of the best dental care one could get. I visited this clinic in Mumbai and have also shared my review on my experience as well.