There’s nothing that screams confidence more than a bright, white smile. Numerous studies link smiling to career success, life span, and happiness to name just a few. With that information in mind, everyone seems to want a whiter smile! So, this month we’re going to talk about the do’s and don’ts of teeth whitening.
Let’s start with my thoughts on teeth whitening products being offered over the counter.😳 While the American Dental Association (ADA), has given their seal of approval to some over-the-counter whitening products, their official policy is that they should not be used until after a dental exam and with the approval of the dentist. This position is not for financial gain, it is for patient health and safety. I strongly agree that teeth whitening should be discussed with your dentist and accomplished after a thorough examination.
The color of our teeth can be affected and influenced by many factors, and stains or tooth discoloration can be intrinsic (inside the tooth) or extrinsic (on the surface of the tooth). Different products or whitening agents are used to treat the different types of discoloration. These whitening agents penetrate the enamel (tooth dentin) and can penetrate to the pulp, which is the nerve in the center of the tooth.
When you buy over-the-counter whitening strips, they are not made to fit your teeth, and they can burn your gums. Whitening toothpaste tend to be abrasive and remove enamel, making teeth appear darker in the long run because the yellow dentin is visible through the thinner, translucent enamel. This in turn leads to more frequent use of whitening products, with increased sensitivity, etc.
All whitening agents have the potential to cause sensitivity. The concentration and formulation of the whitening agent and where it is applied can affect the degree of sensitivity. Whitening agents are formulated to be used on the enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. They should not be placed on the gums, on exposed root surfaces, or on the middle layer of teeth (dentin). They are meant to whiten natural teeth; they do not whiten fillings or crowns.
What Makes Teeth Whitening With Your Dentist Different?
When you discuss teeth whitening with your dentist as part of a comprehensive exam, they can evaluate whether your stains are intrinsic or extrinsic, and they can evaluate the restorations on your teeth to make sure they will not leak the whitening material to the inside of the tooth. Your dentist can show you any restorations that would appear darker once the natural tooth is whitened.
The whitening products used by dentists have ingredients that can protect the pulp from damage. The custom take-home trays that your dentist makes will safely keep the bleaching agent on your enamel, not your gums or roots. When quicker results are desired, your dentist can provide an in-office service and protect the soft tissues before applying it.
One final and important fact to remember is that our natural teeth are NOT chalk white. I worry about young adults and even kids who are trying so hard to achieve these unnaturally white teeth. What will be left of their enamel, what will their smiles look like in 20, 30, 40 years?
Sometimes, all you need to brighten up your smile is a cleaning with the dental hygienist, who can polish away many surface stains. My best teeth whitening advice is to visit your dentist and brighten that smile in a safe, healthy, and lasting way!