In the age of perfect selfies and social media, we all want to look our best on every photo. Oftentimes, that starts with a bright shiny smile. However, not all people are naturally blessed with pearly whites. This is where teeth whitening comes into perspective.
Before you jump into the latest and greatest teeth whitening kit, it is best to know which are safe and which could do more harm than good. Plus, it is better to know if your case is cost-efficient.
Teeth whitening is becoming cheaper and more accessible as the years go by. The more popular it gets, the more people are enticed to try. Sadly, this has resulted in many harmful whitening methods, products, and scams that fool or hurt consumers.
So, if you’re considering whitening your teeth, consult your dentist first and make a thorough research about every single detail. Know the ins and outs of this process before jumping in. After all, you only get one set of teeth in life, and it’s all too easy to damage them permanently.
How Do Teeth Become Discolored?
Teeth yellowing is a normal part of aging. As our hair turns gray, our teeth turn yellow simultaneously. And it’s the inner part of the tooth called dentin—not the outer enamel—that yellows. Due to grinding or exposure to acidic foods and drinks, the enamel becomes thinner and your dentin appears darker. The discolored dentin then reflects through the enamel like a prism, making the teeth look yellow. In addition, certain medications, smoking, and drinking coffee, tea or wine can also cause staining.
Extrinsic discoloration affects only the external area of your teeth. It is a milder type of discoloration that can easily be removed by topical products such as whitening toothpaste. This type of discoloration happens when food, beverages, or smoking stain your teeth. Coffee, tea, red wine, and foods with dyes are only some of the greatest contributors to this type of staining.
Intrinsic discoloration happens from within the tooth. This may be a result of medication, childhood illness, infection, tooth trauma, or aging. This kind of discoloration may need to be professionally bleached to bring back the same level, or better, of teeth whiteness.
Teeth Whitening Risks
Many people wish their teeth were brighter, but some are nervous about the effects of bleaching. But, is teeth whitening really safe?
Of course, professionally-made teeth whitening products are manufactured to be safe and effective as they undergo a series of testing and evaluation. However, given that the main ingredients of these products are bleaches such as hydrogen peroxide, there could be minor side effects that are inevitable.
Some side effects include:
Teeth Sensitivity – You may experience mild to severe sensitivity on your first or second treatment which may then diminish with time.
Irritated Gums – You may also experience gingival irritation which may cause slight stinging pain due to contact between your gums and the whitening product. However, this pain usually does not last very long.
Teeth Discomfort – Teeth with decay, broken fillings, and fractured structures can generate a more significant and lasting discomfort but poses no damage to the enamel.
Since teeth whitening products have emerged in almost everywhere, you should be aware of which products are dentally approved and which ones are not. If you are not careful, serious risks associated with fake or dangerous teeth whitening products may include aggravated tooth sensitivity and damage to the roots of teeth.
Teeth Whitening Options
If you have extrinsic discoloration, it is best to start with a stain-removing toothpaste for a couple of weeks first. Using a stain-removing electric toothbrush or undergoing a professional teeth cleaning can make a big difference too.
On the other hand, intrinsic discoloration is something no amount of stain-removing toothpaste can lighten. Since it is from the inner part of the teeth, it would require stronger products such as bleaching gels and other professionally manufactured chemicals.
Keep in mind, the time it takes to whiten your teeth safely depends on the type of discoloration you have and the method you use to whiten your teeth. Some methods include:
In-office Treatment – This is the best treatment if you want quicker results and longer lasting effects. Oftentimes, you may only need an hour treatment or a few visits to whiten your teeth because the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the applied products is greater than in the products you use at home.
Professional At-Home Treatment – Dentists can also help you whiten your teeth at home using custom-fit trays and bleaching gels to be worn for 30 minutes to 1 hour each day as recommended by your dentist.
Teeth Whitening Products (Over-The-Counter Products) – Unlike products administered by a dentist, these products have little to no carbamide peroxide. These products include whitening toothpaste and strips which may take a longer time to see desired results.
There are also home-made methods that are said to be effective. However, these methods are not scientifically proven and should be discussed with a dentist before trying them. You may damage your teeth if you use these methods without first consulting a dentist.
Also, be aware that these products and treatments are only for natural teeth. You’ll need to talk to your dentist about how to unify the color of your teeth if you have implants, crowns, bridges, or dentures.
Keep in mind that teeth whitening is not permanent. You’ll need to seek whitening treatments every so often for both extrinsic and intrinsic discoloration. Your teeth are still susceptible to staining. Nothing beats good daily oral health habits like brushing, flossing, regular checkups, and cleanings in keeping your smile bright and healthy.
As long as you stick to dentist-approved methods, whitening your teeth is considered safe. Make sure to use the method that fits your needs and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Contact your dentist if you experience any side effects.