Should I Whiten/Bleach My Teeth?
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSIDER WHITENING/BLEACHING YOUR TEETH?
Since I am a dental hygienist one of the questions I am frequently asked is, should I whiten my teeth? The answer to this question will depend on each mouth and what is already present in each individual mouth. It is important to consider that dental work such as fillings, crowns, veneers, bridges etc. will not bleach out. If you have any of those things already present--specially in the front teeth, and you whiten, you may end-up with a lighter shade of your natural teeth, and a darker shade of the dental work-- making the dental work more visible and mismatched.
The BEST time to whiten your teeth is anytime!!! that you are not happy with the color of your teeth and you don't have any existing dental work in the front teeth. The natural teeth tend to get darker as we age, and with foods and drinks they do get stained.
The second best time to whiten your teeth is about two weeks of whitening before placing new fillings, crowns bridges, veneers etc. or any dental work. This way the new dental work will be matched to the newly whitened shade of the teeth.
The third best time to whiten your teeth is if you have to REPLACE existing dental work in the front teeth. Go ahead and whiten and then have the fillings replaced and matched to the new shade.
Other factors to consider:
If you have tooth defetcs such as discolorations present from when the tooth was formed, it is possible that they may not whiten or that the tooth will whiten unevenly.
If you smoke, eat or drink staining things on a frequent basis be aware that you will be recoating the teeth with stain.
If you have other dental needs that are more of a priority to your dental health such as active gum disease, or major cavities, teeth in need of root canals etc. I would recommend taking care of those needs first.
WILL WHITENNING HURT MY TEETH
The second question I am asked is, will whitening hurt my teeth?
The answer is NO, whitening will not hurt the enamel of your teeth, however; one of the risks with any whitening/bleach product including toothpaste and mouthwash is the possibility of sensitivity. Bleach products can increase tooth sensitivity if it's already present or instigate it if it's not already present. This can be more of a risk if recession of the gums is present. Recession of the gums is when the gums have pulled up and away fron the original position of attachment to the tooth uncovering the root of the tooth. Sensitivity is also more of a risk if you bleach too quickly.
A common second risk is over-bleaching which usually happens when a person becomes somewhat addicted to bleaching and keeps doing it to the point where the teeth look almost translucent.
HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG TO WHITEN/BLEACH YOUR TEETH?
As children lose their BABY TEETH and get their permanent teeth, the permanent teeth are typically noticeably darker. This may be even more noticeable specially if they have a mix of baby teeth and permanent teeth. My daughter asked me if she could bleach her teeth at the age of 12 years old. She isn't the first pre-teen or teen who has asked me this. Personally I chose to let her. I wouldn't have let her before she lost all her baby teeth, but saw no harm in letting her do it now. She whitened them just a little bit and I feel fine about it. I would SAY each parent should make that call and if so recommend it with parental supervision making sure they do not over whiten.
My other daughter has very dark and discolored teeth, BUT she is only six years old so I will not bleach her teeth. I will wait until she is older.
HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG
WHITENING OPTIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS
There are many methods over the counter available to bleach your teeth as well as slightly more concentrated formulas offered in dental offices by your dental professionals, and in-office treatments. So which one should you choose. In our office we have what we call one hour whitening. This is done in-office with a machine in about an hour. Believe it or not, in my office we hardly ever recommend it to anyone. Why not? It costs between $600-$700 and the process is so fast that the patient typically develops sensitivity and has to stop before the hour is complete. We only recommend this method if it's a dier emergency, like wedding pictures tomorrow and must have it. I have seen many patients use over-the-counter whitening strips very succesfully--they do work, and are usually cheaper then the more concentrated office kits. They tend to only cover the front teeth, but use your imagination, overlap them if you want to go further back. Some in-office kits are one size fits all trays pre-filled with bleach and cover all the teeth. they may cost around $100+.
Before Bleaching: always brush and floss.
After bleaching hold a little warm water over your teeth to help prevent sensitivity.
Stay away from highly staining foods or drinks for the first couple hours after bleaching, things like grape juice, cranberry juice, ketchup, mustard. Clear liquids so that the stain doesn't go back into the tooth while the teeth are more porous.
If you develop sensitivity slow the process down: instead of every day do it every other day or every third day,but always do top and bottom arch about the same length of time. Use a fluoride mouthwash at night and or a sensitivity toothpaste.
Approximately two weeks of bleaching should give you a good result.
during the two weeks stay away from highly acidic drinks or foods like grapefruit, orange juice, lemons, etc. this will help reduce the risk of sensitivity.
CONCLUSION, SUMMARY and OTHER SUGGESTIONS
So anyone who is unhappy with the color of their teeth should whiten them; however be aware of what dental work is present and how it will affect the result, know the risk of sensitivity and do not overdo it. If whitening is not an option one simple trick that will give you seemingly whiter teeth is the use of bright lipstick!!. The use of a whitening mouthwash(used by some of my smoking clients) or tooth paste may also help a little, AND DO KEEP THEM CLEAN, not just with daily brushing and flossing, but also with professional cleanings as plaque and tartar can make the teeth look yellow and dingy.