Whitening Your Teeth
Looking to Whiten Your Teeth?
Simply brushing and flossing your teeth is not enough to keep them shiny and white. If you want to remove stains from food and drink, you may want to consider one of the many options available for at home whitening/bleaching. Alternatively, you could invest in a professional whitening session at your dentist office. There are pros and cons with the variety of alternatives, including cost, time, pain (yes, it can hurt a bit), length of results, and ease of use. Before we get into a comparison of products, let's review the primary causes of yellowing teeth:
- Certain drinks are likely to cause stains: coffee, red wine, tomato juice, cola. You have several options, here. Either avoid drinking them all together, try drinking them with a straw, or immediately swish with clear water and brush your teeth after consuming them
- Smoking will lead to nicotine stains. Quit smoking and your teeth will look better, and your lungs will thank you, too.
- Tomato-based sauces will also cause stains. Drink lots of water and brush your teeth after eating.
- Deep, red fruits (pomegranate seeds, red grapes, tomatoes, etc.) may cause stains. Same advice as above. Rinse with clear water and brush after enjoying.
- Plaque build-up. Regular trips to the dentist for professional cleaning will help reduce this effect. Of course, brush and floss regularly, as well.
- Long-term use of antibiotics. Oftentimes, this can result in a grayish cast to a person's teeth. Over-the-counter teeth whitening products may not effectively work. You should talk to your dentist to see what can be done to brighten your smile.
- Age. Unfortunately, you cannot do anything about this factor. But paying attention to the items above will keep you looking fresh and younger than your years.
Keep this list in mind - once you invest in teeth whitening, you'll want to prevent yellowing from re-occurring for as long as possible. So, cut back on your coffee, don't smoke and keep your oral hygiene habits impeccable!
Regular Dental Care Products with Whitening Agents
At the lowest level of whitening products are toothpastes, floss and mouthwashes that have been specially formulated to brighten your teeth. Generally speaking, if used consistently, they can whiten healthy teeth about one shade over time. These products can be purchased over the counter, and may cost about the same as "regular" counterparts, or slightly more. Therefore, they are a cost-effective means of whitening your teeth, if you only wish to take off surface stains, and you are motivated to prevent stains from reoccurring in the future.
These products contain mild abrasive ingredients that usually will not cause any discomfort. No bleaching agents are included. As with any toothpaste and mouthwash, do not swallow.
The number of brands available is just about as broad as your imagination. Of course, you can find whitening toothpastes, floss and mouthwashes produced by Crest, Colgate, Aquafresh, and Arm and Hammer. You can also find natural brands, specialized formulations for sensitive teeth, night time, etc. Just take a trip to your local drug store and peruse the aisles.
At Home Bleaching Kits and Whitening Strips
Whitening strips have become very popular in the past 5 or 6 years. They are easy to use and much less messy than bleaching kits. The cost is still significantly more than whitening toothpastes and products discussed above, but you will see more dramatic results more quickly. Besides cost, there are two additional drawbacks to mention with respect to strips. First, they only work on healthy teeth that have yellowed due to age and stains. Second, they may cause significant tooth sensitivity. Consult with your dentist before paying the $20-40 for one of these kits.
There are several major brands and formulations for whitening strips, including Crest, Listerine, Oral B and Rembrandt. Listerine's strips dissolve in your mouth, which they claim to be a benefit because you don't have to take them off 1/2 hour after you put them on. Crest Strips come in a variety of styles, including Daily Multi-care, which you use for only 5 minutes a day (brightening more slowly over time), and Crest Whitestrips Premium, which you only need to use for 7 days (1/2 hour morning and night). Most brands require use for 14 days, 1/2 hour morning and night.
These products contain hydrogen peroxide as a bleaching agent, and will only work on natural teeth; they will not whiten veneers or other dental work. Amounts of the bleaching agent differ, from 6% to 10%, depending on formulations.
Similarly, at home bleaching kits require use of bleaching gel (amounts of carbamide peroxide as a bleaching agent vary: between 16% and 22%). The gel is inserted into trays that fit into the consumer's mouth. Some of these trays can be custom molded for a better fit. Prices are generally about $100 and up for these kits, but results can be achieved more quickly than the whitening strips. Again, expect some sensitivity of teeth. The application can be difficult and messy, compared to the strips, not to mention expensive.
With both of these options, you can expect results to last approximately 6 months. Your teeth may be lightened up to 2-3 shades.
For immediate results (often in only a single appointment), your best bet may be to have your teeth professionally whitened by your dentist. This is also recommended for stains on veneers and stains that are a result of antibiotic use. Of course, the major drawback is the potential cost! You should expect to pay from $400-900 per session, which will not likely be covered by insurance. Some people will notice that teeth will darken a bit as they become re-hydrated with saliva a day or two after the procedure. They will then ask for a second or third procedure to continue the whitening procedure.
Dentists use a number of different products, including "BriteSmile," "Zoom!," "Rembrandt," or "LaserSmile." Instead of choosing your dentist based on the product they use, definitely chose the dentist first. The products are substantially similar, but the dentist's application will make all the difference! The active ingredient can include up to 50% hydrogen peroxide. You and your dentist will decide on a shade to which to lighten your teeth, before the procedure.
Your dentist will start with a general cleaning to remove plaque and tartar build-up. Your teeth will also be polished. Afterwards, a dental dam will be placed around the teeth to be whitened. You'll be given eye protection and a bib, as well. Next, comes the fun part. The dentist will apply the peroxide gel or paste on your teeth and will then activate it with a light or laser. You'll have to wait at least 60-90 minutes with the whitener on your teeth. Afterwards, it will be washed or wiped off.
In some cases, your dentist will send home an at-home bleaching system for you to use for follow-up treatment.
Side effects may be the same as with other treatments above, including tooth sensitivity to heat and cold. At times, if done improperly, the bleaching agents may come into contact with gum tissue, causing pain. Make sure you pick the right dentist and get a secure dam fit before the procedure begins!
What Price Beauty?
A nice, white smile is attractive. And it might even be worth an investment for a special date, like your wedding, prom, or reunion. Think about the overall cost in deciding how much to pay for the temporary cosmetic procedure, however. Realize too, that some of the options will take more time to show results and there may be some slight discomfort involved.
If you have had any significant dental work, or suffer from gingivitis or other health problems related to your mouth or gums, be sure to discuss your options with your dentist in advance. I hope you are dazzled with the results!