Everyone loves the thought of having a sparkling, white smile. But if you’re someone who is dissatisfied with the color of your teeth, don’t let that prevent you from showing off your smile.
If you’re considering whitening your teeth, the first step is to talk with your dentist. Not all types of discolored teeth can be improved with whitening methods. Teeth that are yellow may respond well to whitening treatments. But a more brownish-colored smile may not whiten as easily, and teeth that are gray may not whiten at all. Whitening results may be affected by treatment time and frequency, concentration of the active agent, the patient’s age, and the type of stain. Discuss your options with your dentist.
Health considerations: The American Dental Association notes some health concerns related to whitening treatments, especially unsupervised home whitening. While most at-home, in-office, and dentist-prescribed whitening methods do seem effective, their long-term health influences are not completely known by the ADA. Thus, the organization recommends that patients who are interested in whitening their teeth consult their dentist before undertaking a whitening regimen. This will hopefully mitigate unintended problems that could result from oral health issues left undiagnosed or from using whitening products without any supervision.
Whitening options: If your dentist informs you that whitening might improve the color of your smile, here are the three most common options you will have about how to brighten your teeth.
Whitening toothpaste: All toothpastes help wipe away stains on the surface of your teeth when you brush. Whitening toothpastes that are approved by the ADA contain special ingredients that may enhance the stain removing power of your toothpaste. However, these products don’t change the ultimate color of your teeth (like bleach can) because they only remove stains on the surface.
At-home bleaching: If you want to bleach the enamel of your teeth, then at-home whitening is an option. With this method of bleaching, people usually have a mouth guard in which whitening gels are placed. This strategy could lead to some side effects like irritating the gums or causing increased sensitivity. If you’re concerned about these risks, seek advice from your dental care professional.
Whitening toothpaste: The most basic (but possibly least effective) whitening option is toothpaste. All toothpastes, when you brush, wipe away surface stains on your teeth. Whitening toothpastes that have the ADA seal of approval contain special ingredients that may increase the stain fighting power of the toothpaste. These products don’t really change the final color of your teeth, though, because they only address stains on the surface.
Nothing can replace brushing and flossing when it comes to the health of your teeth. Whitening is a cosmetic procedure and should not be used to replace brushing your teeth daily. Most dental whitening products do not contain fluoride, which is important for preventing tooth decay, so you need to use fluoride toothpaste twice each day to be sure your teeth are in healthy condition. But, if your daily oral care regimen still leaves you thinking your teeth are dingy, whitening might be something that could help you feel better about your smile.