Teeth Whitening – What Are Your Options?
Have you thought about or tried whitening your teeth? You are not alone. According to Statistic Brain, the annual spending on teeth whitening products is $1.4 billion in the U.S. And, the American Dental Association reports that 90% of dental patients request teeth whitening. Teeth whitening can be traced all the way back to ancient times, but we’ve come a long way from people chewing on sticks and using urine to get their teeth white. Trays filled with peroxide hit the dental scene in the late 1980’s. Dentists had been using peroxide as an oral antiseptic gel to treat gums and realized that a side effect was whiter teeth. Since that discovery, the market has been flooded with all kinds of teeth whitening products.
Teeth are naturally an off white, bone color and usually darken up over time for many different reasons. Dental hygiene can be a primary reason for discoloration. People usually can’t see plaque on their teeth because it is basically invisible; however, plaque can become stained by bacteria which causes teeth to look yellowed. Regular dental visits where a hygienist removes the plaque will help with those discolorations. However, tobacco use, drinking red wine, colas, coffee and tea can also lead to stains on the teeth. Plus, certain medications may end up darkening up the inner part of the tooth called dentin which makes the outer part of the tooth called enamel appear darker. With so many reasons for why your teeth may appear darker or stained. It is best to talk with your dentist to determine the best way to whiten your teeth.
Most whiteners contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Whiteners that you buy from the store in the form of toothpastes, chewing gums, kits and strips will have about three to 14 percent peroxide while whiteners from your dentist will contain anywhere from 14 to 40 percent peroxide. Even though whiteners, for the most part, are considered safe, they are not for everybody. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, young people who still have baby teeth, and people with sensitive teeth or gums should refrain from using whiteners. Some side effects can result from using whiteners like gum irritation and tooth sensitivity and pain. Plus, overuse or homemade whiteners can cause permanent tooth enamel damage. It really is best to discuss whitening with your dentist so that all of these things can be discussed and monitored. Your dentist can tell you about the different whitening products available so that you can make the best decision for you and your mouth.
No matter which product you choose, whitening doesn’t last forever. However, most dentists agree that professional take-home whitening kits will produce the best results for a longer period of time even better than chairside whitening because of their ongoing use. These take-home kits usually include a customized tray that resembles a mouth guard so the peroxide gel is covering all your teeth at once without getting too much solution on your gums. The gel is usually thicker and stays on your teeth better. Some over-the-counter whitening products only cover the front teeth and get a lot of solution on your gums leading to irritation. Professionally dispensed whitening products usually have a peroxide solution that can remain on your teeth for a longer time, sometimes even overnight for about two to four weeks. Your dentist will work with you to determine the length of time and frequency for using your professional take-home whitening kit. Maintenance is usually needed about every four to six months which is easy to do because you already have the trays.
Regardless of whether you decide to professionally whiten your teeth or not, some of the best ways to keep your teeth from discoloring are to visit your dentist regularly to get plaque removed and keep your mouth healthy, brush twice a day, floss once per day, rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking, and avoid tobacco use. Ask your dentist about whitening!