The quest for whiter teeth is not a modern phenomenon. Ancient Egyptians used pumice stones and wine vinegar to get a dazzling smile 4,000 years ago. Goat’s milk and human urine were the ingredients for mouthwash for ancient Romans 2,000 years ago.
Luckily, hydrogen peroxide is the active whitening agent in most modern whitening treatments. Many options are available to meet different aesthetic goals and budgets. Following are the modern treatment options for a whiter, brighter smile.
Before you begin any whitening treatment, even at home, I recommend being up to date on your dental exams to make sure there aren’t any issues that would interfere with your whitening. For example, some staining could signal a cavity, not just discoloration, and it’s important to get the “all clear” before beginning treatment.
If you have sensitive teeth, using a toothpaste for sensitivity such as Sensodyne regularly for the two weeks prior to your treatment will help. Also, scheduling a professional cleaning first will result in whiter-looking teeth.
There are many over-the-counter options for whitening, including whitening strips, trays and toothpastes. I recommend proceeding with caution, because some are not as safe as professional treatment recommended by your dentist. But if you do use them, make sure to follow directions and read all labels before you begin.
Some whitening toothpastes can be extremely abrasive and long-term use can remove enamel – the important, protective top layer on your teeth. Once the enamel is removed, it can never be replaced, leaving your second layer of tooth – the dentin – exposed. This can make your teeth look yellow and cause sensitivity.
Professional teeth whitening can be done at home using custom-designed whitening trays or in the dental office using whitening light methods. Both methods are more potent than store-bought or natural options, have faster results, and professional consultation ensures your safety.
For whitening trays, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth to create a customized clear tray that you will wear for 30 to 60 minutes up to twice a day. It holds a special gel that whitens your teeth. You’ll have noticeably whiter teeth in days. Occasional treatment can be performed at your convenience to maintain your new smile.
Whitening light methods are a good choice for busy people! They produce great results in very little time. In fact, Zoom whitening treatment is clinically proven to whiten teeth up to 8 shades in 45 minutes.
A protective gel is applied to your gums to protect the soft tissue. A light-activated gel is then applied to your teeth and a special light is used to enhance the action of the agent. You’ll return home with instructions for keeping your smile bright, including trays for at-home touch ups. The result is dramatically whiter teeth that will last for years.
The chemicals that give certain foods and drinks, like blueberries or red wine, their color can cause teeth to stain. A good rule of thumb is if something can stain a fabric, it can stain your teeth. Highly acidic foods like citrus can break down your enamel and allow stains.
Make sure to brush regularly, rinse with water after enjoying foods or drinks, and keep up with regular dental check ups and professional cleanings.
Jordan Haire, DDS, is a dentist in practice with ROC Dental Group in Bluffton.