There are a lot of myths about teeth whitening floating around the Internet, and those myths come with many questions. Is whitening bad for your enamel? Are there natural remedies? If I want to whiten my teeth, should I do it professionally or at home? Should I use whitening strips or whitening toothpaste? Do they actually work? Our awesome staff at Apple Valley Dental Group is here with some answers.
Why do teeth turn yellow?
While it is true that teeth can lose some of their pearly white shine due to stains from dark drinks like coffee, soda, and wine, this is easily removed with regular brushing or during your regular trip to the dentist if you have let it go a little far! The most common reason for yellow teeth is below the surface. Underneath the outside layer of enamel is a yellowy core called dentin. As your enamel wears down from acidic foods, grinding teeth, and natural aging, it brings the yellowy layer closer to the surface, making your teeth appear more and more yellow. Genetics also plays a strong role in the yellowness of your dentin, or thinness of your enamel.
There are two methods that whiten teeth
According to the American Dental Association whitening your teeth can be achieved in two different ways: 1) Using a product that contains bleaching ingredients that change the color of the tooth by penetrating through the enamel and bleaching your yellowy dentin and 2) Abrasive methods that simply remove the superficial stains on the top of your enamel such as the more controversial “whitening” toothpaste, “whitening” gum, and “whitening” mouthwash.
There really is a BEST choice
One of the most important things to know right away is that Method 1, using chemicals, is not only more effective and long lasting, but when done correctly, is far less damaging. The core problem with abrasive based whitening is that it will only work on surface stains and will not do anything to affect your dentin, below the surface. More worrying is that if used incorrectly, you can actually damage the enamel and irritate gums using this abrasive, which is not only unhealthy, but could actually speed up the yellowing of teeth!
Should I use whitening toothpaste? (no!)
Toothpastes are a great example of how the industry is split into these two methods of whitening, and also a great example of the “less honest” side of it. In short, very few dentists recommend ANY type of whitening toothpastes because they have little to no effect. On the bleaching side, there are some toothpastes containing the right sort of chemicals that can in theory whiten, but they are not exposed to the teeth long enough to have any effect! Whitening chemicals need to be in contact with the teeth for a minimum of 20 minutes in order to affect a color change, a far cry from the recommended 2 minutes to brush your teeth. On the abrasive side of the market, according to the ADA, these whitening toothpastes only remove surface stains with physical abrasives. These toothpastes are chemically the same as most regular toothpaste, but “rub harder” on teeth, which can be damaging and will have little to no effect.
What about natural whitening remedies?
You may be wondering about natural remedies you’ve seen bloggers rave about on Pinterest, like using hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice. Not only do these remedies not work, but they can be damaging to your dental health. Hydrogen peroxide triggers free radical reactions in the tissue it touches, the same kind of reactions that age living tissue, and it also disrupts the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your mouth. The acidity in lemons and strawberries eat away at the enamel and can cause permanent damage to your smile.
Should I have my teeth professionally whitened?
This may sound like a great alternative, but the cost is exorbitant for mediocre results. Professional whitening uses 25 to 40 percent hydrogen peroxide with some sort of light or laser, which companies say speed up or activate the whitening process. But most studies report that there is no long-term benefit with these light-activated systems. In a report by the American Dental Association, officials say “professionally applied bleaching products are no longer eligible for the ADA Seal of Acceptance.” The ADA highly suggests that you speak to your dentist about options for whitening to prevent extensive damage.
So what’s the safest and best way to whiten my teeth?
The safest, gentlest, and longest lasting way to whiten your smile is using custom trays with a whitening gel as directed by your dentist. At your first visit, they will take molds of your teeth to help you get the perfect fit. The bleaching chemicals in the gel often cause temporary tooth sensitivity, but the custom trays will help ensure that they chemicals stay on your teeth and not on your gums. Your dentist will probably recommend using the trays twice a day for a short period of time for the course of a couple of weeks. Extensively bleaching your teeth can cause damage to your enamel, but the controlled pace should not affect your enamel.
How long will my teeth stay white?
There is no simple answer to this question because it depends heavily on your lifestyle, genetics, and how well you take care of your mouth. One of the best ways to maintain a whiter smile is to simply take consistent preventative care of your teeth. By brushing gently, twice a day, covering all surfaces of your teeth over a full 2 minutes you should be able to keep the surface stains away.
If you’re ready to take the next step towards a whiter, more beautiful smile, or even just have more questions, visit Apple Valley Dental Group’s website or give us a call to set up an appointment!