A bright smile is often equated with health and attractiveness, making teeth whitening one of the most requested cosmetic treatments. This popularity can also be attributed to rising awareness about oral hygiene, the easy availability of teeth whitening products and services, and the stigma associated with tooth discoloration.
However, amid this growing trend, it’s important to separate fact from fiction and understand the best practices for maintaining your pearly whites post-treatment.
Myths about Teeth Whitening
Misconceptions can lead to inappropriate expectations and practices, so let’s debunk the most common myths to better understand what teeth whitening involves.
Myth 1: Whitening Damages Enamel
Products approved by dental associations, such as those with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval, are considered safe and effective when used as directed. Professional whitening products also contain remineralizing and desensitizing ingredients like fluoride to help protect enamel.
Myth 2: Over-the-Counter Products Work the Same as Professional Treatments
OTC whitening products like strips and toothpaste provide less noticeable results than professional treatments. However, if you want professional results from the comfort of your own home, you can purchase an at-home whitening kit.
At-home whitening kits provided by dentists include custom-fitted trays, ensuring an even and effective application of the whitening gel. This reduces the risk of irritation to gums and soft tissues, a common issue with one-size-fits-all OTC products.
Additionally, these dentist-supervised kits often provide professional guidance on usage and duration, offering a more controlled and safe whitening experience than OTC alternatives.
Myth 3: Whitening Works for All Types of Discoloration
Whitening treatments are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Treatments typically work best on extrinsic stains (like those from coffee or smoking) and are less effective on intrinsic stains (such as those due to medication or injury).
Methods of Teeth Whitening
Understanding the various methods for achieving a brighter smile can help you choose the right treatment for your smile goals. Some options include:
Professional In-Office Whitening
In-office professional teeth whitening begins with your dentist placing a protective rubber barrier shield or gel on your gums, safeguarding them from the whitening agent.
Then, they apply a high-concentration bleaching gel directly to your teeth, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. This gel breaks down stains by releasing oxygen molecules that penetrate the enamel and dentin, bleaching the discolored areas.
The process is accelerated with a special light or laser, enhancing the whitening effect. After 15 minutes, the gel is rinsed off, and your dentist compares your teeth to a shade chart. Depending on the type of bleaching agent, the process can be repeated up to three times to achieve your desired brightness level.
At-Home Whitening Kits from Dentists
At-home teeth whitening kits provided by dentists offer a convenient and effective way to brighten your smile outside the dental office. These custom-made systems include trays tailored to fit your teeth, ensuring even coverage and reduced gum irritation.
Your dentist supplies a professional-grade whitening gel, which is placed into the indentations in the trays. You then wear these trays for a set amount of time daily, often for around two weeks.
The gel’s active ingredients break down stains on the tooth surface, gradually lightening the teeth. This method provides gradual, controlled whitening with professional oversight, ensuring safety and effectiveness.
Over-the-Counter Whitening Products
OTC teeth whitening products, such as strips, toothpaste, and rinses, are accessible and user-friendly, making them a good option for touch-ups between professional treatments.
While they are a convenient and cost-effective option, it’s important to have realistic expectations regarding results, as they typically contain lower concentrations of bleaching agents than professional treatments.
Prolonged or inappropriate use can also lead to tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. For optimal results and safety, consult a dental professional even when using these over-the-counter whitening methods.
Maintenance After Whitening
Achieving that bright smile is just the beginning; proper aftercare is essential for ensuring long-lasting effects and preserving the health of your teeth.
Avoid Stain-Causing Foods and Beverages
Post-whitening, limit your intake of stain-causing foods and beverages like coffee, tea, and red wine. Using a straw when drinking staining liquids can also help reduce contact with your teeth.
Also, make sure you drink water after consuming pigmented foods and beverages. Water helps in rinsing away residue that may cause stains and maintains oral hygiene by neutralizing acids and reducing plaque formation.
Regular Dental Hygiene
Regular oral hygiene practices help preserve your bright smile. Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to remove food particles and bacteria that may cause discoloration.
Follow-up Dental Visits
You still need to attend twice-yearly dental visits for an exam and cleaning. This helps your dentist identify any potential issues that may cause staining and allows them to remove any tartar that may have built up along the gum line, which can give your teeth a yellow appearance.
Schedule Your Teeth Whitening Consultation Today
Teeth whitening can boost your confidence and smile. However, it’s important to approach this cosmetic procedure with the right knowledge and maintenance practices. Always consult with a dental professional to ensure the safety and effectiveness of your teeth whitening journey.