Tips to get whiter teeth
As a hygienist, most of my patients are constantly asking for tips to get whiter teeth.
Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer. It depends on the type of stain or discolouration and how much time and effort you want to put into reducing it.
Causes of discolouration
- Poor oral hygiene
- Strongly coloured drinks, including tea, coffee, soft drinks, dark juices and wine
- Strongly coloured food and food additives, including food colouring, Popsicle, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce and blueberries,
- Chemical mouth rinses containing chlorhexidine
- Old amalgam fillings
- Prolonged use of some medications, including antibiotics, blood pressure medication, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and antihistamines
- Tooth injury or trauma
- Illness and disease
- Birth defects and genetic blemishes
Even our teeth age as we use them continuously over the decades to chew and grind our food. On top of that the multitude of food colouring and dyes found in food and drinks slowly absorb into teeth and so, our lifestyle or personal factors add up on our teeth, resulting in their changing appearance.
At home whitening
With the huge range of tooth whitening toothpastes and products currently on the market, it can be difficult to know what actually works. Baking soda have been used for centuries to whiten and brighten teeth and can still be found in toothpastes today, while other whitening toothpastes contain a variety of different chemicals. Common for both is that the results may not be immediately visible, but they are safe and can be used for long periods of time.
Whitening toothpastes with stronger bleaching chemicals can work well to remove mild surface staining and you may see results after 6 or more weeks. These toothpastes do not give a long-term solution but are ideal for a few months of a fresher, whiter and brighter appearance that will be satisfying in the short term.
Another popular product is whitening strips, which are coated with a gel containing hydrogen peroxide. However, if your teeth are not straight or well aligned the strip will not provide an even layer of gel to the tooth surface and may result in uneven whitening. The strips require a twice a day treatment of 30 minutes for two or more weeks for visible results.
Some discoloration sits deeper and may benefit from a professional whitening procedure. There are multiple whitening options and results will vary considerably depending on your natural tooth colour and level of staining.
Like many tooth whitening systems, the gel used in professional whitening contains high concentrations of peroxides. The gel is placed over the teeth and activated by an ultraviolet light which enhances the chemicals in the gel and forces it deeper into the enamel. This procedure can be more effective in the removal of stains and will take a couple of hours to reach between 5 and 7 shades lighter.
This process uses much higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. The difference is that a special laser light is used for this. The laser heat allows for a better and faster process and gives dramatic longer lasting results. This is still not a permanent fix, but can be an option for discoloration due to medication or genetic blemishes. Laser whitening is not used very often as it can only be done by a specially qualified dentist and is quite expensive.
Our Health Hub offers take-home bleaching kits, with custom made trays filled with lower concentrations of peroxides that you place over the teeth for periods of time to reach the desired effect.
Take-home kits are very popular and easy to use for fresher and brighter teeth with minimal side effects. It takes 10 to 14 days for a similar result as the professional methods, but it’s gentler on the teeth and less likely to cause tooth sensitivity. When you purchase these kits, your dentist will provide detailed instructions on how to use them safely and effectively.
Before starting any whitening system please consult your dentist, as they can advise on the right product, prepare your mouth for the process, make any adjustments to trays or provide alternative options. Please note that overuse of bleaching systems can harm the enamel of the tooth.
There are many cosmetic options available to create your perfect smile, including veneers, crowns and implants in natural looking tooth shades.
You only have one set of permanent teeth to last you a life time, so it is paramount to take care of what you’ve got. By understanding the pros and cons of what teeth whitening options on the market can help you avoid costly or painful mistakes.
Compiled by: Vivienne Bidaud