Your smile is one of the first things a person will notice about you. If your smile is yellowed and stained, you probably don't feel very confident about the way that it looks. This might cause you to avoid smiling altogether or avoid certain situations where you're going to be seeing or meeting people for the first time. Teeth whitening can do an amazing job of ridding your teeth of years worth of staining. However, the process of whitening your teeth using different products and methods can be confusing, making it difficult to know what the best teeth whitening method is for your needs.
Why are my teeth yellow and why do they change color?
Your teeth can become yellow for a variety of different reasons. If you're a smoker, drink coffee, consume lots of soda and other dark beverages, there is a good chance that you're going to have additional staining on your teeth. If you do not practice good oral hygiene methods each day like brushing and flossing, the stains left on your teeth from foods and drinks just penetrates deeper and is more difficult to remove.
Also, even if your diet is fantastic and you avoid dark foods and beverages to prevent staining, teeth will naturally yellow as a person ages. In fact, the true color of teeth is not white, but a very pale yellow. Some dentists even argue that whitened teeth that are so perfectly stain-free are not normal or natural and that slightly yellowed teeth are more normal to have.
How does teeth whitening work?
Almost all tooth whitening products on the market use one of two different ingredients: hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Both ingredients work similarly when applied to the teeth. The peroxide will gently penetrate the surface of the tooth, known as the enamel, to reach stains deep down. These stained and discolored molecules are then broken down within the enamel by the oxygen bubbles in the peroxide. It's a relatively effective method that has been used for many years with fantastic success.
Teeth whitening products
There are hundreds of different teeth whitening products on the market, from custom-made trays that your dentist can create for you to a DIY teeth whitening kit or teeth whitening gel that is applied to the teeth.
The choice of product is entirely up to you and the results you'd like to see. Some people like to ask their dentist about which products work best for their needs while other people rely solely on reviews and product recommendations by others. When it comes to teeth whitening, it isn't so much about how much a specific product costs but how well it works. Just because a gel or kit is expensive doesn't mean that you'll get better results than a cheaper or even store brand product.
Also, keep in mind that there is a difference between teeth whitening treatments and toothpastes. Whitening toothpastes are so gentle at whitening the teeth that people often don't notice a difference. Most dentists will recommend that you first start with a whitening treatment and then use a whitening toothpaste to maintain results rather than relying fully on the toothpaste.
Some of the products available include:
- Whitening strips
- Whitening trays
- Whitening gel that is applied with a brush to the teeth
- Blue LED whitening appliances
- Whitening powders
- Whitening toothpaste (often used to maintain results from another treatment)
- In-office whitening treatment
Professional Teeth Whitening vs DIY
You can make an appointment with your local dentist and go in for a whitening treatment that could cost anywhere from $400 to $700 or you can use a kit, gel or product in the comfort of your own home. Some people like going to their dentist for teeth whitening because it's a quick and relatively effective treatment. Most in-office treatments take about an hour and can result in your teeth being three to five shades lighter than they were when you went in. Home treatments are more patience-driven, requiring you to use the product for up to an hour a day for a week or two in order to see results.
10 Facts Everyone Should Consider
Tooth whitening can be confusing for someone who has never done it before or who has never gone to their dentist to have it done in-office. Here are 10 facts you should know before you think about whitening your teeth.
- 1. It's safe - Tooth whitening products are made using either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which are both incredibly common ingredients in most dental products. Because of their long history of being used in the dental field, they're incredibly safe and will not damage or destroy your teeth. However, it is important to note that you should not whiten your teeth excessively, as this can literally strip the teeth of their opaque nature and cause a more translucent look to your smile.
- 2. It only whitens a few shades - If you have very yellowed teeth from smoking, drinking and other activities and expect the whitening treatment to get your smile to near perfect whiteness, you're only gearing yourself up for disappointment. Tooth whitening products often whiten teeth just two to five shades per treatment. Using a tooth shade chart can help you to determine where you'd like to be after treatment is finished.
- 3. Not all products work the same - Every whitening product on the market works differently in some way. Some products rely on thin strips that are placed on the teeth and worn for 30 to 60 minutes per day. Other products use hard plastic trays that are filled with a gel to whiten the teeth. Others use a blue LED light to help the gels penetrate deeper. When choosing a product, it's important to consider what you are able to afford and the results you're looking to achieve.
- 4. Results aren't permanent - Just because you're whitening your teeth now does not mean that your teeth are going to stay white for the rest of your life. Results only last as long as you maintain them and avoid dark foods and drinks. Once you go back to smoking or drinking coffee, the stains will again build upon and within the enamel, requiring future whitening treatments.
- 5. There are side effects - The most common side effect of whitening your teeth is having gum and tooth sensitivity. However, this sensitivity typically only lasts during the treatment and for about a week afterward, so it is not permanent. Another common side effect of whitening the teeth is having small white blotches on the surface of the teeth. This is caused by the peroxide working underneath the enamel and eradicating stains, some often being removed quicker than others. This is also a temporary side effect that you should not worry about.
- 6. Crowns and veneers can't be whitened - If you have crowns or veneers, they cannot be whitened using whitening products. These appliances were created in a dental lab for you and the porcelain surface of the crown or veneer was determined during its creation. Therefore, it cannot be changed with whitening products. If you have veneers in the front of your mouth or a crown that you'd like to whiten, your best bet is to talk to a dentist about having the appliance removed and remade for you in a lighter shade.
- 7. It's best to whiten dirty teeth - Believe it or not, it is best to use your whitening treatments on teeth that have not been brushed. When you brush your teeth, you take away any plaque on the surface of your tooth, which many products use as a way to adhere better to the teeth. When your teeth are perfectly clean, you'll find that the products do not stick or work the way that they should.
- 8. The best time to whiten is before bed - At night, you won't be eating or drinking the same way you would during the day. This allows any leftover peroxide from the whitening treatment to penetrate the teeth even further without being disturbed. In the morning, you can brush your teeth as you would normally.
- 9. Dental insurance does not cover the costs of whitening - If you choose to go for a professional whitening treatment, keep in mind that whatever dental insurance you have will not cover the costs of the procedure. This is considered a cosmetic procedure and is not deemed necessary by insurance companies. You will be fully responsible for paying the full price of the treatment.
- 10. Expecting perfection just leads to disappointment - Your teeth will probably never be 100 percent white even if you're using the absolute best and most expensive treatment out there. If you expect your teeth to go from being yellowed and even brown in nature to perfectly pearly white, you're leading yourself up to some disappointment. However, if you are diligent with treatments and whiten your teeth at least once or twice a year, you'll find that you can keep stains at bay and get your teeth to where they're beautifully white.
Whitening your teeth is a great way to give your confidence a boost and feel good about the way that you look. Whitening treatments are relatively easy to integrate into your life, as they can be worn at night while you're relaxing in bed or on the couch watching television. No matter which product you choose, the best way to get optimal results is to stick with the treatment and use all of the product that was given to you. Before you know it, you'll have a gorgeous smile that stands out from the crowd.