Since 1996, the number of professional teeth whitening procedures performed by dentists across the United States has increased an amazing 300%, says the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Given the ubiquity of the procedure and the wealth of information out there about it, you probably think you know everything there is to know about teeth whitening. Can you answer this frequently asked question? Is teeth whitening permanent?
Teeth Whitening is an Age-Old Practice
In a document dated back to the 4th century CE, some enterprising proto-cosmetic dentist wrote down a recipe for a teeth whitening powder containing rock salt, pepper, dried flowers, and mint. Roman records show a wide array of teeth whitening ingredients, including ground pumice stone, goat’s milk, and urine. Even well into the 18th and 19th centuries, people turned to all manner of methods to brighten their teeth, from multi-ingredient powders to folk remedies like rubbing mashed strawberries on the teeth. In the 20th century, dental researchers found that chemical compounds like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide could produce satisfying and predictable results. Thus, modern teeth whitening systems were born.
You Really Can Turn Back the Clock with Whiter Teeth
You’ve probably heard that a whiter smile can make you look younger, but did you ever wonder how that works? Bright teeth can’t erase age spots or smooth out wrinkles but they can turn back the clock on people’s perception of you. According to a survey conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, people with dull, discolored, or stained teeth were perceived as older while people sporting whiter teeth looked younger. Researchers posit this perception is due to the fact that tooth enamel is whiter when we’re young. As stains accumulate over the years, our smiles begin to look dull. Removing those stains using a professional teeth whitening treatment from your Lake Forest dentist really can make you look younger!
Teeth Whitening is not Permanent
The bad news: even after you use a professional whitening kit, your teeth continue to accumulate stains. The good news: you have the power to dramatically slow that staining process down! A few tips to help extend the life of your teeth whitening include:
- Avoid darkly colored, staining foods as much as possible. But let’s be realistic, some of your favorite foods and drinks might include coffee, red wine, tomato sauce, or sweet cherries. So if you decide to enjoy a high-staining treat, be sure to brush or rinse your mouth after eating.
- Kick the habit. Tobacco products, whether smoked or chewed, stain your teeth. Reduce or eliminate your use of these products to stay healthy and enjoy your bright smile longer.
- Touch-up your smile once every few month. You can purchase additional tubes of teeth whitening gel from the dentist who provided your original kit. Wear your trays for a few days and you’ll enjoy a refreshed and vibrant smile.
At-Home Whitening is Preferable to In-Office Whitening
In-office teeth whitening treatments have been popular since the mid-1990s. Also referred to as “power” whitening, this method promises patients dramatically whiter teeth in a little over an hour. In-office systems use highly concentrated versions of traditional peroxide whitening agents. Some of these systems are light-activated while others rely on chemical activation. Unfortunately, in-office whitening has a number of drawbacks, including moderate-to-intense tooth sensitivity immediately after treatment, possible gum irritation, and dehydrated enamel.
Professionally administered at-home teeth whitening kits, on the other hand, can offer people similar results, albeit over a longer period of time, without the same side effects as in-office procedures. Because you receive custom-fitted trays when you whiten professionally, your gums and soft tissue stay safe because the gel is contained. Furthermore, the ingredients used in at-home whitening formulations, while stronger than over-the-counter whitening products, are at a safe concentration. Finally, most at-home whitening kits contain ingredients like sodium fluoride to help strengthen your enamel and reduce any sensitivity.
Teeth Whitening is not permanent but we can help
To schedule a consultation and learn if cosmetic dentistry is right for you, contact us at (847) 234-0517. A cosmetic dentist, Dr. James Fondriest proudly offers general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry services to patients from Lake Forest and the North Shore suburbs of Chicago.