Throughout history, people have tried nearly everything to whiten their teeth. The first recorded use of toothpaste dates back 7,000 years to ancient Egypt. Toothpaste used goat’s milk, urine, pepper, and rock salt. Mouthwash was also an early oral hygiene tool used to whiten teeth.
Then as now, white teeth were tied to youth and beauty. While those early attempts at teeth whitening probably offered few benefits, modern products use bleach that reaches deep into enamel. Peroxide lifts and removes stains from your teeth.
Most dentists would agree that teeth whitening provides one of the safer methods for helping your smile and your self-esteem. Not all whitening products are the same. The ADA recommends that you always talk to your dentist about teeth whitening before you commit to any kind of treatment.
Potential Problems with Teeth Whitening
For the most part, teeth whitening will not damage your teeth. Any product that is sold in stores or used by a dentist has to be safe for consumers. Many intensive systems do cause some sensitivity. This generally decreases within a few days.
Potentially Covering Up Tooth Decay
The real dangers of OTC bleaching agents or bleaching products lay in their ability to conceal problems your dentist may need to know about.
For instance, teeth bleaching with carbamide peroxide can mask tell-tale signs of early tooth decay or problems within a tooth’s pulp or root canal. During a routine checkup, a dentist could miss these signs because they’ve been erased. The lack of early treatment could cause serious problems that result in the need for expensive, complicated procedures later.
The best way to prevent this problem is to work with a trusted dentist who you visit at least twice a year. Regular checkups and cleanings allow your dentist to keep up with oral health. Working with a dentist who has cavity detecting gear is another great option.
Sensitivity Following Teeth Whitening
Sensitivity after teeth whitening is a potential side effect. The cause of tooth sensitivity is not fully understood. One theory is that the hydrogen peroxide bleach irritates the tooth nerve. Folks that have sensitive teeth are more likely to experience this side effect following whitening treatments.
Tips for Reducing Teeth Sensitivity
To lower your risk of irritation, try these two tips. In the weeks leading up to your whitening, start using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Sensitive toothpastes work by covering up the small tubes that can reach nerves or working on the nerve itself.
If you aren’t sure about which option will work best for you, ask your dentist. If you are undergoing whitening at home, continue using your toothpaste for sensitive teeth while you undergo whitening treatments.
Another tip is to try take-home kits instead of treatment in a dental office. By using kits at home, you can spread out the whitening treatments. Undergoing teeth whitening at the dentist’s office can deliver drastic results. But the option is often more intense.
Treatments for Tooth Discoloration
Simply put, you just can’t whiten some stains. Nearly all over-the-counter and professional teeth whitening systems can effectively brighten extrinsic staining. This kind of staining results from activities like drinking coffee and red wine or smoking cigarettes. Those stains are located on the outside of the tooth.
In fact, at-home whitening trays can effectively brighten surface stained teeth by several shades. Intrinsic discolorations, on the other hand, come from within the tooth and are highly resistant to bleaching.
Instead of using multiple whitening procedures that would jeopardize the strength and health of the teeth, an ethical cosmetic dentist will suggest other solutions. These could be veneers or bonding to improve the look of intrinsically stained teeth.
Alternative Solutions for Stained Teeth
Bonding uses a white resin to cover up portions of your teeth. The material is like a putty in its first form. Once your dentist spreads the material over your tooth, it can be hardened using a special blue light. Bonding is the most affordable treatment for discolored teeth.
Veneers can offer far more than whiter teeth. Veneers are thin shells that are cemented on the front of teeth. The cosmetic treatment can deliver a “Hollywood smile” that can leave you looking several years younger.
When Is White Too White?
Another potential problem that can result from bleaching is overly white teeth. Almost everyone can benefit from a whiter smile, but, at some point, your cosmetic results can look unnatural. One way to prevent this potential problem is to trust your dentist or hygienist to give honest feedback.
Teeth whitening results typically only last for three years. If it has only been one year since your last whitening treatment, you probably do not require another whitening treatment. Unless you’ve been binging on coffee tea and red wine, whitening toothpaste and dental cleanings should maintain your results.
Enjoy a Brighter Smile Through Tooth Bleaching
Most importantly, you should have realistic expectations about the brightness of your smile. Before and after photos offer the best way for you to see just how vibrant your smile has become. And if teeth whitening just won’t work for you, talk to your cosmetic dentist about your options.
Dr. Fondrist practices ethical and artistic cosmetic dentistry and does not recommend rapid in-office whitening systems which can damage the integrity of your teeth.
If teeth whitening products haven’t delivered the tooth whitening results you want, you may need to seek a dentist’s help. To schedule a consultation, contact us.