The Color Matters
Dentin, one of the inner materials of teeth, is naturally yellow, and as the enamel on the surface of teeth wears away, it’s normal for teeth to start showing this hue.
On the other hand, teeth may also become gray or brown because of the materials used in previous dental procedures, the consumption of staining items like tea or tobacco, or even experiencing disease within the mouth.
Fortunately, most patients will respond well to tooth whitening. Those with yellow teeth are more likely to see benefits, while those with gray or brown teeth may not see as much improvement from standard whitening procedures.
Types of Tooth Whitening
There are many different techniques and products that can be used to improve the whitening of your teeth.
Dentists offer the most effective methods, such as:
- Teeth-whitening trays
- Laser whitening
Over-the-counter treatments that are less effective include:
- Paint-on gels
Unless instructed otherwise by your dentist, you should only use one whitening technique at any given time. Using multiple techniques to hasten the whitening process may significantly increase the risk of damage to your teeth.
The Benefits of Tooth Whitening
It’s hard to overstate the importance of a good smile. In fact, quite a lot of research has gone into this, and you’re certainly not alone if you believe that having a good smile is one of the keys to success in life.
The main goal of tooth whitening is to help you look younger and vibrant. It’s essentially a cosmetic treatment, but like most treatments of this type, it can and will have an effect on the way you are perceived in social situations, and improve your self-confidence. This is the primary reason most people are interested in the process, and the benefits can last a long time.
Individuals who refrain from consuming staining materials (tobacco, tea, wine, etc.) will have their teeth remain whiter for a longer period of time.
The Risks of Tooth Whitening
As with any cosmetic procedure, there are some risks you should be aware of. These are the most prominent:
Tooth Sensitivity: Some of the chemicals used by whiteners may cause your teeth to become more sensitive to heat, cold, or pressure. If this occurs, your dentist may advise you to use a special kind of toothpaste and/or discontinue the whitening treatments. Most sensitivity, however, is short-lived and easily treated. This is typically not a serious health or quality-of-life risk.
Worn Enamel: In some situations, if you have weak enamel that has been worn down (either by age or damage), tooth whitening might weaken the enamel further.
Whitening Failure: As stated above, while most patients have good results, there are some patients who will see little or no difference. Also, there is a natural limit to how much a tooth can be lightened. However, if you’ve had your teeth whitened in the past and have lost some of the luster, the same procedure can be repeated to bring back your original whiter glow.
Can The Risks Be Avoided?
In some cases, it is possible to avoid most or all of the risks associated with teeth whitening. This usually involves having the procedure performed by your dentist (as opposed to using an at-home whitening kit), where your mouth can be fully protected throughout the process.
Is Tooth Whitening Necessary to Have Better-Looking Teeth?
No, not exactly. In many cases, the surface cleaning performed by your dentist can remove the majority of stains and visibly improve the appearance of your teeth. This won’t counteract the natural yellowing of teeth to any significant degree, which requires whitening, but it will help your teeth look visibly better.
You may also benefit more from alternative treatments designed to help your teeth look better, such as surface veneers made from porcelain that can be permanently white, and improve the shape of your teeth.
Talking To Your Dentist
You should talk to your dentist to determine the best tooth whitening procedure for you. A quick office appointment will allow your dentist to examine the current state of your teeth and tell you whether or not whitening would be an appropriate treatment, or if another procedure would provide the results you’re looking for.
Given the importance of smiles in our daily lives, it’s best to assure that any whitening treatment is performed correctly.