Pearly Whites

Pearly Whites

Tooth whitening or bleaching is such a large topic to talk about because SO MANY people are concerned with how their smile looks. I think most people are concerned about having yellow teeth as if white teeth is a power symbol. The truth is, not everyone’s teeth can be the perfect white that so many people admire.

The natural white coloration of teeth is due to a few different factors. Enamel for one is the greatest contributing factor. Your enamel is the pearly white exterior that makes up the surface of your smile. The second layer under the enamel is called dentin and is also a contributor to how white your teeth appear. Enamel color is based on heredity, mainly, because how thick the enamel is, determines the possibility of having naturally white teeth. The thinner the enamel, the more yellow-grey hues your teeth will display. Dentin is also a factor because the dentin creates a base color of the teeth against the enamel and can become stained with eating and drinking.

Whitening started as early as the 1960’s with a slightly different formula than what is used today. Currently, whitening products contain a few different ingredients, the most recognizable being peroxide.  When someone’s teeth become stained, there are a few different possibilities of what is happening. There are two main types of stain; extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic, or ‘outside’ stain occurs on the surfaces of teeth and can be cleaned off with a polish during routine cleaning. These stains can occur from things like eating and drinking. Intrinsic, or ‘inside’ stain could occur from certain medications, nicotine, root exposure, and aging. These stains are possibly reduced through whitening procedures.

Unfortunately, whitening does not work for everyone, and there are numerous ways to damage your teeth if you are trying to whiten at home. In the most basic form, I like to explain that stains, just like stains on your clothes, are a discoloration sticking to the tooth surfaces. When you whiten, those stained surfaces are broken down and erased.

I like to remind my patients that anything with the exception of water and milk can stain teeth. The biggest staining factors are red wines, coffee, tea, berries, and beets. If you are looking for solutions to help keep your teeth white, while not spending hundreds on whitening procedures, the easiest solution is to drink dark or staining liquids through a straw. 

As for products available over the counter for whitening, I have a few suggestions and a few ‘No go’s’. First, Always talk to your dental provider if you are looking for a more permanent solution to your yellowing teeth, and about what they are seeing for why your teeth may be discolored. I personally recommend patients try reducing their intake of staining products. Of course, I don’t want you to stop eating your favorite foods, but to reduce how much stain you are acquiring, make simple changes such as drinking staining beverages with a straw, rinsing your mouth with water after eating staining foods, and performing oral hygiene at least twice a day. Over the counter whitening strips available at most local drug stores are also a fairly inexpensive way to reduce stain. These products normally contain a similar solution to prescribed products with a lower concentration. I recommend taking a before and after picture to really see your improvement and keep in mind that if you see good results with over the counter products, you will see even better results with professional products. I also recommend looking into getting a whitening tray, provided by your dentist to continue your whitening routine.

For the products I DO NOT RECOMMEND; I have never and will never recommend any products that are abrasive such as charcoals or baking sodas. These types of products are similar to cleaning your teeth with sandpaper and break down the enamel. I am sure many people have seen on social media, brushing with activated charcoal is all the rage right now, and yes, you do see results; instantly! But with continued use, the enamel will be so broken down that they will be a permanent greyish brown. This color cannot be corrected with whitening! Not only is it not cute, but your teeth will become increasingly sensitive! The only way to fix this irreversible damage is to pay for crowns or veneers. Aint nobody got time for that! These products make teeth brittle, and more likely to fracture. I also do not recommend using acids such as lemon or any other fruit juices. These acids also erode the teeth and can cause some serious damage!

As a rule of thumb, if you have a question about a dental procedure just ask! I am more than willing to answer questions and help out when I can. 

If you have any questions, or concerns don’t be afraid to post a comment or send an email, I am always happy to answer your burning dental questions. Have a great day, and don’t forget to smile today! 



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