As pandemic restrictions ease and masks come off, there has been a rise in interest in cosmetic products and procedures — a trend the Wall Street Journal called The Great American Cleanup. If you’re ready to get back out in the world, teeth whitening may be on your agenda. One company that provides clear aligners to straighten teeth and teeth whitening kits says there has been a 47 percent increase in teeth whitening this year.
What Causes Darker Teeth?
As we age, our enamel thins, and our teeth get darker. Eating and drinking create a layer of film on the teeth that causes a yellowish tint, and smoking is particularly bad for the color of your teeth. The tar and nicotine in tobacco are absorbed into the pores of your teeth, causing yellow or brown discoloration. Some individuals may have stained teeth due to other factors; for example, you may have been exposed to tetracycline or excessive fluoride (fluorosis) as a child during the time of tooth mineralization.
Teeth whitening can improve the color of your teeth if you are already taking good care of them through regular brushing, flossing and dental appointments. If your teeth and gums aren’t healthy, then teeth whitening will not last.
There are three ways to whiten your teeth: over-the-counter products, home bleaching and whitening in the dentist office. At Enlighten Dental Care, we feel that patients get the best results for their money from dentist-supervised tray-based systems.
Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains, but they do not contain bleach and can only lighten by about one shade. Avoid charcoal toothpaste even though it may claim to whiten teeth — activated charcoal can wear down tooth enamel and even darken teeth.
Colgate’s Total Whitening Toothpaste Gel or Crest’s 3D White Whitening Therapy Enamel Care Toothpaste are affordable options to remove surface stains. Pair these toothpastes with an electric toothbrush such as the Phillips Sonicare DiamondClean, a product that has been clinically proven to remove up to four times more plaque than a manual toothbrush, improve gum health and whiten teeth.
Whitening rinses, such as Listerine Whitening, help freshen breath and reduce dental plaque, as well as contain hydrogen peroxide to help whiten teeth. These need to be swished around in the mouth every day, and it may take up to 12 weeks to see results.
You can go a step farther with whitening gels — clear, peroxide-based gels that you apply with a small brush directly to the surface of your teeth, usually twice a day for about two weeks. Or you can use whitening strips, such as Crest Whitestrips, which are coated with whitening gel and applied twice a day for 30 minutes for about two weeks. Both types of products create whiter teeth for about four months.
Home Bleaching with Tray-Based Systems
Tray-based tooth whitening systems can be purchased over-the-counter or through your dentist’s office.
At Enlighten Dental Care, we use a disposable tray system. The disposable trays are pre-filled with a gel whitening solution containing a peroxide-bleaching agent. The trays must be worn for half an hour to an hour every day for seven to 10 days on average — possibly longer — depending on how much discoloration there is.
The benefits of tray-based bleaching supervised by a dentist are as follows:
- The dentist can perform a complete oral exam and take a medical history to determine if bleaching is the correct course of treatment based on the type and extent of stains
- The concentrations of peroxide are higher; therefore, the treatment is faster
- Side effects, such as tooth sensitivity, can be monitored, and minimized with other aids beforehand.
If you have questions about teeth whitening, please contact us at (336) 765-0904.