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Are you thinking of brightening your smile?
Have you caught yourself examining their shade in the mirror more and more? The good news is that teeth whitening is a safe and effective method of brightening your smile.
Tooth whitening has been offered since the 1980s and it remains a very popular service for many of our patients. When treating a patient’s periodontal disease with peroxide due to its disinfecting properties, dentists began to notice that teeth in the treatment area were whitening the teeth. Many iterations later, teeth whitening has become a common offering among cosmetic and general dentists.
Factors Impacting Appearance
Before you despair about discoloured teeth, remember that there are several factors that can impact how your teeth are seen by the naked eye. If you are male, your large teeth make any discolouration more visible, and it is quite natural for our teeth to change their shade as we age.
Tooth shade is also affected by the lighting in your environment and the lipstick that frames the teeth as your lips part. Try looking at your teeth in several environments with different lighting, and with a different shade of lipstick – you may find that your teeth are better looking than you thought.
Why Do Teeth Discolour?
Although our enamel may look and feel smooth to the naked eye, the reality of enamel at the microscopic level is very porous. The channels that run from the enamel to the inside of the tooth absorb pigment left behind from highly pigmented foods. When this occurs, it can discolour the dentin which lies just behind the enamel. Since enamel is almost clear, it allows discolouration of the dentin to be put on display. This is particularly true of acidic drinks which attack the enamel with acid and pigment, as is the case with red wine, sodas and coffee. If you can’t stand the thought of going without these beverages, consider drinking them with a straw. The straw will keep the fluids away from the front teeth and therefore there is less opportunity for staining to occur.
Food choices also impact your tooth shade indirectly, since limiting sugars in the diet encourages bacterial counts to stay in an acceptable range. A diet high in sugar will encourage bacteria to proliferate in the mouth and leads to increased development of plaque. An overgrowth of plaque over time hardens into tartar – a rock-like substance around the collars of the teeth which cannot be removed by a toothbrush. When tartar isn’t kept in control with regular scaling at your dental clinic, it can play a role in your tooth discolouration concerns. Tartar is porous and easily stained by foods, drinks, and smoke. Removing the buildup of tartar could improve the appearance of your teeth in a significant way, so we encourage you to book a maintenance appointment with your dentist and have your teeth professionally cleaned. You may even book a whitening appointment following your cleaning.
It is important for patients to have realistic expectations of their tooth colour. After a whitening treatment, teeth are still at risk of staining all over again. Maintaining a white smile may require some changes to your lifestyle habits – like smoking. If you need support to quit, speak to your dentist or your doctor about what they would recommend.
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
Whitening solutions are all peroxide based and we use what we know about the porous nature of the enamel to allow the peroxide to penetrate it. As the peroxide acts on the dentin, it often dehydrates the dentin slightly, which is why some patients complain of tooth sensitivity after whitening. The dehydration shrinks the dentin only slightly, but the nerves in the teeth will continue to be uncomfortable until the dentin rehydrates.
Professional Whitening Service
With so many products on the market, it can be tempting to go down to your local drugstore for a whitening solution rather than see your dentist for it. Professional services offer more value for your money because a dental clinic has access to much stronger products than can be sold to the public – that means more whitening power in less time. Your dentist will also provide rehydration treatment to decrease potential discomfort once whitening is complete. This treatment speeds up the rehydration of the dentin to prevent any potential discomfort.
Finally, the cost of professional whitening should be compared to what money will be spent trying various over-the-counter products first. Before you buy any whitening products, inquire with your dentist about the affordability of this service and other benefits of their in-house whitening program. You may find that whitening your teeth is easier and more affordable than you expect.
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