A straight, white smile is eye-catching! We all know that one person whose smile is literally dazzling. And, with the prevalence of social media, we are all trying to look our best. But, did you know that not all teeth whitening options are safe? And some aren’t even effective at all? Before you buy one of the products in the 15-billion dollar industry, let’s take a look at what teeth whitening products do, and how to whiten your teeth safely.
To understand how teeth whitening products work, first we need a Tooth Anatomy 101 lesson. Your teeth have three basic layers. The innermost layer is your tooth pulp. That’s where all your nerves are and also contains your tooth root. This is highly sensitive and fairly soft. Moving outward, the next layer is your dentin. Your dentin is harder than your pulp, and is full of tubules that connect to the root. This is the layer that determines the color of your teeth. The outermost layer of your teeth is your enamel. Enamel is very hard and acts as a shield against bacteria and decay. Enamel is a translucent white and tends to wear thin with age, dietary choices, and poor oral hygiene habits.
A number of things can effect the color of your teeth. First, genetics determines what color your dentin starts out. Some people are predisposed to have whiter teeth. There are even some people with a genetic disorder that causes their teeth to be dark yellow or even brown. Additionally, what we eat and how well we brush can determine what type of stains we develop. Wine, coffee, tea, tobacco, and other highly acidic foods can leave surface stains on or wear down your enamel and expose the yellow-tinted dentin beneath. Lastly, everyone’s teeth yellow as they age, just like your skin becomes more wrinkled and loose and hair changes color. This is a result of both the dentin layer yellowing and the enamel wearing thinner. There are also some less common reasons that teeth change color such as severe damage to a tooth, medicine staining, and dental restorations.
How Teeth Whitening Works
There are two types of teeth whitening– intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic is the whitening of your dentin and removal of deep, set-in stains. The best choice for intrinsic whitening is custom-fit trays and gel from your dentist. The chemical used should be a high-quality hydrogen peroxide. This will penetrate deep into the tooth and break down complex molecules. Complex molecules absorb more light rather than reflecting it, making teeth appear darker.
However, you really need to be careful with hydrogen peroxide and avoid getting it on your gums. As a harsh chemical, it can damage your gums and cause inflammation which in turn can put your teeth at risk. Also, not all products on the market offer high-quality hydrogen peroxide, which could cause you added sensitivity or damage your teeth. That’s why the best choice for intrinsic whitening is custom-fit trays with a gel from your dentist.
Extrinsic whitening is the removal of surface-level stains on your enamel. There are two effective ways to extrinsically whiten teeth: toothpaste and regular cleanings. Several toothpastes are specially formulated to polish and whiten your teeth. They are more abrasive, so it’s important to brush gently as you don’t want to remove your enamel. Because it’s so abrasive, it’s best not to use whitening toothpaste every day. Regular visits to your dental hygienist can also help remove surface stains. Your hygienist will help scrape off build-up and polish away stains to reveal a whiter smile.
No matter how you choose to whiten your teeth, just know that diet and age will cause your teeth to yellow again with time. There is no such thing as permanent teeth whitening.
West One Dental is currently offering great deals on our teeth-whitening options! If you’re ready to get a whiter, brighter smile, don’t wait any longer!