June 2010 articles

Tooth whiten, or not tooth whiten.

As you’re walking down the drugstore toothpaste aisle, sales you’ll see plenty of do-it-yourself tooth whitening kits, but what you won’t see is a dentist. Every smile is unique. The results from “one size fits all” bleaching and whitening kits can vary from mouth to mouth. If you’re considering whitening your smile, here’s what you need to know:

Main Stains:

Before you whiten your teeth, it’s important to consider what’s affecting the color of your teeth. Bleaching is used to alter the internal color of the tooth. Tooth cleaning by your dental office can often remove the external stains.

  • AGE – As we age, the internal filling of our teeth, called dentin, naturally darkens. This causes the outside of the tooth to reflect less light and appear darker.
  • HABITS – Smoking and using tobacco products are common stain culprits. So are dark liquids such as tea, coffee, red wine and dark soda. These stains affect the enamel on the outside of the tooth and can often be improved with a dental cleaning and improved oral care.
  • MEDICATION – Some medications can discolor teeth, especially certain antibiotics. Tooth whiteners do not work as well on antibiotic-stained teeth.
  • RESTORATION – Teeth that have been filled or have had a root canal may also appear darker. Restorations, including crowns and fillings, won’t whiten along with natural teeth.

Ways to whiten:

  • TOOTHPASTES – A good toothpaste may be all you need to buff up your smile’s gleam. Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings, help counteract external staining to keep your teeth clean and bright.
  • AT HOME KITS – Typically comprised of trays and bleaching gel. These trays are not a custom fit and often require multiple or ongoing application. If you elect to whiten your teeth by yourself, your dentist can recommend the best product for you.
  • IN OFFICE BLEACHING – A dentist can make custom trays that fit perfectly in your mouth. You can use the trays at home, and he or she can usually provide stronger bleaching agents than you would get in an at-home kit. Many dentists also offer an in-office treatment that can be done in a single office visit, using the most powerful bleaching solution.

Know the Risks:

  • SENSITIVITY – Tooth whitening can cause sensitivity in the teeth and gums or even root damage in some people. If you experience sensitivity, whether the whitening was done by you or by a professional, call your dentist.
  • RESULTS – The simple truth is, not all stains can be lightened by over-the-counter or professional bleaching, and many products promise a dazzling smile but don’t live up to expectations. Consulting your dentist first can help assess your needs and find the best method for you.
  • COST – Since tooth whitening is typically considered a cosmetic procedure, most dental benefit plans do not cover bleaching and they may not reimburse enrollees for bleaching costs. Under the federal tax code, many cosmetic services can’t be purchased with pre-tax contributions to an employee’s income, or reimbursed through flexible spending accounts. Check with your dentists about the costs of teeth whitening before you elect to move forward with the procedure.

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