Few aspects of a person’s appearance make as noticeable a difference as a mouth full of pearly white teeth. Even though teeth develop looking bright, a lifetime of eating and drinking tooth staining substances can dull even the brightest of smiles. Of course even if you avoid consuming items like coffee, dark chocolate, berries, and red wine, a darkening of tooth enamel can also occur as part of growing older. To keep your smile looking brilliant, here are a few ways you can whiten your teeth.
In recent years, the market for do-it-yourself home whitening products has exploded. The brilliant white smiles that were once reserved for starlets and dental hygienists are now available to everyone willing to invest a little time and money. A variety of home whitening products, including toothpastes, kits, and strips, provide a number of options on how you can improve your smile.
- Whitening Kits. The majority of over-the-counter whitening kits contain carbamide peroxide, a bleaching agent that can successfully remove both deep and superficial stains from tooth enamel. If your teeth have begun to suffer from a two pot a day coffee habit, a whitening kit can go a long way to reversing some of the damage done by those steaming cups of dark coffee. Some kits provide you a small brush to use to apply peroxide-bleach directly to the surface of your teeth. Other kits include molded trays you fill with the peroxide that fit over your teeth, instead. Most trays need to be worn between 30 to 45 minutes a day for at least a week to have an effect.
- Whitening Strips. Convenient, easy to use, and great for removing minor or superficial stains, whitening strips are coated with a peroxide-bleaching agent and are applied directly to the teeth. Unlike trays, whitening strips only need to be worn a few minutes each day, for about a week. Results from strips generally appear within the first few days, and last for about a year. However, if your teeth need a deeper cleaning, strips don’t make as dramatic an impact to the brightness of your smile as a whitening kit.
- Whitening Toothpaste. More of a preventative tool against darkened teeth than a solution, whitening toothpastes generally contain a mild abrasive and polishing agent that helps to prevent stains from forming. Whitening toothpaste should be used to keep teeth bright after you have used strips or a kit to improve the color of your smile more than as a tooth whitening solution.
- Home Remedies. Some people still prefer to use age-old home remedies, such as brushing once a week with baking soda. While this technique can help prevent stains from developing, it cannot improve the color of your teeth.
While more expensive than over-the-counter alternatives, having your teeth whitened professionally has a number of advantages. Laser teeth whitening doesn’t require the use of any bleaching agents, and can make a dramatic difference in appearance after just one session. Unlike bleaching, which lasts a years, studies have shown that laser whitening can last for five to six years before stains return. Laser whitening also presents fewer potential side effects, as the use of bleaching agents can increase tooth sensitivity in those who already suffer from the condition or lead to sensitive teeth for those who abuse these types of products.
Some dental offices do offer patients at home whitening kits to help brighten teeth. Unlike over-the-counter brands, professional whitening kits are often custom fitted to the patient’s teeth, and contain more effective bleaching agents. Your dentist can also track the progress of your whitening, and either increase or decrease the strength of the bleaching agents used.
Change of Diet
What you eat and drink can make a major impact on the color of your teeth. Diets high in dark pasta sauce, berries, wine, coffee, citrus fruits, and other highly acidic foods can make the natural darkening of teeth even worse. To prevent staining, consider eating fewer enamel staining foods or make sure to thoroughly brush following each meal.
Smoking can also cause teeth to darken, in addition to a number of other serious oral health problems. To increase whitening success, you should quit smoking prior to beginning any whitening program.
A freelance writer, Timothy Lemke blogs about a brighter smile for Dr. Timothy Harbolt, a dentist in Salem, Oregon at Smiles Dental.