Whiter Teeth

Posted by daniel on 07 Feb 2014
eat strawberries (they contain some natural whitening elements)

eat strawberries (they contain some natural whitening elements)

“I want whiter teeth!”  My patients tell me this at least 10 times a day!  Whitening your teeth is a simple and effective way to make your smile more aesthetic.  So how do I do it?

Whitening products may be administered by dentists or purchased over-the-counter (OTC), and can be in the form of peroxide-containing gels or toothpaste.
Carbamide peroxide, used in many bleaching products, breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and urea, with hydrogen peroxide being the active bleaching agent.  This is a safe method of whitening your teeth but it does not come with out some minor side-effects. The most commonly observed side effects with these peroxide-based bleaching agents are tooth sensitivity and occasional irritation of soft tissues in the mouth (oral mucosa), particularly the gums.  Both tooth sensitivity and tissue irritation are usually temporary and stop after the treatment.
Dentists have many types of peroxide bleaching methods.  The most common method used to bleach your teeth is the following:  your dentist will make a custom-fitting tray which you will then bring home and wear at night, filled with some peroxide whitening gel.  We generally have patents wear these trays at night due to the lower amount of saliva produced during the evening.  In addition, wearing your trays on consecutive nights will increase the amount of whitening.
Some dentists also advertise “in office” or “laser” whitening.  While these whitening treatments can work, studies have shown that the laser does not increase the effectiveness of the whitening.  The powerful peroxide agents used in these in office treatments does work but lights and lasers are not needed to make them more effective.
Whitening toothpastes contain polishing or or chemical agents that are designed to improve tooth appearance by removing surface stains. They do this through gentle polishing, chemical chelation, or some other non-bleaching actions. 
Many patients tell me about their “home remedies” for whitening their teeth.  They include baking soda, lemon juice, and peroxide rinses.  I’m sure all of these techniques may work in a limited way, but I have never seen them be effective nor do I know of their safety after long term use.  The most effective home remedy is avoiding staining foods and drinks.  Tea, coffee, red wine, and smoking are the biggest culprits for staining your teeth.  A simple technique if you must have a cup of coffee is to drink it through a straw!  That way the staining elements avoid your teeth!
The most important thing you can do before whitening your teeth is to make a an appointment to see your dentist first.  Your dentist can determine you if you have any fillings or crowns in the area which you want to whiten.  Remember, whitening only works on your natural teeth, NOT on fillings and crowns!  The dentist may then advise the patient and supervise the use of bleaching agents within the context of a comprehensive, appropriately sequenced treatment plan.

If you want to help whiten your teeth and you can’t visit your dentist, here are simple things you can do:

  • avoid staining foods and drinks
  • eat crunchy foods like apples which contains malic acid to dissolve stains (crunchy foods also help get your saliva flowing)
  • rinse your teeth after eating (this can remove the staining elements)
  • eat strawberries (they contain some natural whitening elements)
  • and of course brush and floss daily.
Using products like baking soda and lemon juice is okay but they are quite abrasive so over-use can be dangerous to your teeth!

* This post was originally published February 1, 2014 “”