Why Whiten Your Teeth?
According to a national survey from the American Dental Association (ADA) and Crest® and Oral B®, the smile outranked eyes, hair and the body as the most attractive physical feature. But many people keep their smiles to themselves, embarrassed by yellowed or stained teeth.
Many factors can cause your teeth to become discolored:
•Antibiotics – The use of antibiotics during childhood, or exposure to high levels of fluoride or tetracycline can cause dull or discolored teeth.
•Certain foods – Oranges, carrots and other foods can yellow teeth, as can coffee, tea, and foods and drinks with tannins (like red wine).
•Tobacco – Both smoking and chewing can lead to an unsightly smile.
•Genetics – Once again, heredity is a significant factor.
•Age – Teeth usually darken as you get older.
At Home or in the Dental Office – What’s the Difference?
Once you’ve decided to brighten your smile, you can either use over-the-counter remedies or choose to let a dentist whiten your teeth. Aside from the standard brushing twice a day and flossing daily, at-home treatments include:
•Rinses – These easy-to-use, mouthwash-type rinses whiten smiles gradually, since they’re only in contact with teeth for a short time.
•Toothpastes – Since these toothpastes remove surface stains with enzymes or mild abrasives, they can make teeth sensitive.
•Gel strips – For best effect, these peroxide-based strips need to be applied once a day, usually for 30 minutes to two hours, and work best when used for 10 to 20 days.
•Whitening gels – Though these whiteners can be applied with a toothbrush or cotton swab, they’re most commonly used with plastic mouth trays. A gel-filled mouth tray can whiten teeth faster than the other methods, but is more likely to irritate gums, since the trays are not custom-made.
Dentists also use mouth trays, but they are custom fabricated to fit to your mouth. As dentists can protect your gums during the procedure, they can use stronger whitening agents than at-home options and can lighten your teeth more quickly.
Which to choose? If your teeth and gums are in good condition, cost is an issue, and time is not of the essence, a do-it-yourself remedy may work just fine, though it will probably not whiten your teeth as much as a dentist could. For teeth that may be sensitive or especially stained, an in-office whitening procedure would probably be a better choice.