Modern teeth whitening has been around since the 1980s. It’s a reasonably safe and relatively inexpensive process that involves applying either a carbamide peroxide or a hydrogen peroxide based chemical to the surface of the teeth. These chemicals essentially work on a time vs concentration bases. The higher the concentration, the less time it takes – but the higher the probability is for problems and the whitening effects go away faster.
In the past few years, teeth whitening has become more popular than ever. As a result, it’s also become more convenient. There are dozens of brands selling home whitening kits and even kiosks in malls offering the service. With so many options, it’s hard to know where to begin.
We recently sat down with Dr. Larry Kuhl, our Senior Dental Consultant, to get a dentist’s advice on teeth whitening. It turns out there are quite a few things dentists would like to share with you about teeth whitening.
First, Dr. Kuhl would like you to know that healthy teeth can look yellow. Teeth get their color from dentin, the less hard substance right under the enamel. Dentin is yellowish in color. Enamel, the hard protective surface of your teeth, masks the dentin and makes your teeth appear whiter. People with thin enamel (naturally happens over time) appear to have yellower teeth because their dentin is more visible. “Whitening” can help remove some of that yellowish color.
Second, Dr. Kuhl advises you to visit your dentist if a tooth has suddenly turned brownish, grey or black. It may be a sign of something serious. In these cases, teeth whitening can make it worse.
Now that you know what whitening can and cannot fix, here are Dr. Kuhl’s pros and cons of teeth whitening:
Pros of teeth whitening
1. Whiter teeth
2. Quick fix
3. Low risk of causing harm to your teeth
4. Home whitening kits are relatively cheap
5. Lots of choices as to what to use, how to use the products, and color of your teeth
Cons of teeth whitening
1. Can cause tooth sensitivity (usually short term)
2. Doesn’t change the color of existing fillings or crowns
3. Doesn’t work on all teeth
4. May make certain unhealthy conditions worse
5. Only lasts a few months to a year and then needs periodic re-application
Talk to your dentist to learn more about teeth whitening. Many surface stains can actually be removed during a regular dental cleaning and don’t require chemical treatment. Your dentist will know which teeth whitening method is best for you.
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