Smile! Everything you need to know about safe teeth whitening
-Apr 16, Caroline Blight, Beauty -
There’s no doubt about it – we all want a Hollywood smile. And whilst there is certainly such a thing as TOO white, a bright smile can improve your confidence. We asked an expert dentist how to do it safely.
If you want to whiten your teeth if you’re not armed with the facts you could do more harm to your teeth than good. Inexpensive options can cause lasting damage and extreme tooth sensitivity.
And, while we believe firmly here at Lumity that everyone is perfect just as they are, if you’re going to whiten your teeth having the facts is always the safest way forward.
What causes stains on teeth?
If you want to keep your teeth as white as nature intended you need to stay away from the prime staining culprits, which are: Tea, coffee, red wine, berries, sauces, curry and coloured sweets. Smoking is also a big stainer, so that’s another good reason to stub out that ciggie.
What’s the cheapest way to get your teeth whitened?
The cheapest and easiest method of whitening your teeth is to simply brush them half an hour after meals – and avoid snacking – and visit a dental hygienist every three months.
The intensive removal of yellow plaque and some staining can make a difference if you have lighter surface staining and is safe, easy and economical, as well as being good for tooth and gum health as well.
You could also switch to a whitening toothpaste. Although those which contain abrasive particles to rub off the stains rarely work and can cause problems by eroding your tooth enamel, toothpastes which boast enzymes work by stopping stains binding to the teeth.
So if you drink a lot of coffee and red wine they could help prevent further stains. There are no risks attached to these toothpastes, so they won’t harm your teeth or gums.
What are the cosmetic benefits of teeth whitening?
Research has found that three in five people believe having bad teeth can prevent someone from finding a partner. And studies show that white teeth can make you look 20 per cent more attractive.
If you’re looking for love online, a study showed that you’re 57 per cent more likely to have a date request if you have a gleaming smile than someone with bad teeth.
And when job hunting, having a gleaming set of pearly whites leads to the perception you earn £10,000 more than a person with stained teeth. Strange, but that’s what studies show.
Your teeth can also make you appear younger too, according to experts.
“Whitening your teeth is by far the safest and most cost effective way of looking younger,” explains Dr Sandeep Senghera, dentist and co-founder of toothpick.com, an online dental booking agency.
How do you whiten very stained teeth?
If you have tried the toothpastes and they haven’t polished up your teeth as much as you hope, there are stronger forms of teeth whitening.
Professional bleaching is the most usual method of tooth whitening.
Your dental team will be able to tell you if you are suitable for the treatment, and will supervise it if you are. These involve reducing the stains on your teeth with a form of peroxide, usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
“The actual process of teeth whitening involves oxidising the stains and it won’t work on fillings or crowns,” explains Dr Sandeep. But just as our desire to whiten our teeth has increased, so has the number of places offering this service – and that’s where you need to proceed with caution.
A quick look online and it seems quick and easy to pick up a kit which will get your teeth back to their former glory for a fraction of the cost as a dentist visit.
“You would expect to pay approximately £150-£200 for a professional home whitening, which would be a special ‘tray’ you line with the chemicals and wear over your teeth for a couple of hours a day for a fixed length of time – this is generally recommended for people with bad staining as the treatment should be carried out for longer and home whitening enables multiple applications to remove the staining that causes discolouration,” says Dr Sandeep. Once completed , annual ‘top up’s’ can help maintain a natural long locating whiteness.
Do home teeth whitening kits work?
Generic home whitening kits can be picked up over-the-counter or online for as little as £15 – but Sandeep warns there is a reason for this. “Most over the counter kits are just too weak to work, they are ineffectual because the strength of the agent is too low to do anything.”
More worryingly, some are actually dangerous and can contain high levels of illegal chemicals. “Inappropriate chemicals can lead to permanent damage to the teeth, usually by killing the nerve, burns to the gums and if swallowed they can actually be potentially life threatening,” warns Sandeep. There are increasing cases of DIY kits stripping away enamel, which never grows back, leaving users stuck with dull, brown teeth.
How does laser whitening remove stains from teeth?
Laser whitening or ‘power whitening’ is a swifter process where a rubber dam is put over the teeth to protect the gums, and a bleaching product is painted onto the teeth. Then a light or laser is shone on the teeth to activate the chemical and speed it’s reaction time.
As this is done in a surgery Dr Sandeep says it’s more expensive, at £250-£400 but the equipment can increasingly be found in some hairdressers and beauty salons where it’s often cheaper.
And if you can combine bleaching your teeth with bleaching your hair at the same time, surely it’s a winner? – Absolutely not!
It’s actually illegal for anyone other than a dentist to whiten teeth. Some beauticians have been caught trying to get around this law by ‘helping’ customers with the treatment rather than fully carrying it out.
But while research shows that only hydrogen peroxide and derivatives of it, such as carbamide peroxide, whiten teeth, some beauticians are using chlorine dioxide, which is better known as swimming pool bleach.
How do I know which kind of teeth whitening to use?
For complete peace of mind, a dentist will be able to advise you on the most effective method of whitening for your staining – or even if you need it at all.
“Sometimes we mistake damaged teeth for stained teeth, but it could be just that the surface enamel is no longer smooth.” Tooth staining can also be caused by antibiotics such as tetracycline, which discolours the tooth enamel itself and can’t be corrected with whitening techniques.
Once finished the effects of whitening last up to three years – but you can have too much of a good thing. Whitening them too often will damage your precious tooth enamel so listen to your dentists if they say enough is enough.