Any dentist could tell you: Teeth whitening goes beyond aesthetics when self-esteem is at stake.
Did you know that your teeth are not naturally white? Tooth colour varies from one person to another, ranging from yellowish to grayish tints that can become more pronounced with age. Beyond genes, your lifestyle habits also come into play. If you smoke or eat foods that stain (coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, etc.), your teeth will reflect this over time.
So, at first glance, if your teeth are more or less white, that’s no problem. But for many people, a certain level of self-confidence depends on the whiteness of their smile and especially how it’s perceived, whether by their colleagues and clients at work or by their friends at school. And this is where teeth whitening becomes a powerful ally.
Whitening solutions: drugstore or dentist?
There are many products that promise to whiten teeth, from toothpastes to chewing gums, mouthwashes and whitening strips in pharmacies. But do they all offer the same results as in-clinic teeth whitening and, above all, are they safe? Here’s the lowdown.
As long as they are used according to the time and frequency guidelines on the package, don’t worry, all drugstore whitening products are safe. However, they work because of the abrasives added by the manufacturer (e.g. calcium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate) which are at low concentrations, so their effectiveness is limited to surface stains. Do you have visible crowns or veneers? Since the peroxide — in reflective strips, for example — cannot change their colour, personalized whitening at the dentist becomes a necessity.
Finally, needless to say, whitening products should never be used to replace a professional cleaning, which is also the first step before any whitening. The Canadian Dental Association recommends that you consult your dentist before any teeth whitening treatment, because it’s imperative to determine if the discolouration of your teeth could have a medical cause.
The ABCs of whitening
The first rule of successful whitening is similar to one advocated by artists: the whites of your eyes should match the whites of your teeth. If there is a big contrast between the two, your teeth probably look duller than they actually are. The good news is that once you reduce that contrast, the whitening will seem even brighter.
If time is of the essence, you should also know that in-office whitening is quicker and allows you to achieve several shades of whitening in just one visit. Ideally, you will want to combine clinical treatments with at-home follow-ups, in the form of “trays” customized to the shape of your teeth, in which you simply add the peroxide gel provided by your dentist in concentrations tailored to your dental condition. This type of whitening should keep its long-lasting shine for 2 to 4 years, with the added benefit of avoiding too-frequent whitening that can damage your enamel.
Dr. François Lechner
Founder, Prisma Dentistes