Having stained and discoloured teeth can destroy your self-esteem. The situation might seem dire and hopeless, but it is important to know that you are not alone. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the American Association of Orthodontists, nearly 90% of patients went to their orthodontists to have their teeth whitened.
Lucky for you, there are a plethora of safe and effective ways of bleaching your teeth. Read on to find out more about how you can restore your bright, confident smile.
What Causes Your Teeth to Become Discolored?
There are several reasons why your teeth can stain and start turning yellow, brown, purple, or even black. Some people also have unsightly white spots on their teeth.
Unfair as it might sound, sometimes teeth discoloration occurs because of your teeth’s genetic makeup. Other times, too, lifestyle choices or certain external factors come into play. With that said, here are some of the most common offenders.
Food and Beverages
Blueberry, coffee, tea, and red wine are infamous for staining the teeth. This is because they can wear away the protective layer covering your teeth – otherwise known as the enamel. Aside from this, your teeth may also be more prone to yellowing if your diet primarily consists of sugar and simple carbohydrates. Eventually, plaque bacteria will use all that sugar to produce acids, damaging the tooth enamel.
Chewing or smoking tobacco for extended periods can lead to the yellowing of teeth. Tobacco contains two noxious chemicals: tar, which is naturally dark, and nicotine, which transforms into a surface-staining substance when mixed with oxygen.
Antihistamines, antipsychotics, and high blood pressure drugs can cause your teeth to turn yellow or dark. Furthermore, babies and young children exposed to antibiotics – such as tetracycline and doxycycline – when their teeth are still developing may experience teeth discoloration in their adulthood. Finally, chemotherapy and head and neck radiation can also lead to teeth staining.
As you grow older, you are more likely to have yellow teeth. Over time, the enamel gets progressively thinner with regular brushing, revealing the dentin or the soft, yellowish tissues directly underneath.
Being hit in the mouth can cause your teeth to darken or become stained. The colour change is your teeth’s way of responding to injury. If the accident occurs during childhood, it is especially problematic as it may interfere with enamel development.
Poor Dental Care
The importance of proper oral hygiene cannot be stressed enough. If you do not brush and floss your teeth regularly, plaque and tartar will accumulate. Aside from causing tooth decay, gum disease, and a whole slew of dental problems, plaque buildup can also give your teeth a sickly yellow hue. For best results, make sure to visit your dentist every six months.
How Do You Whiten Your Teeth?
There are plenty of ways to whiten your teeth. Popular options include homemade remedies, at-home bleaching agents, and in-office professional treatments.
What’s important to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to teeth whitening. This means that what works for one person may not necessarily work for you (and vice versa). For this reason, it is strongly recommended to consult your dentist first before starting a tooth-whitening regimen. This way, you can rest assured that your time, effort, and money will not go down the drain.
- Most tooth bleaching options are best suited for people with yellow teeth. They tend to be less effective for brown-stained teeth, and probably will not even work if your teeth are gray or purple.
- Teeth whitening is not for everyone. Generally, it is ideal for people with healthy, unrestored (no fillings) and gums.
Related Article: How to Find the Best Miami Cosmetic Dentist to Make Your Teeth Look Great
Option 1: Natural and Home Remedies
If you are an advocate for all things natural or simply do not want to spend a dime on tooth whitening, these homemade remedies are for you. There are endless do-it-yourself options, but we have only included those that have stood the test of time or have some scientific backing. Being cheap and accessible, these natural teeth whitening methods are a fantastic starting point. However, most of them can take time to work or will not produce visible results, especially if your teeth discoloration is intrinsic or quite severe.
1. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is a traditional folk remedy that is often associated with Ayurveda – a natural and holistic system of medicine that originated in India. It involves swishing oil around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. This is meant to remove bacteria, which can eventually turn into dental plaque and stain your teeth. Any type of oil will work, but coconut oil is the most preferred option because it has a pleasant nutty taste and is packed with health benefits.
While several studies show that oil pulling can reduce bacteria and gingivitis, there is currently no scientific evidence proving the efficacy of this practice in whitening the teeth. However, there is no harm in trying as it is safe, even when done every day.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda – also known as sodium bicarbonate – boasts natural bleaching properties, making it a popular ingredient in commercial toothpaste. Plus, it acts as a mild abrasive, scrubbing away the surface stains on your teeth. It also promotes an alkaline environment in the mouth, which can prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
Keep in mind, though, that it is not an overnight solution. But when done regularly and over an extended period, you should notice a difference in your teeth’s appearance.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive research indicating that using baking soda will whiten teeth. Interestingly, however, one study found that toothpaste with baking soda was more effective at removing yellow intrinsic stains than toothpaste that does not contain it. Also, the higher the concentration of baking soda, the stronger the whitening effect.
To use, all you have to do is prepare a thick paste made with baking soda and water. Use the resulting mixture to brush your teeth. Do it a few times a week for best results.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a colourless liquid that acts as a natural bleaching agent. It is perhaps the most commonly used ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products. The only difference is that these products contain a much higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide than what you would normally use. This chemical is also a mild antiseptic and does a fantastic job in killing oral bacteria.
So far, the available studies have only explored the effects of commercial toothpaste containing peroxide. Hence, it is not clear how it will affect tooth stain when used as a standalone product.
One research, for instance, revealed that toothpaste containing 1% hydrogen peroxide and baking soda significantly lightened yellow teeth. In another study, brushing with a toothpaste containing peroxide and baking soda twice daily resulted in 62% whiter teeth in just six weeks.
However, hydrogen peroxide poses some adverse effects, especially when used at too-high concentrations or for prolonged periods. It could damage both the soft and hard oral tissues, resulting in gum irritation, tooth sensitivity, and overall mouth discomfort. To be safe, stick only to 1.5% or 3% solutions. You can use it as a mouthwash, or combine it with baking soda to form a paste. For the latter, do it only a few times a week to avoid wearing away your teeth’s enamel.
Option 2: At-Home Teeth Whitening Products
Nowadays, there is no shortage of products that can bleach your teeth – as claimed. This includes toothpaste, gels, strips, and whitening kits. They usually contain little to no carbamide peroxide – the active ingredient that dentists use for professional treatment. While generally effective, OTC options may not work that well if your teeth are intrinsically discoloured. So, use them with a grain of salt.
- When using commercial whitening products, make sure to carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions, and to follow them to the letter. Otherwise, you may end up doing more harm than good.
- Make sure to stick only to products with a seal from respected dental organizations, such as the American Dental Association. Ideally, your chosen whitening agent should have the ADA Seal of Acceptance for guaranteed efficacy and safety.
1. Tooth Whitening Toothpaste
Whitening toothpaste is, by far, the most affordable option of the bunch. It is also widely available, making it an easy favourite among individuals who want to try bleaching their teeth for the first time. If used twice a day, it can take anywhere between two and six weeks to take effect.
This type of toothpaste works by removing surface stains, such as those caused by coffee and tobacco. Consequently, this appears to brighten your teeth by around one shade. Keep in mind that whitening toothpaste cannot significantly change your teeth colour, nor can it lighten deep-seated intrinsic stains. In other words, they are limited to the surface level.
In essence, whitening toothpaste uses mild abrasives to polish the teeth’s surface, and chemicals (such as peroxides) to break down stains. Some products may also contain blue covarine – a blue-coloured agent that creates an optical illusion, making the teeth appear less yellow. The whitening effect is usually immediate.
2. Tooth Whitening Strips and Gels
Tooth whitening strips and gels harness the bleaching power of peroxide (usually carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide) to lighten teeth discoloration. Aside from being easy to use, they are also relatively inexpensive and also do not require a prescription, making them an appealing option for those who cannot afford an in-office dental procedure. Plus, if used correctly, they produce satisfactory results. On the other hand, an improper application can be harmful to your teeth and gums.
Typically, whitening strips and gels are applied once or twice a day for 10 to 14 days. Both options will provide initial results within a few days, as well as final results that will last for around four months.
Whitening gels are clear and peroxide-based. They are applied directly to the teeth’s surface using a small brush. The amount of gel you should use will depend on the product’s peroxide concentration. In most cases, a small dollop will suffice.
As for strips, they are made of a thin, virtually invisible material that is coated with a whitening gel. The instructions for use can vary from one brand to another, so it is important to read the label carefully. But generally, the gel side of the strip is applied to the teeth, ensuring that it is aligned with the gum line. You will have to wait for approximately 30 minutes before removing the strips.
3. Tray-Based Teeth Whitening Systems
Of the three popular at-home teeth whitening options, tray-based bleaching systems are the most expensive, with the cost ranging anywhere between $150 and $600. Although they are available over the counter, you also have the option of getting one that is custom-fitted by your dentist.
With this method, a mouth-guard tray is filled with the appropriate amount of whitening gel or paste (peroxide-based). The tray is then placed onto the teeth and worn for one to several hours every day (as indicated by the label or as recommended by your dentist). After a few weeks, you should see a noticeable improvement in your teeth’s appearance.
Option 3: In-Office Teeth Whitening
As the name suggests, this method – also referred to as chairside bleaching – is performed by a dentist. The best thing about in-office teeth whitening is that it produces visible results in a short amount of time. In some cases, in fact, only a single office visit – which takes 30 to 60 minutes – is needed to attain your desired results. Of all the options, it is the priciest, with the costs starting at around $650.
During chairside bleaching, your dentist will apply a gel containing high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide directly to your teeth. This is often complemented with a special light, heat, or laser to accelerate the process. After the procedure, your dentist will advise you to continue the whitening treatment at home for two to four weeks. This will help maintain the whiteness of your teeth.
After treatment, your teeth may become more sensitive to temperature. You may experience some gum discomfort or sore throat as well. Rest assured that these symptoms are temporary and will disappear within a few days. Aside from this, your teeth will also be more prone to staining, so it is important to avoid surface-staining food and drinks for the next few days or weeks.
Here at Advanced Dental Wellness Center, we offer Smile Makeover. It is essentially a personalized treatment program that is designed to address a wide range of cosmetic dental problems, including tooth discoloration. This special plan will ensure that you are smiling your best smile in no time.
How Do You Prevent the Staining of Teeth?
Whitening your teeth is just half the battle. You will also have to step up and find ways to prevent teeth discoloration in the first place. Here are some tips on how you can preserve your pearly white smile.
- Cut back on teeth-staining food and drinks, especially coffee and tea. If you can, consider quitting them altogether.
- Reduce your sugar intake.
- Introduce more calcium into your diet. Alternatively, you can take calcium supplements instead. This will help strengthen your teeth’s enamel.
- Improve your oral care routine. Ideally, you should be brushing, flossing, and using a mouthwash every day.
- Have your teeth professionally cleaned every six months.
Related Article: What Is the Cost of a Cosmetic Dentist Serving the Miami Area?
Keeping Your Teeth White and Healthy
Everyone deserves to have immaculate white teeth and a winning smile. If you are suffering from yellow or discoloured teeth, you are in luck. Today, there are several tooth bleaching options available at your disposal, including natural remedies, OTC whitening agents, and professional treatment. We are sure that you will find at least one method that suits your needs, preferences, and budget.
Some tooth whitening methods work faster and are more effective than others. Conversely, some bleaching strategies take time to produce noticeable results. Some, in fact, may not even work at all. Often, the success of the procedure boils down to the type and degree of your stains, how concentrated the active ingredient is, and the duration of the treatment. Most commercial options are safe, but some may have side effects and can even damage your teeth when misused. As such, make sure to carefully read the product label before application.
As with any other dental procedure, we recommend talking to your dentist first. Not all individuals, after all, qualify for tooth bleaching. If you do, then your dentist can prescribe a whitening regimen that is specifically tailored for your unique situation, guaranteeing its efficacy and safety. This gives you an assurance that your time and money will not be wasted. Be patient and follow your dentist’s instructions, and it will not be long before you are flashing the dazzling smile of your dreams.