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Planning Retirement Online

All white in the mouth

September 2016

We live in a fortunate age teeth wise. Only a few generations ago many people our age would have lost all their teeth, often endured enormous pain in the process, and as they aged had to resort to soft mushy food.

Today with good care and treatment, many of us can expect to keep at least most of our teeth until a good old age, and theoretically forever.

But without doubt our teeth lose that natural fresh sparkle that you find in the fabulous new teeth of young children. Dark staining, yellowing and other factors can make our teeth look dull. Staining comes especially from foods such as red wine, coffee, tea and curry plus smoking and certain antibiotics like tetracycline can also discolour teeth. But this type of staining only discolours the enamel on the teeth; the top translucent layer of a tooth. Underneath that is dentine, which is the main body of the tooth, and this can also affect colour. As we age, the dentine generally can become more dense, and this can cause our teeth to look darker.

Whatever the reason, having clean white teeth can contribute a lot to overall looks and also appearance of health and wellness in a person, so it is not surprising that whitening toothpastes, whitening treatments and anything else that promises to add super white sparkle to our teeth are now big business.

 Generally the different types of discolouration are treated in different ways. Whitening toothpastes work on the top enamel layer, while whitening treatments try and also lighten the dentine with hydrogen peroxide which can penetrate into it.

There are problems that have been highlighted with both. The whitening toothpastes are often based around abrasives or enzymes. The abrasive pastes have a slightly gritty consistency which helps to scrub any stains off a tooth; but of course over time this can also begin to wear the top layer enamel away. It could also damage the gums.  Enzymes are really used to prevent any further staining rather than restore the teeth to their original white shine as they simply stop stains binding to the teeth.

Many of the toothpastes we can buy may also contain hydrogen peroxide to help “bleach” the teeth back to whiteness. The idea makes sense but some dentists say that they really won’t work unless the peroxide is left in contact with the tooth for at least half an hour.

The alternative is to go for more serious bleaching treatments such as home bleaching kits when you wear a special tooth surround containing hydrogen peroxide solution overnight. There is also laser tooth whitening, when hydrogen peroxide solution is painted onto the teeth and then lasered to speed up the lightening process. One problem here is that there is an EU directive ruling that solutions can only contain a maximum of six per cent hydrogen peroxide, and this could be a little too weak to bring about really strong results.

There has been concern that hydrogen peroxide can demineralise teeth, making them weaker, and there also have been some claims that hydrogen peroxide is a potential carcinogen. However, if it is applied properly it should only come into contact with the actual tooth enamel which is dead material, so this should be safe. Certainly you don’t want hydrogen peroxide used in any quantities on gums as at least it can cause irritation.

Used properly though, some dentists are very enthusiastic about teeth whitening treatments,  and while the costs can add up, it is definitely cheaper than adding white veneers, another popular tooth whitening process

There are various home made recipes as well which are said to help whiten teeth. Two parts apple cider vinegar mixed with one part baking soda is said to help whiten teeth if used a few times a week;  and coconut oil mixed with peppermint leaf is said to help remove stains and also any surface bacteria that can turn teeth yellow.

Really by far the best way to keep your teeth looking white and healthy is to regular visit the dentist and make sure you keep your teeth clean. If you seriously want to lighten your teeth (and some treatments claim to lighten teeth by up to 11 shades) then discuss it with your dentist who will know the effectiveness of the latest treatments available.


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