All white with your smile!
Wanting whiter, brighter teeth is nothing new - as far back as Roman times people were using mixtures such as goats milk to help whiten teeth. This is because it is a sad fact of life that as we get older, our teeth naturally darken plus many foods and drinks help to discolour teeth. Tea, coffee, red wine, foods with strong colourings, smoking, all these can slowly diminish the flashing white of beautiful teeth. Fillings and tartar build-up from plaque can also lead to discolouration.
Tooth whitening can be a very effective way of refreshing and lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surface. However, it cannot make a complete colour change, all it can do is lighten existing shades.
Today, if you want to whiten your teeth, it is first recommended that you have a good check over by your dentist first and discuss your plans.
There are many ways to do this. Most chemists stock a large range of toothpastes offering varying whitening capabilities. Some are simply abrasive which may remove surface staining but they won’t enhance the colour of your teeth. Some products will contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These react to allow oxygen to enter the porous surface of the teeth enamel and bleaches any stains or discolourisation in the tooth.
Next step up is an actual tooth whitening or bleaching kit; again you can find these at most major chemists. Tooth whitening kits usually contain rubber mouth moulds and tubes of bleaching gel. You simply squeeze the gel into the mouth mould and place it over your teeth for perhaps 30 minutes, depending on the product. As with many whitening toothpastes, the bleaching ingredient is usually hydrogen peroxide and it is of course important to follow the instructions carefully.
Bleaching can also be done by professionals and some dentists. The methods are similar to the over the counter products but usually you will have a special rubber mouth tray made to exactly fit your teeth, plus the mix in the gel will be stronger. You may be told to use the mouth trays and gels regularly for up to two weeks or more for maximum effect. Occasionally, bleaching can be carried out from inside a tooth.
Sometimes power or light accelerated bleaching systems are used to help maximise the effect. They are sometimes referred to as laser bleaching but this is wrong, lasers are an older technology and today new light technology is used, mainly halogen, LED or plasma arc. A rubber seal is put around your gums for protection before the process is started; then the bleaching gel is put onto your teeth and the bright light is directed onto the teeth which accelerates the reaction and maximises the effect.
Dental bonding can sometimes be useful. This is a procedure when a tooth-coloured resin material is painted onto your teeth and then cured with a visible blue light. This bonds the material to the tooth to improve the overall colour and appearance.
Some people recommend more natural ways to keep teeth white. The pulp of crushed strawberries contains malic acid and some use this to help improve the appearance of their teeth; another long used method is to brush teeth with baking soda which can be a slightly abrasive tooth whitener. However, neither method is particularly gentle to tooth enamel and therefore should be used with care.
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