The effect that a more beautiful smile can have on a person’s self-image is overwhelmingly positive and transformational. I’ve seen it over and over again in my dental practice of over 30 years. And of all the ways to get a more beautiful smile, teeth whitening is the is the most requested. That’s not just in my practice but also in the entire country. In fact, in 2010, Americans spent more than 15 billion dollars whitening their teeth!
But, whether you plan to use an over-the counter product available at most pharmacies or you have chosen to have teeth whitening performed in a dental office, unless your teeth and gums are in great shape, you’re probably not going to get that sparkling smile want so desperately. Here’s why:
1. Plaque Can Really Mess Up Teeth Whitening If you have a buildup of plaque (it happens to everyone) the whitening process will not be very successful. Plaque is a sticky film that collects on the tooth surface and not only does it contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, it promotes the accumulation of bacteria and stains that discolor the teeth directly. Whitening your teeth while they are covered with plaque is akin to bathing with your clothes on. Sure you’ll be cleaner, as will be your clothes, but you won’t be clean.
Failure to remove the plaque on your teeth can result in uneven color instead of the uniform pearly whites you desire. As self-serving as this may sound, if you have not had your teeth cleaned recently by a dental hygienist or dentist, it should be your first step to a brighter, whiter smile.
2. Inflamed Gums Make The Process Uncomfortable Whether you are teeth whitening at home or at your dentist’s office, you will experience some irritation from the beach in the solution (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide). Inflamed gums make the process much more uncomfortable, especially in the days afterward. Healthy gums are more resilient and less prone to bleach-induced gum irritation.
A word of caution: Too much of a good thing may not be good at all. Overuse of tooth whitening products, both in quantity and frequency, can really do a number on your gums. Bleaching is a process that is cumulative in effect…try to be patient.
3. Broken, Leaking Fillings or Cavities Make the Whole Experience Horrible The bleach in teeth whitening solutions can create an extremely painful reaction if it comes into contact with deeply exposed tooth structure. What’s even worse is if you have an exposed, or nearly exposed, dental nerve. If you haven’t had a dental exam for a while, or if you suspect that you have a cavity (a recent toothache is a sure sign), I urge you to hold off on whitening until you are given the OK by a dentist.
4. Bonded Teeth and Tooth-Colored Fillings Don’t Get White These tooth restorations do not respond to whitening and will not change color. That means that you can end up with a multi-colored mouth. Not what you had in mind, right? If you do have bonded teeth or tooth-colored fillings, you may need to have them replaced after bleaching is completed.
Ask your dentist first. Many people aren’t even aware of the presence of tooth colored fillings or bonding in their mouths.
More Tooth Whitening Tips
Several weeks before beginning the teeth whitening process start use desensitizing toothpaste such as Sensodyne or ProEnamel. And be sure to use only a soft toothbrush. This will help to avoid the dental sensitivity commonly experienced during and after.
So go ahead and get that sparkly white smile, but see your dentist first. (I know, I know. How many times does he have to repeat it?)
Clean and white…it’s a beautiful thing!
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Michael Sinkin is a dentist in New York City. He loves being a dentist and is known throughout the city for taking wonderful care of his patients and for his wicked sense of humor. To contact Dr. Sinkin, link here