DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is the oral care specialist and dental consultant to the Brilliant and Baby Buddy oral care lines through Compac Industries. See terms below.
It seems like everyone wants whiter teeth nowadays, and some are willing to spend big bucks on it too. Dental offices near you may advertise services that include in-office laser whitening sessions, custom made bleaching trays that can be used at home, and even full mouth makeovers for a more drastic result. I thoroughly disapprove of ANY laser whitening you may see being offered at your local mall, shopping center, or any medical/spa facility that does not have a DDS/DMD (aka… a dentist) in charge of evaluating you as the patient. Even then, I would not recommend a laser bleaching session outside of a dedicated dental facility, ever. That is a scary thought to me…. Lasers… Bleach… NON dental personnel messing with your teeth and gums… not a good idea, so just DON’T. Please!
Chemically burned gum tissue HURTS. Trust me! When we (dental professionals) go through dental school, we are required to work on one another, and it can be a very painful learning process, it takes special training to learn proper procedures.
Below are some things to consider if you’re thinking about purchasing professional whitening procedures. After you’ve checked through these few cautionary flags, read on for more information on my home whitening go-to’s that I usually start with, when discussing whiter teeth with my patients.
Professional Whitening Services: Start Here 1st
When was the last time you had your teeth professionally cleaned?
If you are overdue for your professional hygiene cleaning, then you may have built up surface stains darkening your smile. The foods and drinks we consume can extrinsically (outside surface) stain our teeth. In some cases the yellowing people see creep up on their teeth is actually plaque and tartar attached to the tooth that is stained and physically stuck to the tooth’s enamel surface, like a pebbly fuzzy sticker. A simple trip to the dentist for a professional cleaning from your hygienist will do wonders to clean off those plaquey stickers of stain, revealing a whiter smile shine.
However, cavities and decay in the teeth can also become discolored visually and they need to be evaluated and addressed immediately so they don’t spread or worsen. If you suddenly see brown and black places on your teeth, see your dentist to rule out or address any active decay infection.
- I consume stain producing foods/drinks
- My teeth have a yellowing stain that has appeared
- My teeth have areas that feel fuzzy
Do you have existing dental work in your mouth?
If you have any existing dental work, especially on your front teeth, like fillings, crowns, veneers, or even root canal treated teeth, the color of those teeth will not bleach or lighten as your natural tooth structure will. Anytime the natural tooth structure has been replaced by a restorative dental material, for instance in a filling, veneer or crown, the shade that is used is permanent, and can only be changed by replacing the material.
You can bleach all you want but that restorative dental material is NOT gonna change colors, so if you bleach prematurely, without a plan to replace the old and worn down dental materials, you will end up with a speckled color result, and your dental work will most likely be very noticeable, and much darker than the natural tooth structure that has been whitened.
Root canaled teeth, in particular in the front of the mouth, have had their infected pulp removed, filled and sealed and this can cause shadowing in the dentinal structure of the tooth, therefore causing the tooth to darken over time. If this is the case, the tooth has to be internally bleached, from the inside of the tooth, to get the most effective results. If you have existing dental work, especially if it is on your front teeth, you should see your dental professional for a thorough evaluation BEFORE doing whiting services.
Now, if you don’t need to address any of the situations above, there are some great ways to naturally whiten your teeth at home, before scheduling a visit to your dentist.
- You generally have healthy teeth and gums, with no active periodontal disease.
- You visit the dentist regularly and don’t have ongoing dental issues that need to be addressed.
**YOU are a great candidate for tooth whitening, either at home or in a professional setting.**
Whitening your teeth at home
When it comes to whitening your smile, there are numerous other options out there, but when it comes to safety, efficacy and results, these are the best options for teeth whitening at home and they cost the least too.
Watch your diet
If you’re a nightly wine drinker or you hit the coffee/tea pot pretty regularly, surface stains from food and drinks may be your nemesis to battle. Be sure your homecare routine is tight and daily, twice daily to be exact, striving for a quick brush after lunch for a third session if you really want to be that extra kind of special. Brush effectively in the morning and at night, especially, before bed, include 2 minutes of total brushing time, reaching each tooth surface and your tongue and then flossing and rinsing. Consider using a whitening toothpaste to help remove stubborn surface stains.
- NOTE: Rinse your mouth with plain water after having coffee/tea/wine, this helps to remove the natural tannins that can attach to and darken the appearance of teeth.**
Brush with a baking soda slurry
I say this cautiously. Baking soda brushing can damage your teeth if not done correctly, or if done too much…. and to be honest, if it works…. then you may need to step up your homecare routine because all the baking soda is really doing is being more of an abrasive against the tooth surface to remove the plaque and biofilm that YOU are missing from your regular brushing routine.
So YES, you can dip your toothbrush in some baking soda and even a little H202 (hydrogen peroxide) to help loosen and remove the surface biofilm stains on your teeth…. But then you really need to address your daily homecare routine.
**The best way to battle tooth stain, is with EXCELLENT daily homecare, before the stain ever gets a chance to adhere.**
If your homecare is on point and you want to whiten the actual enamel of your tooth… say your teeth are just naturally more yellowish….then start with store bought whitening strips. They are a little cumbersome to figure out at first, but you can get great results with a little bit of patience. If those work but you want stronger results, then getting custom made home trays and bleach from your dentist is the next step.
Health always comes first.
If your teeth are not sitting in a healthy foundation (your gum tissue and bone) then you are literally wasting your time worrying about having whiter teeth. The whitest teeth matter very little if your breath can clear a room from your unaddressed periodontal gum infection or your teeth are on the verge of making their last chewing cycle before they break off from neglect. That sounds harsh, but someone out there needs to hear it. I have discussed this many times over the years with many patients who ask for whiter teeth before asking “are my teeth and gums healthy”. So that’s why I’m telling you, because I realize some people just don’t know…what they don’t know…..healthy teeth first, whiter teeth after.
One last thing…
If you have sensitive teeth, any sort of bleaching regime is more than likely going to exasperate your sensitive teeth. Be sure to use a teeth whitening kit. You can lessen your sensitivity by using a desensitizing toothpaste for the 30 days prior to your planned whitening session at home, also using a prescription desensitizer that your dentist recommends before any in office laser treatments, and by getting that dental check up before starting anything other than a whitening toothpaste at home. Sometimes sensitive teeth are just that… sensitive, enamel can be thin and dentin can be exposed. But, sometimes sensitive teeth are due to cracks and fractures, faulty and worn dental dental work, cavities and decay or other issues that need to be professionally addressed.
So at minimum, grab a whitening toothpaste and be extra purposeful about making sure you clean your teeth the right way everyday by brushing and flossing, and every once in a while, brush with a little baking soda and water to get an extra squeaky clean while watching the things you eat or drink that can stain teeth. In the grand plan, see your dentist and hygienist regularly, and discuss your various options and what’s best for you.
At Brilliant Oral Care, we strive to offer lifetime care for Baby Gums through Seniors Gums with products that encourage a lifetime of healthy smiles. Brilliant Toothbrushes have a round head featuring all around bristles to offer an unparalleled cleaning of teeth, tongues, gums, and cheeks, without the sharp bristles that far too many have had to endure.
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Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.